Over the next few months I plan to do a number of posts reviewing the various RMM and PSA tools that are available to IT support companies. In the spirit of openness, of all the options available to us at Oakson, we chose Connectwise and Labtech and I wanted to cover the reasons why we did so before I went on to look at the options available from other providers.
[blockquote cite=””]One of the reasons I’ve come back to Connectwise throughout the years is that it has a serious amount of flexibility.[/blockquote]
When we looked at the PSA side of things it quickly settled on a choice between the two biggies, Autotask and Connectwise. These are the main players in the PSA field for the IT support sector and both have a long history and a broad range of features. Over the users I’ve flicked between both Connectwise and Autotask when I’ve run various companies so I’m familiar with both but more so with Connectwise.
Accessibility and interface
Autotask is exclusively web based whereas Connectwise has both a windows desktop app and a matching web based interface. For us this made it more appealing. You get the flexibility and availability of the web interface but the speed of a desktop app when you are on your own machine.
Connectwise also sticks to a more “traditional” form of interface with the data, say a company record, broken in to sections represented by a series of tabs, all of which open in one window. This keeps things nice and simple on a busy desktop and felt more natural to us than Autotask’s approach of pop-up windows for each different part of the record. This worked more like a website might within your browser but meant that, after a busy day hacking away at tickets, you had a load of windows all over the screen.
Competition is huge in the PSA sector at the moment. In fact it’s not huge, it’s vast, leviathan-esque, titanic in it’s whopping-ness. There are so many vendors out there looking for your business that you can get some great deals but you need to put in the effort. Very few PSA vendors offer the same type of license, with the options included, giving you the same functionality. As a result on companies price can be hard to compare to another.
All I can say is that when we needed to sign, the price on the contract from Connectwise was cheaper for what we wanted than the price we received from other vendors. This might not always be the case, and at Oakson what we needed from a package might not be what you need.
Power and flexibility
One of the reasons I’ve come back to Connectwise throughout the years is that it has a serious amount of flexibility. There’s very few ways in which you can’t bend it, shake, or get it to work how you want it. Obviously, like Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility, and with so many options it’s easy to screw things up. The learning curve can be brutal at times but there is no doubt in my mind that, whatever my business does, the Connectwise software will be able to accommodate it.
Whether you need all this power is up to you, and you may decide that a tool with fewer options, but better focused on your needs, is a better fit for your business. That’s totally understandable and a great number of PSA and RMM providers market themselves on not being as massive and weighty as Connectwise. For me however, that was just the ticket.
So now we had Connectwise merrily humming away taking care of the business aspect at Oakson, handling tickets, doing invoicing and the like. Time to turn to the functional side of IT support, the RMM tool. I’m not a massive fan of RMM tools in general for a whole load of reasons (find me on Facebook or Twitter and I can talk about it for hours).
There’s been a huge amount of movement in the RMM market in the last few years and it was inevitable that some of the PSA providers would look to bolster their features by partnering, or plain buying up, an RMM tool. In Connectwise’s case they took on Labtech and Autotask took on Centrastage, both very respected and reliable RMM tools, and both are marketed as part of a package of tools by those vendors.
[blockquote]Labtech’s scripting knocks this out of the park. The ball goes so far out of the park that there’s a little green man on some distant asteroid shouting and complaining about the smashed windscreen on his new spaceship. [/blockquote]
Both Connectwise and Autotask take different approaches to integration with their RMM tools, Labtech and CentraStage respectively. Autotask are very rapidly working towards a system where you can access both your tickets and your RMM metrics from one UI, and you can already access many of the device metrics in reports and dashboard widgets within your ticketing environment. As both AT and CS are web based it makes sense to bring them together in to one big web interface and that work is happening at a pace.
With Labtech being a windows based app, and not having a…er…very robust web interface, CW easily take such an approach. However the integration between the two is really very very well thought out. Rather than just merge the two apps they have given you the ability to precisely choose which companies and devices are synchronised between both apps, which tickets are transferred to your boards, how you want escalation paths to play out. There’s a tonne of options. It was nothing less than we expected really and certainly it works well.
Now I’m a big believer in de-skilling the day to day support processes – taking the pressure away from the technician and automating as much as you can, so scripting features to me were vital. This is were Labtech excels, and also where you might see some of the steepest learning curves in the package.
Most RMM tools allow you to upload batch files, Powershell scripts, perhaps shell scripts as well. Some of those will also allow you to upload files so that the script and it’s associated exe’s can be delivered to the remote PC on demand. Labtech’s scripting knocks this out of the park. The ball goes so far out of the park that there’s a little green man on some distant asteroid shouting and complaining about the smashed windscreen on his new spaceship.
Labtech choose to use their own programming ‘environment’. Rather than – or perhaps ‘as well as’ might be better – just uploading a batch file, you can create your script using one of many dozens of commands. This makes it much harder to start scripting in Labtech than just using notepad as you have to ‘learn’ a new scripting language, but it allows Labtech to expose their own datafields to your script and for you to interact with Labtech in a way that is hard to explain.
So for example, maybe you want all the machines on the network to perform a full AV scan if two machines detect a virus. Some AV tools will allow you to do this as standard, but you have many clients, all of whom have one or more AV tools in place, and you want the same functionality across the board. You can create a script that checks for event logs showing AV detections. Each time one is detected you can increment a variable at the client level, and when that variable is at 2 or more you can schedule another Labtech script, on all the clients devices, which will run a forced scan and upload any logs back to Labtech.
That there is power. And it’s something that I haven’t seen in any other RMM style tool aimed at the MSP market.
I’m really looking forward to finding some time to do the reviews over the next few months. I hope you found my thoughts on our decision making useful but please don’t be swayed by me. Each tool on the market has it’s strengths and there are some really, really good RMM and PSA tools coming up on the heels of the main rivals, and that’s a good thing.
Do get in touch with me using any of the socials links on the site if you want to ask me any questions.