Article
Nov 17, 2023

What is Remote Device Management (RDM)?

Understand the 3 primary types of smart devices that require RDM, the 3 main categories of RDM, and discover which RDM tool suits your business needs.

RMM Tech Explained

Remote Device Management (sometimes abbreviated RDM) is a term used in a wide range of technical contexts that broadly refers to a set of management capabilities and software tools for remotely supporting and maintaining smart devices. With a growing number of smart devices being used (and a growing diversity in device types), the concept of 'Remote Device Management' has become increasingly popular in recent years. This is because businesses are now finding it essential to manage these devices at scale from a distance.

In this blog post, we will explore the basic definition of Remote Device Management, the three primary types of smart devices that require RDM, and the three primary categories of RDM software tools. We will also discuss which type of Remote Device Management is suitable for different scenarios and highlight the challenges and considerations in selecting a Remote Device Management tool.

Understanding Remote Device Management (RDM)

At its core, Remote Device Management is the ability to maintain and support internet-connected devices remotely. RDM is crucial for businesses that require a scalable solution to maintain and support company-owned devices. These devices can either be used directly by employees or be left unattended to serve customers. This broad definition begs the immediate follow-up question, “What counts as an ‘internet-connected’ device or a ‘smart’ device?” In terms of Remote Device Management, three primary device archetypes need remote management:

  1. Mobile Devices: This category of devices not only includes the smartphones we all have in our pockets but also smart tablets or touchpads used in various applications, like check in kiosks or point-of-sale systems. From a technical standpoint, these tablets are designed very similarly to mobile devices and therefore have the same device management needs.
  2. PCs and/or Laptops: The second most common smart device type needing remote management is the traditional laptop or personal computer (PC). These are most often company-owned computers, but organizations will sometimes need light remote management if employees are using personal devices for work.
  3. IoT Devices: IoT Devices are the fastest-growing segment of smart devices, and the most diverse in terms of applications. IoT Devices are very common today and include wide-ranging use cases like security camera systems, self-checkout kiosks, digital displays, and building access control. Typically, an IoT Device will have some kind of core server or “brain” that is connected to the internet and peripheral components (like sensors, touchscreens, credit card readers, etc.) that communicate back to the server and allow the device to function. 

Remote Device Management Tools

Now that we've identified the types of devices businesses usually manage remotely, let's explore the software tools they most commonly use. Broadly, there are three primary types of Remote Device Management software tools:

  1. Mobile Device Management (MDM): These platforms are designed specifically to manage mobile devices through features like policy management, over-the-air software updates, and fleet management.
  2. Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM): Similar to MDM but usually focused on Windows-PC devices, these tools assist with software updates, security vulnerability monitoring, device lifecycle management, and more.
  3. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP): Often a feature in both MDM and RMM platforms, remote access or remote desktop tools allow support teams to remotely access a device as if they were in front of it, aiding in remote troubleshooting and support. Common Remote Desktop Tools include Splashtop, LogMeIn, and TeamViewer. You can learn more about the differences between remote desktops and other types of Remote Device Management tools in this post

Which Type of Remote Device Management Tool is Right for You?

Choosing the right RDM tool depends on the type of management or support your business wants to offer as well as the type of device you will be remotely managing. 

Let’s start with the scope of support your team is looking to offer. If your goal is simply to provide remote support (i.e., troubleshooting), a Remote Desktop Protocol tool might suffice. However, for comprehensive device management, such as policy management, sending software updates, taking bulk actions across the entire fleet, and performance monitoring, you will likely need an RMM or MDM platform to support such activities.

Uniform deployments of mobile devices or workstation PCs are the most straightforward examples of Remote Device Management. For IoT Devices, the decision is more complex and will depend on the components and use case of your solution.

Second, the type of device is a key factor. If you are managing a uniform (meaning all devices are the same type and operating system) deployment of mobile devices or PCs, then the answer for you is likely an MDM or RMM platform, respectively. Uniform deployments of mobile devices or workstation PCs are the most straightforward examples of Remote Device Management. For IoT Devices, the decision is more complex and will depend on the components and use case of your solution. Assuming you are looking for something beyond basic remote access for troubleshooting, let’s dive into which Remote Device Management tool might make sense for your business:

Mobile Device Management (MDM) for Mobile Devices and/or Tablets

  • Common Operating Systems: iOS, Android, or Chrome OS. 
  • Remote Management Needs: MDM is great for policy management (e.g., controlling app downloads, data usage limits, etc.), deploying software updates, managing large fleets of mobile devices inside a single platform, and monitoring the deployment health status for items like software app performance or battery levels.
  • Typical Users: IT teams managing corporate-owned devices or BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) scenarios as well as IT teams managing tablet-based solutions in sectors like retail, restaurants, or hospitality.
  • Popular Tools: Commonly used MDMs include tools like Hexnode, Esper, and Scalefusion

Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) for PCs

  • Common Operating Systems: A recent study showed that ~77% of corporate devices are Windows PCs, but there is a small and growing portion of the market that uses MacOS (Apple) products. Most RMMs today function on both Windows and MacOS operating systems. 
  • Remote Management Needs: RMM for PCs will mostly be focused on Windows patch management, antivirus software updates, addressing security vulnerabilities, and managing bulk actions across a fleet of laptops. It also includes initiating remote access for troubleshooting issues directly with the laptop owner/user.
  • Typical Users: The primary users of RMM tools for PCs are IT Managed Service Providers (MSPs) which are businesses that provide outsourced IT services to small to medium-sized companies. The other group of RMM users for PCs are internal IT teams of medium to large-sized businesses that are large enough to have an IT staff. 
  • Popular Tools: Popular RMM tools in this domain include Kaseya, ConnectWise, N-Able, and NinjaOne, which are well-suited for IT MSPs or internal IT teams trying to support corporate computers.

Remote Device Management for IoT Devices

  • Common Operating Systems: Because IoT Devices include a wide range of hardware, there are several potential operating systems. The most common are Windows, Linux (numerous distributions), iOS, Android, and Chrome OS. 
  • Remote Management Needs: IoT Devices need centralized status observability to see downtime issues in real-time, the ability to take automated resolution steps to minimize manual intervention in restoring a device, and performance reporting and analytics to measure uptime.
  • Typical Users: Key users of RMM for IoT Devices are often in Product / Engineering, Technical Support, or Account Management functions at companies using smart hardware for their operations. 
  • Best Tools: Tools offering Remote Device Management for IoT Devices include SecuriThings (focused on security devices); Soti (support a range of smart devices); Kaseya (focused on Windows-based devices); and Canopy – a configurable RMM designed for multi-component hardware solutions, mixed OS fleets, and complex hardware types, like IoT Devices.

Challenges and Considerations for Remote Device Management Tools

When considering which RDM tool is right for your business, you’ll also need to consider the integration work required and training your Technical Support Team will need to properly maximize the utility of the platform. Remote Device Management tools are complex, and the initial configuration and setup can take several weeks for an organization to get fully integrated into the platform, and sometimes longer if you have custom hardware and software solutions (e.g., IoT Devices). 

Another key consideration when evaluating any kind of Remote Device Management software (MDM, RMM, or RDP) is the security and privacy implications of monitoring software. Any kind of remote monitoring platform has very high levels of permissions on a device and network, and therefore evaluating each vendor's security setup is crucial to ensure compliance and the safety of your organization's data. 


Conclusion

Remote Device Management (RDM) is a broad term that can vary in implementation based on the type of device and remote management needs of an organization. As we’ve discussed, different RDM tools are suited for different devices and scenarios, with the most traditional applications being MDM for mobile devices and RMM for workstation PCs. However, more complex use cases like IoT Devices can call for special RDM tools that are more appropriately suited for a company’s specific needs. 

If you are part of a team overseeing a large network of smart devices and feel uncertain about where to start with Remote Device Management, we would love to help provide guidance. Just reach out to us at info@goCanopy.com with the subject line “Free Strategy Session” to schedule a call with one of our technical subject matter experts. During these sessions we take an unbiased approach, focusing on better understanding your specific business requirements to be able to provide the most relevant advice. We will provide you with clear, actionable insights on the best starting point for your Remote Device Management journey, including suggesting alternative RDM software platforms if they are more suited to your needs.

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