Recent updates to the Quest Kace lineup of unified endpoint management products look to ease the management of remote work by supporting more devices and providing better visibility of every device connected to the corporate network.
Quest Software Inc. announced the updates to its products — among them the Kace Systems Management Appliance (SMA) and the Kace Cloud Mobile Device Manager (MDM) — in late May. The products each handle components of endpoint management; Kace SMA, for example, automates such tasks as discovering hardware and software, while Kace MDM focuses on the management of mobile devices, such as wiping lost and stolen devices.
Quest Kace senior product manager Ken Galvin said any IT professional who believed there was a secure perimeter around their company’s network was disabused of that notion with the COVID-19 crisis.
“All of these IT admins suddenly find themselves managing remote employees who are using a different variety of company-owned and personal devices,” he said. “[The employees] are downloading and installing software from wherever.”
Galvin said every device on a network is a potential attack vector, and these devices are now in the homes of users who may not be tech-savvy.
“It’s not so much a new problem as compounding existing problems,” he said.
Such problems, Galvin said, called for better unified endpoint management (UEM) tools.
Independent analyst Eric Klein echoed the statement, saying UEM has taken on increased prominence as more employees work from home.
“IT orgs are finally recognizing that [UEM] is going to be helpful for them in the era of COVID and remote work,” he said.
Klein noted, however, that Quest may struggle to compete with bigger UEM players, even with the additional features.
Update brings changes
Galvin said two updated features — better Chromebook management for Kace SMA and Apple TV support for Kace MDM — are designed to help IT manage a breadth of devices. Among the new Chromebook management features is the ability to remotely disable a lost or stolen device.
Apple TVs may be overlooked as a potential attack vector, but Galvin noted that such devices are commonly used for kiosks and as electronic signage for schools and offices.
“It’s commonly used by customers as a display/dashboard device,” he said.
One advantage to the broader support of devices, Galvin said, is that the software is better at discovering what devices are on a corporate network, which could help IT admins on the security front.
“Part of discovery is discovering what should be on your network, but the other part is discovering what shouldn’t be there,” he said. “Part of your IT hygiene should be running a regular scan of all the IP addresses on your network.”
“If you don’t know what you have, you can’t manage it or secure it,” he added.
Andrew Hewitt, an analyst at Forrester Research, said remote work had revealed new pain points in managing devices.
“One of the things that’s been coming up is visibility for the unmanaged devices that are on your network — to understand where they are and bring them into compliance,” he said. “The traditional UEM [products] don’t tend to do that very well.”
Hewitt said Quest, with its emphasis on discovering devices on a network, could help IT professionals in that regard.
Leyla McCrary, manager of end user computing at the St. Louis-headquartered construction firm McCarthy Holdings Inc., said her firm has been using Quest’s Kace SMA for about five years. She said the product’s help desk ticketing system was attractive to the business, which has about 3,000 employees in offices across the country.
“We ended up picking Quest, which was owned by Dell at the time … because it was really user-friendly,” she said. “It gave us a lot of options with the ticketing system to customize a lot of different things.”
Rollout, she said, had gone smoothly, but it did take some time to customize the ticketing system. Each of the company’s IT groups had a different ticketing queue with different sets of rules at the time. Having to manually create those rules, she said, was the longest part of the product’s implementation.
McCrary said McCarthy Holdings has used more Kace SMA features over time. The company mainly relies on the product to manage PCs, she said, although it tracks iPads through Kace’s asset management functionality.
“We just a few weeks ago added servers,” she said. “We’ve put an agent on every server, and we’re getting ready to start patching on those servers.”
This change, she said, should make patching on those servers more user-friendly for the company’s data center team.
McCrary also noted that McCarthy Holdings was able to use Kace SMA for streamlining the new hire process. The firm’s HR team can fill out a custom form, which then automatically sends tickets to the IT groups responsible for such things as creating user accounts and asset management.
Managing a diverse set of devices
Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, said IT professionals must be able to manage a diverse set of devices remotely to handle the current situation. He said the tools they use must be able to accomplish this task.
“It is good to see vendors responding in both a platform reach and capabilities perspective,” he said. “Quest, with its Kace suite of products, does the former with [such things as] adding Apple TV as a [supported] device and the latter by allowing combined management and security updates to flow to devices.”
Independent analyst Klein said the change wrought by remote work has presented an opportunity for UEM vendors.
“Now is the opportunity for organizations to put their money where their mouths are in terms of supporting a remote workforce and investing in UEM,” he said. “There is more personal computer and laptop usage right now, happening in homes. Because of that, you’re going to need better Chromebook support, better Mac support.”
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