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Once a service provider converts one customer to the managed services model, it might as well convert them all.

At least, that’s how the management at Level Platforms sees it. On Feb. 28, the company released Managed Workplace 5.0, a new version of its managed services platform that Level Platforms hopes will accelerate adoption of the technology across the channel.

Through managed services, providers take over some or all of their customers’ IT functions remotely over the Web and charge them monthly fees for monitoring and upkeep.

Managed Workplace 5.0 comes with basement-level price tags. Fees start at $15 per month for customer sites with fewer than 10 devices managed through the platform, said Level Platforms CEO Peter Sandiford. For sites with up to 250 devices, the monthly fee is $25.

“The reason we priced it low is because our goal is to get this broadly spread out to all of our partners’ customers,” Sandiford said.

The Ottawa-based vendor, in business since May 2004, has partnerships with about 1,200 service providers, most of which are companies making a shift from the traditional product-centric VAR model. Sandiford said he expects to considerably boost that number as the new release attracts more VARs and integrators to Level Platforms.

But even though the vendor is pricing the new release with an eye toward accelerating adoption, Sandiford said he expects that the platform’s features will be the main draw to the technology.

“The reason someone would buy our product isn’t because of the low price,” Sandiford said. “It’s not based on price, but it’s based on the functions and features we have. Our feature set is so much further ahead of our competition.”

Are managed services a threat or an opportunity? Click here to read a guest column by Sandiford on the subject.

The features and price points of Managed Workplace 5.0 are suitable for channel companies new to the managed services model, said Charles Weaver, president of the MSP Alliance.

“The majority of the MSPs [management service providers] I know all have multiple tools to effectuate their service delivery models,” he said. “This is obviously going to help newer MSPs get into the game with much less financial pressure.”

Jeff Kaplan, managing director at the market analysis consultancy Thinkstrategies, in Wellesley, Mass., agreed the low prices will have an effect.

“One of the most important reasons that VARs have been hesitant to deliver managed services has been the cost and complexity of the enabling technology offered by vendors,” Kaplan said. “Level Platforms is addressing both of these concerns by promising an easy-to-deploy solution at a low price point.”

Level Platforms competes with such vendors as N-able Technologies, SilverBack and Kaseya in vying for the attention of channel partners. Each vendor has a different approach, and their pricing models vary. SilverBack, for instance, requires an initial investment of $35,000 while N-able gives partners the option of buying the technology or getting it on-demand.

Managed Workplace 5.0’s new capabilities include troubleshooting by remote control, which means a service provider can make remote connections with devices at client sites to fix problems.

Another new feature is patch management, which leverages Microsoft’s Windows Services Update Server to patch servers and workstations.

The new release also includes remote scripting, which allows for manual, automatic or alert-based actions for any device or group of devices. Sandiford said Managed Workplace 5.0 ships with more than 50 scripts and the ability to create custom scripts.

Sandiford said a feature he expects will be especially appealing is the ability to remotely monitor customers’ internal or external Web sites as well as hosted or non-hosted sites. With this capability, providers can monitor how quickly pages load and zero in on any problems with an eye toward improving performance.

Web site monitoring, Sandiford said, gives providers the opportunity to expand their IT services relationships with customers.