Network Depot Delivers Instant MSP Kit

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

Network Depot's Virtual Administrator opens the managed services platform model to solution providers that want a hosted solution without the overhead costs of competing platforms.

The winds of change are blowing for the small business solution provider, fueled by shrinking hardware margins, a dying break-fix market and general apathy for new product sales. That situation has forced many solution providers to rethink how they will survive, much less grow their businesses.

Many are in the process of re-inventing themselves as managed service providers (MSPs), while many more are finding that the cost of entry—significant hardware investment, extreme complexity and high minimum licenses requirements—is just too high.

With Virtual Administrator, Network Depot is looking to stifle the cries of those seeking MSP nirvana, by helping solution providers achieve MSP status, without the all too common hassles. Virtual Administrator was born out of Network Depot’s own MSP solution, which was used to service the company’s client base. Management at Network Depot determined that allow solution providers to leverage Network Depot’s infrastructure, installed components and gathered knowledge, the company could build out an independent MSP incubator and attract solution providers into the MSP fold. The company quickly launched VirtualAdministrator.com to service what they determined to be a pent up demand for "leased" MSP support services.

Virtual Administrator is similar to several of the existing managed services platforms and master MSP offerings, such as those by Zenith InfoTech, Ingram Micro’s Seismic program and Do IT Smarter. However, there are several distinct differences.

Virtual Administrator is offered exclusively to the channel and Network Depot has put protections in place to prevent a new MSP’s customer base from migrating over to Network Depot’s own services. The company accomplished that by eliminating any and all references to Network Depot, and by offering a commitment that the product/service will only be available to service providers and never to end customers.

In its basic form, Virtual Administrator is built on a hosted Kaseya platform. In other words, Network Depot has completely built out the Kaseya MSP management platform and set it up for leased use by a solution provider. That solves a lot of problems for the smaller solution provider, who would normally have to invest in infrastructure, licensing and other elements to even think about using a MSP platform as robust as Kaseya.

With Kaseya as a foundation, Network Depot is able to offer several additional capabilities to signed solution providers, services such as remote desktop management, patch management, alerting, monitoring, scripting and reporting. All of which is included under the Virtual Administrator "Silver" package, which is available for $6.95 per seat per month ($4.95 for 500-plus seats). Solution providers looking to offer anti-malware and anti-spam technology can step up to the "gold" package, which starts at $9.95 per seat per month ($7.49 for 500-plus seats). The company also offers a platinum package for $14.95 per month, which adds proactive monitoring and oversight for solution providers who want to shift the burden completely over to Virtual Administrator staff.

Solution providers can select from a list of options, which include backup and disaster recovery, hosted mail boxes, end point security and so on. The idea here is to allow solution providers acting as MSPs to offer their customers a menu of services, based upon needs and budgets. For the solution provider, no heavy lifting is needed and the services can be rolled out almost instantly.

Virtual Administrator works via a browser-based interface, solution providers that have signed up for the services can direct and control their leased managed services platform remotely, over the Web.

Network Depot offers a 30-day free trial to Virtual Administrator for qualified partners. Solution providers looking to commit to the service are billed on a monthly basis and can negotiate the terms of a billing contract with Network Depot.

For solution providers, Virtual Administrator offers some real-world advantages over some other MSP platforms. For example, Zenith Infotech charges a $2,000 retainer and Ingram’s Seismic requires a long-term commitment; neither of which is required by Network Depot. Also helping to speed entry in the MSP market, solution providers are not required to pay for any certifications or license a minimum number of seats, which some platform providers, such as Level Platforms and Kaseya require.

The company plans to add additional services in the near future, including support for SonicWall security devices. Solution providers can also pursue further partnerships and services with Network Depot, which has also launched Professional Service Automation via ConnectWise and a technology marketing toolkit. The company offers training and other support services for solution providers that sign up for virtual administrator.


Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...