What Is Remote Infrastructure Management (RIM)?

What Is Remote Infrastructure Management (RIM)?

Developing a remote-friendly work environment has many benefits, including giving your company more flexibility in hiring. For remote work to thrive, though, you’ll need to have the right tools and processes in place—including ensuring your IT systems are ready for a geographically dispersed workforce.

If your company is already operating on a partially remote model or expecting to need to go remote at some point in the future, investing in remote infrastructure management (RIM) can be a good idea.

Table of contents: remote infrastructure management

What is remote infrastructure management (RIM)?

Remote infrastructure management is the process of moving the management of IT hardware, software, services, and functionality to the cloud. RIM may be carried out by your internal IT team, a remote infrastructure management service, or even specialized software.

While the idea of relinquishing control of your company’s infrastructure management to another person—or a machine—may feel strange, this increasingly popular arrangement has many benefits.

Why is remote infrastructure management important?

Remote infrastructure management solutions allow companies to manage essential IT operations from anywhere. As workforces become more distributed globally, this move away from on-site hardware allows more flexibility for effective remote work.

RIM is also a useful part of de-risking your talent strategy and strengthening workforce continuity. By implementing a transition to RIM during a period of stability, your company can be better prepared to handle unexpected crises that disrupt normal workflows. Ideally, your RIM solution will be scalable to support your operations today as well as in the future.

Benefits of remote infrastructure management systems

While transitioning to a RIM system does take an initial investment of both time and money, it provides a high ROI over time. With a good RIM system in place, you can enjoy smoother operations, cost savings, and more benefits.

Improved processes and decreased failures

RIM systems allow IT teams to streamline deployment, troubleshooting, and maintenance processes. As a result, potential problems can be identified and prevented faster than before.

Other benefits can include the use of specialized security information and event management software to identify vulnerabilities and identity access management services for distributed team members.

Better foundations for future improvements

When you use a remote, virtual system for your IT infrastructure you aren’t tied to legacy hardware that can limit scalability and open your network to security breaches. You can have much more flexibility in terms of upgrading and improving your system—without the need to have your entire team present in one location.

Lower operational costs

With RIM, you can adjust your IT operations as needed, reducing unnecessary spending on excess resources before you need them. Because you’re virtualizing the majority (if not all) of your IT operations, you don’t have to worry about maintaining a dedicated office with physical server space for your IT team.

Faster services

RIM can give companies round-the-clock access to server management operations as well as the ability to quickly isolate and patch problems. And if you work with a globally distributed team, you can build a remote IT service desk department that’s able to provide support in multiple time zones.

Additionally, remote infrastructure management can allow teams to automate time-consuming tasks that don’t have to be carried out by a human. Relying on AI and automation where possible can free up IT professionals’ schedules to focus on critical projects and speed up request turnaround times.

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How to build a remote infrastructure in 7 steps

When setting up a RIM system for the first time, you’ll need to do careful preparatory work as outlined in the seven suggested steps below.

Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list, and your business needs may vary. You may wish to consider engaging an independent IT consultant to help you figure out exactly what your company needs to do for a successful transition to RIM.

  1. Map out your existing components and vendors
  2. Identify what can be virtualized or managed remotely
  3. Determine how you will provide hardware to remote team members
  4. Ensure your internal IT team has a business continuity plan
  5. Run a vulnerability assessment of remote access to all tools and functions
  6. Be proactive about cybersecurity
  7. Establish how new systems will change talent requirements

1. Map out your existing components and vendors

Before you can implement RIM, you’ll want to have a good handle on all of your current systems and processes.

Start by making a list of all the organization-wide hardware and software components you currently use. Then, list the service contracts and vendors your teams rely on. Your lists may include network applications, hardware vendors, servers, content delivery networks (CDNs), identity management solutions, and more.

2. Identify what can be virtualized or managed remotely

Look at the lists you made in step one. Ask yourself the following about each item:

  • Is this a mission-critical component for core business operations?
  • Is this component compatible with our other systems?
  • Can this component be installed, upgraded, and managed remotely? If not, is there a comparable remote management-friendly option we can migrate to?
  • Is this process or system one that can be fully or partially automated?
  • Can this system or component be accessed by its end users remotely?

From here, you can begin to explore possible new solutions such as:

  • Replacing non-remote-compatible services and components with flexible alternatives
  • Opting for one comprehensive enterprise software solution to replace multiple similar products licensed by different departments in your company
  • Moving from on-site servers to a remote or virtual server option
  • Improving virtual private network (VPN) systems for better remote access
  • Identifying and integrating AI and automation services to streamline recurring tasks

This step may involve multiple revisions as you continue to evaluate and refine your RIM options.

3. Determine how you will provide hardware to remote team members

Your team will need to have the right hardware at their disposal in order to work remotely. Even if the entire company works in-office right now, you’ll want to have a hardware distribution plan in place. If your team needs to suddenly go remote due to an impactful event, do you know how you will get essential workstation equipment to them?

Think about the following:

  • Can you increase the likelihood of successful remote work by moving from desktop computers to laptops?
  • Who should be assigned a company laptop?
  • How will you distribute company hardware?
  • What level of support will your IT team be able to offer for bring-your-own-device (BYOD)?
  • How will you manage remote data security?

Of course, not all businesses can go remote. However, there may be the chance that some—even if not all—of your business operations can be carried out from remote locations. Knowing the answers to the questions above will help you be prepared for this transition if necessary.

4. Ensure your internal IT team has a business continuity plan

In addition to planning for the distribution of essential hardware to remote workers, you’ll want to make sure that your IT team has its own business continuity plan in place. Important components to consider:

  • Processes to access physical hardware if it fails
  • Plans to establish backups and failsafes to keep data secure and systems online
  • Timelines for deploying essential updates and managing helpdesk requests during times of stress or crisis
  • Procedures for working with external service providers engaged as part of the RIM rollout

5. Run a vulnerability assessment of remote access to all tools and functions

Just because a system can be accessed remotely doesn’t mean it will be accessed safely. Remote IT components and cloud-based services can free business operations from many constraints, but they can also introduce additional security risks and vulnerabilities.

Once you identify which services you’re likely to use remotely, run tests and vulnerability assessments. This way, you can identify any potential security gaps in your systems and create a plan to secure potential points of attack.

6. Be proactive about cybersecurity

After running your tests, you’ll want to begin developing security policies around remote infrastructure management and access.

  • Will team members accessing the system be required to use a VPN?
  • Do they need to have specific antivirus software installed on their devices?
  • Can this access be extended to team members using their own devices?
  • How should team members store, transport, and use company hardware?

You may wish to create an entire security framework from the ground up, also known as a “defense-in-depth” strategy. A defense-in-depth strategy uses multiple layers of security. For remote IT infrastructures, this may involve the use of network security tools, endpoint security solutions, and an identity and access management system (IAM).

An IAM system increases security around team access to company systems. When you have an IAM system in place, you may:

  • Use a single sign-on (SSO) system
  • Require multi-factor (MFA) and two-factor (2FA) authentication
  • Manage privileged access

Additionally, limiting access permissions to the necessary minimum for all users is often a good idea. This can be another step in helping to reduce the risk of accidental security breaches.

7. Establish how new systems will change talent requirements

Finally, you’ll want to think about how the changes you adopt can impact your current teams and what new roles you may need to fill to effectively maintain a RIM approach to your IT operations.

For example, you might adopt a DevOps-focused hiring mindset or engage more remote IT talent to monitor and optimize your new systems and platforms.

Components, tools, and functions of IT infrastructures

Your IT infrastructure goes beyond hardware and software. It can include everything from servers and data storage to the processes, policies, and services that guide your IT staffing, training, and security measures.

Be sure to consider each of the areas below when evaluating your current IT infrastructure and planning what it may look like in its new, remote iteration.

Hardware

The hardware components of a company’s IT infrastructure include:

  • Laptops
  • Desktops
  • Tablets
  • Mobile phones
  • Monitors
  • Keyboards
  • Mice
  • Cables and peripherals
  • Webcams
  • Headsets and microphones

These elements are all essential for carrying out day-to-day operations—and maintaining a RIM system. Depending on your business needs, your list may include other hardware items not reflected here.

Internal software

Internal software refers to the enterprise systems and applications that your teams use to carry out their work. This includes:

Whatever you designate as internal software is typically only accessible by your team members, not your customers. It’s important that your RIM solution supports access to all of the internal software that is essential for your company’s operations.

External software

Your company may also use software that is external, or accessible by customers. This can include:

  • Customer-facing websites
  • Web and mobile apps
  • E-commerce shopping carts
  • Customer web portals
  • Help documents and wikis
  • Quoting and estimating tools, like online calculators

As with internal software, your RIM system needs to support the ongoing use and maintenance of external software.

Customer support

In addition to external software, your company’s IT infrastructure may include customer support systems and tools like:

  • Virtual help desks
  • Chat, email, voice, and video support communications
  • Remote customer service ticketing systems
  • Platforms that support the management of and response to social media comments
  • Chatbots

Ensuring these tools are secure and easily accessible from a remote location is important for maintaining consistent customer support operations at all times.

Servers

A few options are available to companies in need of server space:

  • On-site servers, also known as physical servers, that are located at your company’s offices and managed by an in-house team.
  • Virtual physical servers (VPS), which are located in an off-site data center and leased by a management company. In this configuration, your IT team will access the VPS remotely. Note that more than one company may have their systems stored on different sections of the same server.
  • Cloud servers, which are similar to VPS. When you use a cloud server, your company’s server space is spread across multiple physical servers. This can improve your system’s ability to stay online in the event of a power outage or other issue on one of the servers.

When you transition from on-site operations to RIM, you’ll typically need to move to a VPS or cloud option.

Data

Data is a huge part of business today—and when you go remote, nearly all of your data is digital. You’ll need to make sure you use tools that can accurately collect, analyze, process, and protect your data, all while allowing you to access it remotely. You may need some combination of:

Many popular RIM software tools support multiple data management solutions and integrate with other tools you may use in the RIM process.

IT and data security measures

You’ll also need to keep your data (and the systems that access it) safe in the cloud and in transit. You may want to explore a combination of data security tools such as:

  • Encryption keys
  • Firewalls
  • Identity verification services
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • VPNs

If your data is compromised, you may have trouble accessing certain parts of your system remotely—so IT security is vital for RIM success.

Communications

Any services that you use for business communication are part of your IT infrastructure. This includes:

  • Messaging systems like Slack or Microsoft Teams
  • Video calling software like Zoom
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telecommunications
  • Website chat systems
  • Customer support ticketing tools

When working in a distributed team, the ability to communicate both synchronously and asynchronously is vital. You’ll want to prioritize keeping communications tools online when transitioning to a RIM environment.

Automation platforms and development resources

By incorporating an automation platform into your IT infrastructure, you can create workflows that make it easier to carry out repeated, common processes. Examples of these platforms include:

  • Ansible, which allows you to configure how the parts of your infrastructure interact
  • Docker, which makes it easy to deploy code
  • Zendesk, which automates the way IT support tickets are assigned and managed
  • Jenkins, which allows users to build and test software on multiple machines

Some automation tools also include machine learning capabilities that can help your RIM system become more secure. As you flag, identify, and resolve vulnerabilities, a machine learning automation tool will begin to understand what to watch for and fix.

HR and hiring

Whether you plan to go fully remote or only engage in remote work as needed, having remote-accessible HR and hiring systems in place is essential. This way, you can continue to grow your teams both in-office and around the world.

Remote-friendly HR and hiring tools include:

Companies interested in engaging talent both close to home and around the world can also use a service like Any Hire from Upwork. It’s a one-stop solution for hiring, onboarding, paying, and classifying your talent.

The purpose of remote infrastructure management tools

Ultimately, your RIM system may include a variety of tools not listed here. Regardless of what you and your IT experts deem necessary for your business operations, you’ll want to have access to reliable tools that help you:

  • Manage secure, remote access to essential work systems and software
  • Monitor your IT infrastructure for problems and vulnerabilities
  • Patch any issues or breaches as they arise—before they can snowball into bigger problems
  • Debug systems for smooth operations
  • Automate processes when possible to free up your teams to focus on critical tasks
  • Integrate services for communication and collaboration between tools, teams, and customers

5 common remote infrastructure tools

As you begin to dig deeper into RIM options for your company, you may encounter these five tools. While they aren’t the only options available to you, they’re highly regarded by many IT professionals and provide essential RIM services.

  1. AWS Cloudformation
  2. Azure Resource Manager
  3. Saltstack (VMware)
  4. Puppet
  5. Chef

AWS Cloudformation

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloudformation allows you to scale and manage resources. When using AWS, you can build your IT infrastructure using code and customize your tech stack to meet specific needs. This tool is often used to automate, test, and deploy changes to infrastructure.

Azure Resource Manager

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing platform that lets IT teams create virtual machines (VMs), manage databases, sync backups, host domain name servers, and more. The Azure Resource Manager is a way to deploy and manage Azure services, including:

  • DevOps tools
  • Structured query language (SQL) database management
  • Internet of Things (IoT) solutions
  • Environment modeling
  • Web app deployment

Saltstack (VMware)

VMware acquired Saltstack, an IT and DevOps automation platform, in 2020. Through this acquisition, VMware customers can take advantage of SaltStack features like:

  • Software configuration and management
  • Network automation
  • Infrastructure automation
  • Vulnerability management
  • Compliance configuration

All of these features, and the others offered by VMware, are useful for maintaining a secure and efficient RIM system.

Puppet

Puppet is an enterprise-grade IT automation and workflow tool that integrates with popular services like AWS and Google Cloud. Puppet helps its users:

  • Find anomalies in their IT infrastructure
  • Execute predefined actions to fix and patch problems
  • Report and log corrected vulnerabilities
  • Use machine learning to conduct infrastructure monitoring and predict the likelihood of future problems or events

Puppet also offers another service, called Puppet Comply, to help your company’s systems remain aligned with policies.

Chef

Chef allows DevOps teams to model and deploy automation throughout physical, virtual, and cloud-based systems. It offers features like:

  • Compatibility with multiple operating systems and clouds
  • Solutions for legacy systems
  • Easy scaling
  • Automated system changes
  • Data insights and metrics to help IT teams manage systems efficiently

Getting started and taking the next steps

This digital transformation through cloud-based systems and remote work is critical to staying resilient in uncertain times—but it’s also the key to competitive advantage. By upgrading your systems now, you’ll be able to support and scale a new way of work. Be sure to:

  • Take time to plan—it’s better to transition slowly and correctly than to rush the process
  • Consider who you’ll need to onboard to help with migrations and integrations
  • Evaluate multiple RIM software solution options to find the best one for your needs
  • Talk to your team members to get a sense for what is and isn’t working for them in your current systems
  • Account for any transition challenges and temporary downtime during your switch to RIM
  • Keep a focus on security throughout the entire process

Before anything else, though, it’s a good idea to begin building trusted relationships with IT experts who can help you make this transition. Use Upwork, the world’s work marketplace, to meet IT consultants who can help you take control of your IT infrastructure management and enter into a new phase of successful remote work. Get started by creating an account and posting a job on Upwork today.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyse and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

Author spotlight

What Is Remote Infrastructure Management (RIM)?
Emily Gertenbach
B2B SEO content writer & consultant

Emily Gertenbach is a B2B writer who creates SEO content for humans, not just algorithms. As a former news correspondent, she loves digging into research and breaking down technical topics. She specialises in helping independent marketing professionals and martech SaaS companies connect with their ideal business clients through organic search.

What Is Remote Infrastructure Management (RIM)?
B2B SEO content writer & consultant

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