Recently at IT Nation I led a panel discussion on the “good, bad and ugly” associated with the trend and experiences of MSPs transitioning to CSPs. This article captures the main takeaways from the panel session. Should MSP owners and operators re-invent their businesses as CSPs and what are the key considerations in doing so?
If you’re an MSP providing IT services for desktop environments where basic up/down server monitoring will do, an RMM tool is more than adequate. But for MSPs offering fixed-fee monthly service packages, or cloud services, important advantages can be gained by complementing an RMM tool with an advanced performance monitoring solution.
Monitoring customers on fixed-fee contracts
When you offer an “all you can eat” package where you are on the hook for anything that breaks in your customer’s infrastructure, the ability to be proactive and fix small problems before they become big problems becomes paramount.
An advanced performance monitoring solution will monitor your customer’s high-end systems (network, servers, virtualization, storage, etc…) in such depth that you will know about problems well before your customer. And when there is an issue, these tools provide historical trending graphs that enable your front line help desk technicians to solve many problems without having to bring in the help of more costly engineers.
Until very recently I was your client: the VP of Marketing for a business consulting firm where I doubled as the in-house IT. It was my job to bring on MSPs who could solve the bigger problems within our infrastructure. This included two complete office moves involving all new cat-6 cabling in newly built offices, new servers, new backup, migration to MSFT Server 2008, a switch to hosted exchange, and much more. For one reason or another we went through 3 MSPs in less than 5 years. It took some time to find that perfect MSP, but once we did we became an instant source of referrals.
Here are 5 things this MSP did really well that made us loyal customers:
1. We had less downtime
When our phones, internet, file server, network, or SaaS applications are down, we couldn’t work. This is the number one thing we do not want to happen and the only way it happens is through negligence, not having a Plan B, or an accident.
Great MSPs can explain why we’re down in plain english, and don’t blame the failure on us for not knowing enough about our IT infrastructure. A great MSP understands we’re a small business and everyone is doing 10 things. I was offered a simple solution to get back up, fast. Even better, they provided me with a plan for how to avoid these things in the future. I loved hearing about redundancy scenarios, it felt like I was saving the business money before anything actually happened.
2. They kept us in the loop
Great providers discussed changes with me before making them. Sometimes seemingly minor changes have major consequences. If my MSP tells me something big is going to happen, and I can think of any reason why that might adversely affect our day-to-day operations, then I’m glad I was told before something just “happened.”
There was peace of mind knowing that there’s nothing major going on behind the scenes without my knowledge, and our MSP showed that they were considering the possible workflow impact of changes made. The side benefit for the MSP is that they’ve absolved themselves of blame — at that point it’s something we agreed to work on together.
3. Things were fixed before they broke
A great MSP is like a great doctor; you’re monitoring our health and thinking holistically about what I’m trying to get done. Whenever our MSP was updating the server, or performing regular system maintenance, they would provide us with “things to be aware of” – completely outside of what he was there to do. That kind of check up gave me the freedom to worry less about the things the MSP said they were monitoring.
Weekly reporting helped, too. We are very analytical about things like website uptime, latency, and general speed of productivity. The reports they were able to create through monitoring and site visits were remarkable and allowed us to make data-driven decisions about the business. This kind of insight and thoughtful attitude towards our business changed the way we perceived an MSP. Consequently we sought out more solutions through them.
4. They went beyond a “fix”
Being kept up-to-date on the latest and greatest can help us move the business forward. Solutions that give us a competitive edge, save us money, or otherwise move the hassle of IT off of our plate is preferable to just “fixing the glitch.”
Small businesses are typically against large capital expenditures. The ability to scale quickly with solutions that keep us lightweight are attractive ones. Even something as simple as moving to a hosted Exchange solution will drastically change our infrastructure if we’re currently relying on a SBS 2003 (no fun at all).
5. We were given simple explanations to complex IT problems
The technical intricacies of an error are usually lost on small business people. There’s generally more pressing matters we’re obsessing about. So the more digestible an MSP can make that explanation, the better. We were always impressed by our MSP’s ability to distill something highly technical into something we could wrap our biz-dev brains around.
There’s a degree of comfort and familiarity when working with MSPs that understand our level of technical know-how. The more digestible that information is, the more likely I am to adopt whatever it is you’re suggesting.
At the end of the day, we don’t want to switch MSPs. It’s a pain to ask around, read reviews, set up appointments and listen to the sales pitches. So that means we’ll suffer through a lot of pain before saying good-bye. That said, a proactive, intelligence-driven, and quick-to-action MSP that is personable, but doesn’t outstay their welcome will retain existing clients and be referred more new ones over time.
— This guest article was contributed by Matt Harding – Business Consultant
On my flight out to the ConnectWise IT Nation event, I thumbed through the Wall Street Journal old school style and ran across an ad for the WSJ Wine Store claiming you can save $100 on a special Thanksgiving pinot. My first reaction was to ask myself, “Why is Rupert Murdoch selling wine to WSJ readers?”. I suppose it’s his form of product extension — when companies add connected products in an effort to increase stickiness, average revenue, usability and sometimes, happiness. This particular stretch might actually be a distraction from WSJ’s core business, but you can imagine a couple of cigar smoking fat cats enjoying their pinot and telling each other how great the WSJ is and complaining about the election results. At least that’s probably Murdoch’s premise.
For LogicMonitor, the idea of product extension is more simply tied to the fundamental user experience. You may know that LogicMonitor was founded by SaaS industry vets who built out the datacenters for web businesses like Citrix Online and ad networks like ValueClick. “Tech Steve” founded the company leveraging a deep understanding of the IT ops technology that lives in the datacenter. The experience made him want to solve the age-old monitoring problem that legacy solutions still struggle so hard to do well with their premise-based technology. So later, it wasn’t a surprise that web-based businesses started subscribing to our SaaS monitoring service in large numbers as they exhausted their ability to rely on open source monitoring tools like Nagios.
As early adopters, the web-based businesses pushed us hard to monitor all sorts of new technologies, and bake the functionality into the same software platform so that it “just works” in the same way. Responding to their requests, we queue up the development of most any new datasource (the sw package that we drop into our platform to monitor a given device or app) that can be deployed among our greater user base and then incorporate it into the product. Sometimes this takes a day (other times weeks), but it gets done and represents our core philosophy to make our customers’ lives easier by making their monitoring way better than they could have imagined.
What we stumbled on along the way is that other business segments aside from web-based companies have unmet monitoring needs as well. Managed service providers (MSPs) are a prime example. MSPs take a variety of forms, from value added resellers to System Integrators to Cloud Providers. Not only do MSPs need to monitor their own infrastructure, more and more of them are turning away from the thin margins of the equipment trade to a recurring revenue services model and need to ensure uptime and performance for their hosted or managed services.
LogicMonitor uniquely solves a problem for these MSPs in that they can use a single portal to manage their own infrastructure along with their customers’, wherever the services live. Many MSPs provide role-based access of their LogicMonitor portal to their customers, offering a higher level of service by not only showing the customer what they are paying for, but also how their services are performing. Transparency is an important value in today’s competitive MSP market.
Back at the office the scene is a whir of activity. Mostly engineers cloaked in LogicMonitor tees, flip flops and pens behind the ears with a mantra of getting things done and empathizing with our customers monitoring needs and determined to build the best product. Empathizing with our customers means finding ways our product can be connected seamlessly with their other fundamental technology solutions. That’s why we recently announced Puppet integration for scaling web businesses like Cedexis – to eliminate human intervention when deploying servers and apps, and know with confidence that what they deploy is automatically monitored.
The most recent example is ConnectWise integration. ConnectWise is a professional services automation solution used by several thousand MSPs. And although we had a work around in place for some time (by sending alert emails to ConnectWise to open a service ticket), our customers asked for a more thorough integration to utilize ConnectWise in a best practice manner. We just announced our integration and will continue to advance the functionality between LogicMonitor and ConnectWise. Which reminds me of why I got on the flight to Orlando in the first place and had a chance to read the paper. If Murdoch can sell wine as a WSJ product, maybe we should start selling pocket protectors. We could use them back at the office.
– This article was contributed by Kevin McGibben, CEO at LogicMonitor
At LogicMonitor, we know datacenter monitoring. We know it because we’ve lived it – I’ve been that guy responsible for making sure that a 24 x 7 x 365 web service was up. Most of our technical staff also came from a SaaS and web ops background (with lots of work in corporate IT worlds, too).
Recently, however, we’ve had quite a few managed service providers adopting LogicMonitor for their monitoring needs. Which makes a lot of sense. An MSP is just as dependent on the uptime, Read more »
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