Eight questions managed service providers should ask
By Doug Hibberd, Senior Vice President of engineering and General Manager, Asia Pacific Operations, SolarWinds | Dec 26, 2011
IT Managed Services Providers need flexible deployment options to ensure optimal remote management of their customers' networks, applications, servers, storage, and virtualization environments. They look for solutions that allow them to deploy servers (standalone or with multiple instances) across a distributed network, so they are not limited by the connectivity between the NOC (network operations center) and customers' sites. Both SMBs and MSPs should look for a software provider that can scale up or down, without a limit on the number of customers they can monitor and manage.
In 2012, IT professionals will continue to wear multiple hats – they are now expected to monitor their network, servers, applications, virtual environments, global offices, and more. It’s important for software providers to meet all of their needs, and give them an integrated view of their entire environment, so they can quickly determine the cause of any problems, and solve them.
Here are the questions you should ask to select the right IT software provider:
1. Can the software scale?
MSPs and MSP customers come in all shapes and sizes. MSPs need to support customers ranging from small businesses with single sites and less than 25 network elements to large enterprises with multiple sites and tens of thousands of elements. It is critical that you select a solution that will scale along with your growth and the growth of your customers.
2. Is the software extensible?
Perhaps you are only ready to start offering a basic service such as network management, or perhaps you are offering a full suite of IT management services. Software that is modular and extensible provides the opportunity to service customers throughout the value chain. Look for a solution that will allow you to start with the basics and offer more advanced, higher margin services as your business and that of your customer’s matures.
3. What are my deployment options?
Just as MSPs and MSP customers come in all sizes, they also come in all shapes. Look for the flexibility to provide centralized or distributed deployment options that will help you meet the needs of your various customers. Don’t forget that you must have the ability to roll up views to a centralised Network Operations Center (NOC).
4. How are my alerts managed?
Scalable and flexible deployments are meaningless if you don’t have a centralised and intelligent alert notification and management capability. All IT management software suppliers will claim to have alerting capabilities, but only with a few can you intelligently group alerts and notifications by customer location or some other segmentation.
5. Can I customise my views and reports?
Customers care only about their infrastructure; therefore, MSPs need the ability to create views and reports that are specific and customisable to their customer’s environment. Look for a combination of out-of-the-box reports as well as full customisability.
6. Is it easy-to-use and easy-to-deploy?
What good is an IT software management suite if it takes an army of consultants or a PhD. in information technology to deploy and use? If you need to be trained on how to deploy and how to optimise, then you probably won’t use it.
7. How do I differentiate my service?
One way of differentiating is with your brand and that of your partner. Can you easily brand your IT management software so your customers associate the service with your company? Is the brand of your IT software partner recognised throughout the industry? As an MSP, not only do you want to create your own brand awareness, but you also want to ensure that the management solution you select is recognised in the industry.
8. What is my total cost of ownership (TCO)?
If your TCO is high, then you either sacrifice margin or you struggle to be competitive. Your TCO is the sum of your up-front licensing costs; any services or consulting fees; and the on-going annual maintenance cost. Licensing can be done with a one-time perpetual license or under a subscription model, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Ongoing maintenance is typically a percentage of the up-front licensing costs. Make sure you understand how much this will be each year. You may get a sweetheart deal up-front only to find out that you are paying more in annual maintenance.
The author, Doug Hibberd is senior vice president of engineering and general manager, Asia Pacific Operations, SolarWinds