No Sign of Letup for MSP Platform Round RobinBy Pedro Pereira | Posted 2008-06-30 Email Print
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Providers continue trying different vendors' platforms in their quest to find just the right one.
If the platform switching that continues to take place among managed services providers is any indication, vendors still fall short of meeting expectations at least some of the time.
Providers use platforms from vendors such as N-able Technologies, Kaseya, LPI Level Platforms and Zenith Information Systems to remotely handle IT tasks for customers, including monitoring systems, delivering software upgrades and backing up data.
Talk to the average MSP, and chances are you will find the company has tried a couple of platforms in recent years, and maybe even three or four. Along the way, different vendors offered different features, and that accounts for some of the switching, but these days the most commonly used platforms handle a lot of the same IT tasks.
"Basically we weren't happy with any of them," says Susan Labandibar, president of Tech Networks, to explain why her company tried three platforms until finally settling on Kaseya. Tech Networks had previously used Level Platforms, Zenith and N-able.
Kaseya's hosted Network Operations Center (NOC) services, from which the vendor handles prevention, routine maintenance and basic remediation for customers on behalf of providers, did the trick for Labandibar.
While Tech Networks found a fit with Kaseya, Heartland Technology Solutions has opted for Zenith, after trying Kaseya and Level Platforms.
"Zenith is a better solution for us," says Jane Cage, one of the principals at Heartland Technology Solutions. Zenith employs technicians who handle monitoring on behalf of partners from the vendor's NOC, something that Cage has found helpful. "They wade through a lot of alerts before we ever have to."
While Heartland and Tech Networks reached different conclusions about which vendor to stick with, their experiences are far from singular.
Len DiCostanzo, senior vice president of professional services and business optimization at business management software vendor Autotask, says the platform switching comes down to unmet expectations. Autotask's software integrates with various managed services keeping track of customer billable time, handling ticketing and reconciling profitability with overhead.
"The major reason for any switch is the vendor promise does not match the reality of the product," DiCostanzo says. "In a nutshell, the platform does not do enough and/or it's just too hard to deploy."
Complexity and profitability
Cage says a provider's initial perception of a managed services platform doesn't necessarily last.
"What we found is that extended use will change your opinion of the tool," Cage says. "Though it may seem to suit your needs at first, eventually you realize it falls short."
Level Platforms CEO Peter Sandiford minces no words when he declares, "Platform products are over-hyped." RMM (Remote monitoring and management), he says, is a complex technology that even when it works perfectly can be hampered by issues in the end customer's environment.