3 Signs Your MSP Automation Tools, Technology Are Out of Alignment

Chris Crellin, TK
Author: Chris Crellin

Have you ever driven a vehicle that’s out of alignment, causing it to pull to the left or right? As an MSP, it’s possible that your technology — both the automation software you use to operate your business and the solutions you sell — can be out of alignment, too. In this scenario, however, it’s not the honking cars and ditches you have to worry about; it’s increased labor costs and profit loss. To determine whether your technology may be out of alignment, check for the following three signs.

Sign #1: Your RMM and PSA don’t communicate. Professional services automation (PSA) and remote monitoring and management (RMM) are cornerstone tools for MSPs, giving them the ability to create tickets, capture customer information, diagnose and troubleshoot problems remotely, and much more.

Only when these tools are integrated with one another, however, can MSPs operate at their full potential.

Let’s say, for example, the RMM tool detects that a nightly backup was missed on one of your customer’s servers. If your tools aren’t integrated, the person seeing the message on a portal or via text/email alert has to manually open a ticket in the PSA. On a busy day, it’s easy to put it off and even to forget about the message, causing your MSP to fall outside its SLA (service level agreement) commitments. If the two tools are integrated, the RMM tool creates the ticket in the PSA automatically, which helps ensure all activities are captured, addressed, and billed properly.

Sign #2: Your customers buy your solutions à la carte. Some solution providers, perhaps in an attempt to avoid seeming pushy to their clients, give customers complete flexibility selecting hardware and software products. Often this sales approach is accompanied by collateral that resembles a sit-down restaurant menu, complete with “entrée” choices such as backup solutions, computers, servers, and office software, plus “sides” such as antivirus, encryption, and various cloud services. One of the problems with this approach is that many SMB owners/managers don’t know what they need when it comes to buying IT products and solutions. As cliché as it sounds, they need you to be their trusted advisor by assessing their needs and making recommendations.

Instead of thinking of bundled solutions as a ploy to get customers to spend more, think of them as a way of making it easier for customers to see (and experience) how technologies work together in a complementary fashion. Bundles also give customers a better and safer user experience while making it easier for your MSP to manage the technology. Instead of trying to manage six brands of firewalls, for example, you’re just managing one. That means fewer portals your technicians have to open per customer, fewer training hours you need to invest getting your technicians certified, and more customers you can service with fewer employees.

You wouldn’t install locks on every door in your house except the back door or buy auto insurance on only some of the cars your family regularly uses. In the same way, don’t put the burden on your customers to build their own comprehensive IT solutions and end up missing critical areas of their businesses.

Sign #3: You must log into multiple portals to validate services are working. Although alerts are a nice feature to help quickly detect problems, some manual checking is still required to ensure everything’s working properly. One of the downsides of using too many “point products” is that it entails logging into a different portal each time you want to validate a different service. For example, there may be one portal for your firewall, another for your intrusion prevention system, another for email spam filtering, another for local backups, and a fifth portal for cloud-based backups. Each of these steps adds time to the management process and eventually can turn into a full-time job for your technicians. Plus, because the process is so tedious, it’s common for techs to take shortcuts and skip key steps.

If your MSP business shows any of the above signs, it’s wise to start addressing the problem right away. By doing so, you’ll be in a better position to consistently meet your SLA requirements. Plus, you’ll improve your operational maturity and gain the ability to grow your business without having to add more employees each time you add a new customer or service.

Chris Crellin is senior director of product management for Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda. Read more Intronis MSP Solutions by Barracuda blogs here.