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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 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.