Pulseway is a remote monitoring and management (RMM) tool you can either deploy as a hosted service or as server software you install on premises. The target audience is the IT department in a small or medium business or a managed service provider (MSP) who provides management and monitoring of IT environments for a service fee.

Paul Schnackenburg

Paul Schnackenburg works part time as an IT teacher as well as running his own business in Australia. He has MCSE, MCT, MCTS and MCITP certifications. Follow his blog TellITasITis.

In this article, we're going to look at the recently (September 2018) released 6.0 version of Pulseway called Pulseway Scale.

Setup ^

For this review, I chose the hosted trial, but I tested the server software installation as well. It's relatively straightforward. The requirements are Windows Server 2012, 2012 R2, or 2016 with SQL Server 2008–2016 (including Express edition support), a static IP address, a TLS (SSL) certificate (not self-signed), and a DNS entry for your server address. Note that you can start with the hosted option and then move to an on-premises server.

Main web console

Main web console

Pulseway monitors Windows (XP+), Linux (almost all distributions), and Mac OS X (Snow Leopard+) through a 32 or 64-bit agent. The agents feed data back to the server, in either your server room or the hosted one. You access the monitoring information through a web interface or through a mobile client for iOS, Android, Windows Phone (!), and even Blackberry. This is one of the great strengths of Pulseway—its excellent mobile client design for a mobile first world makes it eminently suitable for managing client networks on the go.

Systems in the mobile client

Systems in the mobile client

Basic OS and hardware information monitors are table stakes for today's management tools. The differentiation is in identifying server workloads, and Pulseway doesn't disappoint with modules for:

  • Active Directory (AD)
  • Microsoft Exchange Server
  • Microsoft Hyper-V Server
  • Internet Information Server (IIS)
  • System Center Operations Manager (SCOM)
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Windows Server Backup (WSB)
  • Windows Server Update Services (WSUS)
  • VMware vSphere Server
  • Citrix XenServer
  • StorageCraft ShadowProtect
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)
  • ESET Remote Administrator (ERA)

The mobile client is very powerful, letting me see all monitored systems, their hardware (including storage), connected printers, running processes, logged-in users, and event logs. I can also run command line/PowerShell commands or automation scripts directly from my phone. Add to this the ability to see patch status, security settings, and installed applications (including the ability to uninstall) along with a rich set of built in reports. You can see how your technicians could run entire server farms from a tablet or even a phone.

Discovering systems with a probe

Discovering systems with a probe

For larger environments (and new in 6.0) is the ability to group systems (and technician accounts) by organization, sites, and agent groups. The agent automatically joins systems to the right organization when deploying it because you can customize it with the right settings for the group. Once you have installed an agent on one system, you can configure it to discover other systems through a probe. After finding these, you can automatically deploy the agent to them, including the ability to copy configuration settings from a system already configured. Another option is to do a quiet install of the agent with preconfigured settings using any software deployment method.

Monitoring and automation ^

Like most RMM tools, Pulseway has a Remote Desktop solution you enable on a per-managed-node basis and access from the Windows Pulseway Dashboard application. There's also the option to view a user's session, useful for remote support, along with a chat tool for user interaction, as well as the option to view what the webcam on a PC sees.

Automation tasks

Automation tasks

You can see, stop, start, and restart services (and restart misbehaving ones automatically) for monitored systems. You can also monitor network performance, ping latency, and see which ports are open. The inclusion of performance counters makes it possible to tailor monitoring to exactly what you need (on a Windows system), and the fact you can see the output in the mobile client is remarkable.

Web server monitoring includes the ability to warn when certificates are about to expire—very handy. You can track changes to sensitive files and configure notifications when accessed.

Enabling Remote Desktop

Enabling Remote Desktop

The key to managing systems at scale (and profitably if you're an MSP) is automation. But not everyone is a script wiz (although it fully supports batch/PowerShell/Linux shell scripts), so Pulseway helps out with preconfigured automation tasks for many customizable common activities. The ability to run these from the mobile client is icing on the cake.

Another cornerstone for successful MSPs (and IT departments) is the ability to orchestrate patch management. Again, Pulseway doesn't disappoint, with complete patching policies that precisely control patch severity installation, schedules, and reports on the outcome.

Patch management policy

Patch management policy

Security ^

As your monitored estate grows along with the number of IT staff, governance of who can do what becomes critical. Pulseway is also remarkably strong here with control over which system commands (login, lock, logoff, restart, shutdown, power off, suspend, hibernate, or enter maintenance mode) are available on a mobile device.

Controlling device access

Controlling device access

You can enable two-step authentication for password changes, accessing registered computers, or accessing the web application. But at this stage, it supports only an emailed code—mobile client integration would be better. I like that each device and browser you access Pulseway from (the first time) asks you to give it a name for registration. You can then use that to control access from that device (full access, read only, or no access).

You can limit access to Pulseway from specific IP addresses or ranges. When you have lots of clients to manage, setting individual configuration for managed clients is inefficient. So Pulseway supports Group Policy distribution of client settings (and will override local configuration settings). For specific high-risk systems, you can control which Pulseway clients can interact with those systems. The audit logging of all activities in Pulseway is comprehensive.

Audit logging

Audit logging

Integration ^

MSP applications need to be able to fit into your current management ecosystem, and Pulseway gives you quite a lot of options. You can integrate with PagerDuty, Zendesk, or Autotask for tickets and notifications. There's also Slack integration for notifications (I would like to see Microsoft Teams here as an option in the future), and Kaspersky or Webroot integration for antivirus.

For backup (apart from Windows Server backup), you can combine Pulseway RMM with Pulseway Backup (powered by Unitrends MSP). You deploy this managed appliance at client sites and pay a monthly fee for it, without having to shell out for the upfront cost of the appliance. Finally, for the rest of the business of managing an MSP (service desk, CRM, time/expense tracking, billing/invoicing, and reporting) there's Pulseway PSA.

Reports in the mobile client

Reports in the mobile client

Conclusion ^

As someone who has tried several different MSP RMM tools (for my business), I found Pulseway to be refreshingly simple to get going with, not to mention cost-effective. The mobile client is very powerful, and the ability to manage systems while on the go will come in handy. Whether you're an MSP or in an in-house IT shop, Pulseway should definitely be on your short list for an RMM tool.

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