By John Moore
A mix of off-the-shelf and home-grown tools help MSPs deliver services to their customers. Using automated tools to remotely monitor and manage clients’ IT assets is really the essence of what an MSP does. The MSP industry couldn’t exist without MSP tools.
And with the growth of the managed service customer base, the need for automation only intensifies. A recent Datto survey on MSP marketing and business issues showed more than 40% of the 2,300 MSPs polled have more than 100 clients, compared with only 27% reporting that customer volume in 2017. MSPs rely on software tools to support that number of customers capably and profitably.
But one can have too much of a good thing and that holds true for MSP tools. Virteva, an MSP based in Minneapolis, had been using four different tools to monitor its customers. That collection of monitoring products added complexity and expense and also made it difficult for Virteva to obtain a complete picture of its customers’ IT infrastructures.
Steve Griffiths, COO at Virteva, said the company decided to replace its mixture of monitoring wares with a single platform from LogicMonitor. That vendor’s monitoring technology is now part of an application stack that sits on top of ServiceNow, which Virteva adopted a few years ago to serve as the backbone of its operations.
“It was a nice consolidation play,” Griffiths said, referring to the shift from multiple MSP monitoring tools to a single source.
Consolidating MSP tools improves visibility
Griffiths said such consolidation moves streamline a company’s operations and usually reduces costs. But the greatest advantage of adopting LogicMonitor has been unified monitoring and the improved visibility that it provides.
“The big one is when you can see everything under one roof,” he said. “You get the benefit of connecting the dots across customers … and breaking down the silos of data.”
LogicMonitor’s ability to centralize monitoring paid off when a major hack emerged and Virteva needed to check for patches across its customers’ IT systems. Matt Kerfoot, infrastructure technician at Virteva, said the company created a custom DataSource for LogicMonitor that scanned clients’ systems and flagged those missing the patch. He said the scanning task took one hour using the DataSource, which is a LogicMonitor template that determines what data to collect and what values should trigger alerts.
“I really like the custom DataSources,” Kerfoot said. “We monitor so much stuff that doesn’t get monitored out of the box.”
The ability to sniff out potential problems before they affect customers is in line with Virteva’s overarching philosophy, Griffiths suggested. He said CIOs face the challenge of dealing with security threats and the day-to-day grind of addressing problems that crop up throughout the IT infrastructure. Virteva’s approach, he said, is to prevent trouble from ever happening in the first place.
“We believe that the old way of being an MSP is going the way of the dodo,” Griffiths said. “No longer can somebody … outsource, say service desk or infrastructure management, and just say, ‘You guys take it and you handle my mess for less money.’ ”
Griffiths said that way of doing business leads to labor arbitrage, which he termed a losing proposition. The alternative approach Griffiths endorses is proactive management and continuous improvement.
“That best support experience one can have is not to have one at all,” he said.