The ability to support multiple platforms is becoming a critical need as IT environments grow in diversity. But for a managed service provider, supporting a single platform is hectic enough. Things can get doubly (possibly tripply) daunting when two or more are added to the mix. With more organizations demanding the functionality of Windows, Linux, Mac and other operating systems, today’s MSPs have more than their fair share of challenges to contend with.
Many of the hurdles associated with juggling multiple operating systems have been set up in the rise of mobile communications. Now that Androids, BlackBerrys and iPhones are in the picture, workers need to access IT systems from an emerging fleet of new gadgets, while maintaining access from the traditional devices they’ve been using for years. As a result, service providers are tasked with developing an array of strategies for device management, security, support and other key aspects that enable clients to enjoy the maximum benefits from their platforms.
The myriad of OS options has made business more challenging for vendors on the MSP scene, but not to the point where they can’t overcome the hurdles. These tips will aid in the creation of strategies that fully support clients regardless of what platforms they use.
Supporting multiple operating systems definitely increases management challenges, but it also drives up expenses. If your staff is only well versed in Windows, incorporating Linux or Unix likely means you need to bring personnel on board that knows how to handle those systems — or you could implement a cross-platform a solution. The cross-platform approach offers several benefits, including simplified management through centralization, time savings and cost savings as it eliminates the need to hire a full staff for each additional operation system.
Fall in Love with Automation
Incorporating a cross-platform solution is a great start, but vendors that really want to simplify management across multiple systems will grab a hold of some handy automated tools. Automation can increase the speed of numerous operations and also free up personnel to handle other fundamental tasks. So what processes should be pitched in the automation bucket? It depends, but when cross-platform operations are involved, configuration, policy management, patching, security auditing and backups all make good candidates. It may even be possible to find a cross-platform management system that comes bundled with these handy automated tools.
Develop Cross-Platform Security Strategies
Supporting a variety of platforms can provide an instant edge over the competition, but it also introduces new security concerns. The more operating systems you run on the network, the more vulnerable the network is to the arsenal of attacks that exist in today’s IT landscape. There are cross-platform tools available to reduce complexity in various management tasks, but security can be challenging seeing that different systems take a different approach to locking down the perimeter. MSPs can benefit most from layered solutions that use multiple security features to consistently implement policies and defenses across those different platforms.
Know Your Platforms
While most operating systems aim to accomplish the same general goals, not all platforms are created equal. Put a Linux geek in one corner, a long-time Windows supporter in the other, and they will tell you all about how these two systems differ. The fact of the matter is that different operating systems have their own unique ways of handling critical components such as user roles, policy enforcement and patch management. Getting familiar with the platforms you support is vital because it could impact the service levels you are able to commitment to your customer base.
The rapid influx of operating systems gives end-users the power of choice, yet puts a strain on the IT departments tasked with management. With organizations increasingly dumping these tasks onto the shoulders of more capable third parties, the managed service provider is bearing the bulk of the burden. There is money to be made in variety, but keeping up with multiple platforms can eat up IT resources that would have been better spent on other objectives. Needless to say, it pays for MSPs to adopt cross-platform strategies and tools that enable them to improve the simplicity and efficiency of their heterogeneous infrastructures.