The Platform

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2008-04-30 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The Platform

Most VARs investigating managed services find the hardware is the easy part, and it is the software and services platforms that generate the most confusion. After all, there are dozens of players looking to increase their partner counts and customer base.

Typically, the process of becoming an MSP involves the VAR committing to a platform vendor for a certain number of managed seats. The platform vendor provides the VAR with the software and the back-end servers. Software agents are delivered to the customer's site, and those agents report back to the servers located at the platform vendors. The partner receives status reports and accesses the customer's managed devices via a browser-based interface that runs a hosted management application from the platform vendor's servers.

That typical implementation relies heavily on the managed services vendor to provide the proper connectivity, software and tools for the VAR to be a successful MSP. While the hosted approach is the most common approach, it is not the only way to become an MSP. Some vendors offer a software solution that allows the VAR to host the services. While that may reduce the reliance on a third-party vendor, the VAR may have to make a significant investment in hardware to host the applications needed.

Choosing a platform that offers the necessary services and a partner program compatible with the VAR's goals is imperative. A VAR must consider many factors, including the affordability of the services. In short, VARs will need to concoct a palatable recipe of offerings from the platform vendors. The ingredients the VAR needs to consider include the minimum number of seats that must be purchased (some platform vendors start at 1,000), the cost and level of training required, hardware investments (if any), marketing commitments and a host of other partner issues. Those choices, of course, are above and beyond the inherent technology offered.

For example, VARs will need to evaluate the services offered from the platform vendor. They should ask questions such as:

  • Is remote control supported?
  • What is the reporting like?
  • Is custom template programming required?
  • How are notifications and alerts handled?
  • Is patch management available?
  • What security services are included?
  • How is customer billing done?

    It is in the VAR's best interest to do the research and test the platforms before committing to anything. While some platform vendors tout their offerings as MSP in a box, there is no instant path to managed services. Fortunately, there is so much choice in the market, and the technology has matured, so becoming an MSP is possible for a VAR of any size serving customers of any size.

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    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
     
     
     
     
     
























     
     
     
     
     
     

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