Keeping your endpoints up to date is vital. Software patches come out almost weekly these days, and the longer it takes you to apply them, the more time attackers have to exploit the underlying vulnerability.
But how can you keep your endpoints updated when they are located outside the office? With many employees working from home now, it’s more challenging to track and update endpoints.
The remote management and monitoring (RMM) solution from Action1 allows you to easily deploy patches and new software to your endpoints. It also comes with a built-in remote desktop and extensive reporting capabilities. Plus, any organization can use Action1 RMM for free, with no limitations, to manage up to 100 endpoints.
So, let’s take a closer look at this cloud-based RMM solution from Action1.
Getting started with Action1
The strength of Action1 RMM is that it can manage and update your endpoints regardless of their location. To do this, it uses an agent that you will need to roll out on all your endpoints. The management console itself is completely cloud-based, allowing you to manage your endpoints from any location.
Action1 RMM can be used in virtually all environments, from those with a couple of endpoints to large, multi-tenant environments. It supports creating multiple organizations, so if you are an MSP, then Action1 RMM can be used to manage all your clients from a single cloud console.
Good to know is that Action1 RMM currently supports only Windows-based clients. Agents for Linux and macOS are on the roadmap, but there are no known release dates at this time.
To get started with Action1 RMM, we will first need to deploy the agent to our endpoints. There are two ways to do this. We can install the agent manually on the endpoints or use the connector to automatically roll out the agent to all computers in the Active Directory.
The advantage of the connector is that it will automatically install the Action1 agent on new computers as well. This way, you can automatically deploy your baseline software to new endpoints.
Endpoints can be grouped based on the operating system, name, or IP address. Nested groups are not available, but an endpoint can be a member of multiple groups. It’s of course also possible to manually assign an endpoint to a group.
When you check an endpoint in Action1 RMM, you can immediately see the number of missing updates — and install them with a single click. You can also deploy packages, open the remote desktop, or run a PowerShell command.
It’s also possible to select multiple endpoints from the list and deploy apps or run commands on all selected endpoints at once.
Deploying software to your endpoints is a principally important task when it comes to an RMM solution. Action1 comes with a built-in app store with the most commonly used apps. Currently, there are 45 apps in the app store.
Of course, you can add your own applications to Action1 RMM as well. After creating the initial package, we can add a new version to it. We can choose to upload the installation files to the Action1 Cloud or use a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path on our local network.
When deploying packages to multiple endpoints from the Action1 Cloud, each endpoint will download a piece of the software. Then, the pieces will be exchanged through the local network to reduce the bandwidth usage.
When creating a new package, it’s important that you use the correct version number and application name. Action1 uses these to check whether the deployment was successful and install new versions when they are added. So, make sure that you check the Add/Remove Programs to confirm that the version number matches.
Sometimes, a software deployments requires more than a single step. For example, you might need to install multiple applications, run a PowerShell command, or copy a configuration file. With Action1 RMM, you can simply define additional actions to handle these steps and then perform the complex installation with a single click.
From the App Store, we can easily deploy packages to one or multiple endpoints. After selecting the application(s) that you want to deploy, you’ll click on Deploy App. Here, you can manually select the endpoint(s) or roll the application out to an entire group.
The deployment can be run immediately or scheduled for a specific time or date. When an endpoint is offline, Action1 will try to re-deploy the application within 24 hours. For monthly repeating schedules, the retry window is 7 days.
Personally, I miss a heartbeat option here. It would be great to deploy the package as soon as the clients come online: 24 hours can sometimes be too short for this. An alternative would be to schedule deployments weekly and spread them over a couple of days.
NoteAfter writing this review, Action1 RMM informed me that a new feature is coming out the end of the month that allows endpoints to catch up with missed schedules.
Keeping your endpoints up to date should be done mostly automatically. After you have approved an update or created a new version of a package, you’ll naturally want them installed on your endpoint automatically.
To do this, we can create policies in Action1. Policies allow us to automatically approve updates and roll them out to all or a select group of endpoints. For example, a good policy to create in Action1 is the automatic approval of critical updates.
The policy below will automatically deploy all critical updates after 3 days to all endpoints.
Policies can also be used to automatically install a baseline of applications on new computers. In the example below, we have selected a couple of key applications that need to be installed on a new computer.
We can assign this policy to the built-in group “New Endpoints” and schedule it to run every hour. Combining this with the connector for the automatic agent installation and deploying new endpoints has been made really easy.
Action1 comes with an extensive list of built-in reports. These reports will give you full insight into the status of your endpoints—such as installed software, missing (Windows) updates, and hardware specifications.
Each report allows you to drill down, zooming in on clients, packages, or endpoints. They can also be exported to HTML or CSV for further processing if you want. And just like most systems, you can schedule reports.
If you don’t really like scrolling through reports to find outdated endpoints or endpoints with low disk space, then Action1 has a great feature for you. It can automatically alert you based on the results of a report.
For example, you can be alerted when an endpoint runs low on disk space or if you have a device on which Bitlocker is disabled. What would be really great is the ability to assign a policy to an alert. That way, you could automatically reapply Bitlocker or run a disk cleanup script, for example.
There are also a couple of other interesting features in Action1. For example, it comes with a built-in remote desktop tool, which is great for some basic remote support. The remote desktop feature is web-based, so don’t expect super smooth interaction, but it’s more than fine.
The remote command and remote PowerShell tools allow you to quickly run commands on your remote endpoints. PowerShell commands are executed in the background, so the user won’t notice anything. The results of your command can be viewed in “Action History”.
Also good to know—and as I alluded to in the intro—is that you can use Action1 RMM for multiple environments. It’s also possible to create multiple organizations. Each organization has its own groups and endpoints, but they share the same software library. Thus, any custom package that you have created can be used in all organizations. However, policies are not shared between organizations.
The pricing of Action1 RMM is pretty straightforward. You can start with 100 endpoints for free (forever). Any additional endpoint costs $2 per month. Storage for your own packages is included, and you get around 100GB of storage space. Keep in mind that you can also use UNC paths to your local server, which will further speed up the deployment.
Getting started with Action1 is really easy: within 5 minutes I had the first endpoints put into Action1 and could deploy the first applications. Creating your own packages will take some time and testing, just like with any other deployment tool—but once you have built up your library and created your policies, Action1 will be a real time saver.
There is, however, still room for improvement. Features that I really miss are simple file copy actions, detailed endpoint views, and a good dashboard that shows the current patch management status. The good news is that a lot of these features are currently on the roadmap.
Overall, I think Action1 is a great cloud-based RMM solution. It allows you to quickly and easily manage a hybrid environment without the need for on-premise servers.