The recent bad experience with GLPI we had at work was the final nail in the coffin and, after patching the issue, I quickly began looking for alternative ticket management systems. We have wanted a new helpdesk for a long time – the support we provide has evolved over the years since GLPI was first introduced and with the covid-19 pandemic this support has seen yet another shift in the way in which we work. Not only are we doing things differently now, some unrecognised or unrealised issues have surfaced which we all wish to resolve or automate away.
We struggled through the worst of the lockdown but quickly identified some limitations with our existing way of working, namely that whilst our helpdesk did fine enough when it came to tracking tickets, it should do more for us. We spent a lot of time on the management of tickets and attempting to contact people just to get them to perform simple tasks. Why do we have to fight our helpdesk to achieve a goal, and why can’t we have a system that would let us run these simple tasks (read: scripts) ourselves in the background, invisibly to the end user?
I did some reading and some thinking post-GLPI-exploit and realised that we are essentially an MSP. We provide support for departments within a school, each of which has different objectives, priorities, demands and tools. Plus, we support several primary schools on top of that, and they are their own beasts entirely with unique networks, hardware and software, let alone processes and requirements.
As we emerge from total lockdown to a lesser version, we are also going to need to do our normal jobs but much more efficiently. With a “remote first” approach to minimise risk to our end users (both staff and students, but also guardians and members of the public) I quickly decided to look into RMM tools instead of basic ticketing systems.
Given that we also had issues in other areas (namely monitoring and alerting, in that what we have is barebones and actually broke a month ago) I was looking out for a solution that would kill as many birds with as few stones as possible.
The requirements were that it had:
- A ticketing system
- Monitoring and alerting
- Patching, installing and scripting capabilities
- Easy remote support
- A good price (hey, we’re a school and don’t pass the cost on to the end user, we don’t have a lot of money!)
I found a list of RMM tools and their features on the /r/MSP subreddit and went through each one, checking videos, documentation and feature lists working out which would obviously not work, which might work, and which would absolutely work. I narrowed down the options to four potentials. In the end, only two of them had a “per technician” pricing model – the “per monitored device/agent” pricing model would end up costing us tens of thousands – so it came down to a war between the two. These were:
To be honest they were a close match. I preferred the look and feel of Atera although SyncroMSP was more feature rich. We didn’t really need all the features SyncroMSP boasted though, and Atera was cheaper (we’re on the cheapest plan) so ended up going with that.
Although we haven’t rolled out the agent to every device yet (we’re still mostly closed and until we have the agent installed have no way of deploying software out to machines not on our network) we have started using it heavily. So far, zero problems and we are all liking it. It has already enabled us to preempt some problems that would become tickets, solving them before they ever affect an end user or get reported. I’m looking forward to diving into it more, I am especially excited about the recently announced Chocolatey support, which seems to work wonderfully.
It’s early days yet, hopefully we can become much more efficient and provide a better service. Only time will tell!