The right software can be one of the most powerful resources IT professionals can use to align their roles with larger business priorities. This guide will help buyers and procurement teams develop a better understanding of products, features, and specific use examples in order to choose the best IT solutions for their needs.
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IT software is a type of platform that makes it easier to secure, manage, or automate business devices and processes. This could include artificial intelligence, application development, backup and recovery, or network monitoring tools, along with many others. While most software could be considered “IT software”, including project management software, accounting software, and CRM software, this article will focus on enterprise software for device and cloud management.
For example, remote monitoring and management (RMM) software allows IT professionals to access, update, and analyze organizational devices. On the other hand, task management software, while technically something that could fall into the purview of IT software, does not deal directly with devices or cloud environments.
Enterprises and small businesses looking to improve their technology processes should consider the following types of IT software.
Configuration management (CM) software — often referred to as a configuration management system (CMS) — helps IT professionals manage the physical and virtual IT environment by monitoring changes made during software development, implementation, and updates.
The end goal of a CMS is to maximize system performance and serviceability by reducing mistakes and inconsistencies. This is typically accomplished by mapping an IT environment (an ongoing process), keeping accurate documentation (for updates, releases, asset inventories, structural modifications) and storing the subsequent data in a configuration management database (CMDB). CM software also uses internal verification and audit tools to determine compliance with predetermined baselines and regulatory standards.
Most CM tools incorporate some or all of the following common features:
Leading Configuration Management Solutions
IT Help Desk Software
Help desk software allows IT departments to automate customer service management. It serves as a platform where staff and network users can report issues and IT administrators can systematically address them. Most products use a ticketing system to log requests, prioritize, and queue them for completion, which saves administrators the time and effort associated with manual troubleshooting (e.g. phone calls, emails, repetitive office visits). Help desk software also increases employee productivity by allowing users to submit help tickets through an online portal, rather than leaving their work-in-progress to visit an IT manager.
Beyond one-off troubleshooting, help desk solutions offer smart tools for automating the resolution process, such as auto-assign features (allocate tickets to specific technicians based on skills required or issue type), shared macros (predetermined fix actions auto-prescribed for a simple or recurring issue), and self-help resources for your staff. Finally, reporting and analytics tools can offer valuable insight about your help center operations, such as average resolution times, trends in past tickets, and user sentiment.
Here are some common features found in IT help desk software:
Leading Help Desk Solutions
For a full list, check out our Help Desk Software Buyer’s Guide.
Mobile Device Management Software
As an increasingly tech-savvy, mobile population enters the workforce, IT managers are seeing a growing presence of personal devices in the workplace. Since personal mobile devices aren’t governed by the IT department, they present additional security and privacy concerns. Even so, approximately 87 percent of organizations need their employees to be able to access enterprise applications from their mobile devices.
At a minimum, IT leaders should institute a clear bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy that addresses password protection, encryption, and best practices for mobile access of company data. But many companies are going the extra mile by implementing mobile device management (MDM) software — which gives IT administrators the power to monitor and control application access and configuration settings for smartphones, tablets, and other devices used by employees, whether personal or company-owned. Many solutions also have the power to remotely lock or erase device data in the event of loss, theft, or hostile termination.
Some MDM products are available as standalone, “best-of-breed” solutions, while others are part of a larger IT management suite. Compatibility with mobile OS (Android, iOS, Windows) varies by vendor.
Common features of MDM software include:
Leading Mobile Device Management Solutions
Cybersecurity software keeps malware and attackers out of an organization’s network. These tools may use signature matching, artificial intelligence and machine learning, or other methods to identify and contain attacks on the system. Security software ranges from basic antivirus solutions all the way to full endpoint protection platforms. There are cybersecurity tools built specifically for networks, endpoints, and even cloud environments.
Small businesses should consider software companies that offer managed cybersecurity solutions because they likely don’t have a large in-house IT team. This allows them to keep their data safe while leaving their internal IT staff free for digital transformation projects and help desk support. Enterprises, on the other hand, may prefer best-of-breed tools that integrate easily with each other. Easy integration allows these large businesses to monitor every aspect of their network environment from a single console, making it easier to spot and remediate breaches quickly.
Some common features include:
Get the Buyer’s Guide to Security Software for a full list.
While there are many variations of IT software, they should at least have a few things in common.
The best IT software will allow organizations to choose whether they deploy it on-premises or via the cloud. Cloud-based software makes businesses more agile and better enables remote work because employees can access the information from anywhere, but some companies may have regulatory requirements that would force them to deploy software on-premises.
Data backups are crucial for organizations to avoid the loss of valuable data during a natural disaster or cyber attack. IT software should include regular, automated backups, so companies don’t have to remember to backup their data. Additionally, version control allows users to revert to an earlier version of a file in the event that it gets changed accidentally.
Not all companies will have the same requirements for their IT software, so there should be customization options available. Whether that’s the types of features included, the number of licenses, or the way the dashboard looks, customization makes it easier for organizations to get what they need from the software.
IT software should integrate with many other tools in an organization’s ecosystem in order to pull necessary data and be able to automate processes. Native integrations are the best option, but API connections will work as well as long as the business has someone to set them up correctly.
Modern IT departments face a maelstrom of new, unpredictable variables, with essentially two options: adapt or remain in the dark. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many digital transformation projects and introduced new challenges in the rush to enable remote work.
On average, companies have three times more applications running on their networks than their IT department is aware of. Examples might include a file storage site, a homemade spreadsheet for company data, or an email service. Shadow IT poses a threat, since it isn’t ruled by the same security measures as approved solutions, but it also represents a failure of the established IT environment to meet end-to-end needs.
Instead of building on their own in-house servers, many businesses now host their IT environment through an IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) provider such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Rackspace. This helps reduce overhead costs and maintenance, but a multi-tenant environment brings added complexity, multiple virtual machine (VM) layers, and a higher demand for security and access control.
Many organizations also rushed their cloud migrations in an attempt to allow remote work sooner than they intended. This means their connections may not be as secure as they should be, and they could likely optimize their setup for better results.
As employees and lines of business (LOBs) increasingly scout out their own solutions on an as-needed basis, many IT managers have decided — instead of cracking down — to take on a new role as a technology broker, which some have referred to as “IT-as-a-Service” or ITaaS. In this approach, IT is responsible for supplying the technology needs for LOBs by vetting and aggregating third-party providers, often at the request of employees themselves. This stands in stark relief to the traditional framework, where CIOs impose solutions from the top-down.
Approximately 43 percent of IT decision-makers worry that their current IT infrastructure won’t be able to handle their future data needs. How much more so for middle-market companies and small businesses? Data analytics software can be highly complex, requiring knowledge of mining and governance techniques, as well as the capability to integrate third-party platforms with multiple data sources. Many companies are relegating their big data responsibilities to the IT department, which means IT professionals need to understand how the moving parts of their infrastructure work together in order to derive useful business intelligence.
The right IT software better positions CIOs, CTOs, system administrators, etc. to confront their challenges by simplifying infrastructure and enhancing visibility, integration, and security without slowing the pace of innovation. Businesses should consider their current IT resources and choose software that fills any gaps. For example, small businesses may look for managed software solutions, while enterprises may need better visibility into their network environment.
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