Perils of Switching MSP PlatformsBy Pedro Pereira | Posted 2009-01-19 Email Print
Despite a high rate of switches among MSPs, the perils of moving from one platform to another are significant.
Andy Harper can’t fathom the idea of switching from his current managed services platform. As the chief information officer of MSP Gaeltek, he knows all too well the pain and effort it takes to implement and learn the software.
Gaeltek, based in Manassas Park, Va., has used vendor Level Platform’s technology for more than four years to remotely monitor and manage clients’ IT infrastructure. Having made a commitment to learning the ins and outs of the platform, Harper plans to stick with it.
"These are complex tools, and unless you know them, you can’t implement them properly. You can’t use them properly," he says.
The perils of switching platforms are significant. Switches require learning new technology and transferring data from one system to another, potentially disrupting service to customers. For a business model built on delivering consistent, reliable service, a disruption of the service may well lead to losing customers.
Risks notwithstanding, not all managed services providers (MSPs) share Harper’s opinion. Loyalty in the MSP space is frequently up for grabs, with providers switching from platform to platform because of unmet expectations and difficulties in learning the tools.
A Channel Insider study in June 2008 found that 25 percent of MSPs have switched platforms three times, 21 percent once, and 18 percent, twice. Seven percent of participants reported that they have switched platforms a staggering 10 times.
Survey: Switching Managed Services Platforms
When Level Platforms and rivals such as Kaseya and N-able Technologies unleashed their technology on solution providers a handful of years back, there were some challenges. The technology was new, demanding a steep learning curve. In some cases, glitches occurred and the young vendors hadn’t yet put in place strong enough support infrastructures to assist channel partners in learning the technology.
Vendors have gotten better about supporting their partners, and the number of successful MSPs is growing.
Success for MSP results form a lot of hard work in choosing the right platform for their needs, learning and implementing it, making the necessary staff and business process adjustments, and aligning financial models to collect payments from customers as utility-like fees.
Automation and an obsessive commitment to processes are key.
"You have to have a process for everything," says Ken Sponsler, vice president of engineering services at Connecting Point of Greeley, Colo. "If you don’t do it the same way every time, you’re reinventing the wheel every time."
Switching platforms inevitably interferes with the ability to stick with your established processes. Sponsler, like Harper, believes MSPs should stick with a platform and become proficient at it. Sponsler’s company uses the N-able platform.
"Once you have a platform in place, you should use it to the best of your and the vendor’s abilities," Sponsler says. "Having made your decision, push the vendor to make the product what you want. Vendors want to keep you and many times will modify their product for your use."