Cloud Computing: An Impending RMM Challenge for MSPs

Everything
in IT continues to get more complicated, and with the proliferation of public
and private cloud environments and services, the complexity is only increasing.
These complications are even finding their way into the basics of managed
services provided by MSPs. Remote monitoring and management (RMM) is increasing
in complexity for MSPs because of the nature of cloud services.

Prior
to the cloud taking off in such a big way, RMM tools had to provide MSPs with
the ability to monitor and manage physical environments, whether they were on
customer premises or in a data center, but new applications delivery models have
made it more challenging for many MSPs. Now, it’s not only the physical
environment that must  be monitored and
managed, but also environments that the MSP may have little to no control over such
as cloud services on Amazon, Rackspace, or even Salesforce.com.

“The
way I think that changes things is from a PacketTrap MSP perspective, it used
to be we gave them a product, they would install it at their locations, and
they’d see all the [hardware] installed at one location or at one data center,
and now what we find is that the channel partner not only has to manage not
just that one location but 10 other locations,” said Steve Goodman, vice
president and general manager of network division of Quest Software, which
makes the PacketTrap MSP RMM tool. "It makes their job more challenging,
because they don’t have complete control over those 10 locations."

It
would be simpler, say, if every cloud application was hosted in one, easily
accessible and manageable point, but although that might be the dream, it’s
rarely the reality, Goodman said. A customer may have on-premise hardware and
applications, a private cloud, virtualized IT, and cloud applications spread
across the various providers.

To
manage various physical and cloud sites remotely effectively, MSPs require a
high level of accessibility to each of those sites. In many cases, that’s just
not possible, though. For instance, MSPs don’t have that kind of manageability
access with Salesforce.com, which manages its own servers. If a customer is
having a problem accessing Salesforce applications, how is an MSP to know if
it’s a customer networking problem, a Salesforce.com problem or something in
between?

MSPs
are used to putting a piece of software in an environment to enable its remote
monitoring, but that’s not always possible now, said Jeff Keyes, product
marketing manager at Kaseya.

“They
more attack remote management and monitoring from a perspective of ‘let me take
care of the physical box’ without worrying about the quality of service or how
does it work kind of thing,” Keyes said. With the cloud, forget about that
method.

In
some cases, cloud providers offer RMM capabilities, but at an increased cost,
Keyes explained. It becomes expensive.

When
there are problems, even if it’s a cloud provider’s fault, it’s the MSP that
has that proverbial one throat to choke, Keyes said. No matter where the fault
lies, the MSP is left dealing with customer complaints and fallout.

“They’re
trying to figure this out,” Keyes said.

Both
Kaseya and Quest Software have worked towards solving the problem so that MSPs
can remotely monitor and manage everything, but it’s still a challenge for the
MSP – although not for all MSPs.

Wolf
Consulting, a Pittsburgh, Pa.-based MSP uses Kaseya for its RMM services, but
it’s still mostly focused on managing physical servers.

“I
can’t say that I’ve seen or that I foresee any measurable changes with regard
to cloud servers because to us it’s just another server. We’re taking care of
thousands of desktops and hundreds of servers for clients all around the
greater Pittsburgh area,” said Lloyd Wolf, president and CEO
of Wolf Consulting.

Most
of Wolf Consulting’s clients are headquartered in the Pittsburgh area, but they
may have remote facilities elsewhere in the country. The MSP places Kaseya’s
agents on each machine to monitor them. And that works like a charm for Wolf
Consulting and its clients, but Wolf noted that there could be challenges when
dealing with third-party cloud providers that don’t allow easy access to
monitoring and management capabilities.

However,
as Wolf pointed out, if those third-party services start experiencing downtime,
they have much greater concerns than MSPs’ RMM capabilities. They’ll have
thousands of unhappy customers (or MSPs representing those customers) filling
up their technical support lines.

 

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