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The buzz about managed services in the IT channel seems to get louder by the hour these days.

Most VARs, integrators and service providers say they are at least looking into offering managed services to customers, but many haven’t quite figured out how to do it, it seems.

This entry challenge was not lost on N-Able Technologies Inc., provider of a platform that VARs and integrators use to deliver managed services to end-user customers.

The company on Monday launched a program that allows VARs and integrators to “test drive” the managed services model before making a full commitment.

The “MSP StartUp Program” is a 30-day trial period for VARs and integrators in the United States and Canada.

Free of charge, the program allows those considering the managed services model to engage N-Able to join them on customer calls and provide them with the necessary tools for a transition to the model.

“This program will not make you a managed services provider,” said Bill Stewart, N-Able vice president of marketing. “It’s really a gateway to help accelerate the transition to [being] an MSP.”

VARs and integrators considering the transition often don’t know how to go about it, Stewart said. They need, he said, to adopt the technology that allows them to deliver the services and to retool their sales approaches to a subscription-based model as opposed to one-time project billing.

The transition takes time, effort and cost, Stewart said, but participation in the startup program helps prospective MSPs with those issues.

Participants will get a 30-day trial of N-Able’s Monitor Online network monitoring solution. In addition, an N-Able sales consultant will work with each participant to identify potential managed-services customers and join them on sales pitches.

Through managed services, a service provider takes over some or all of customer’s IT functions. Providers use technology from such companies as N-Able and competitor Level Platforms Inc., both of which are based in Ottawa, to keep tabs on their customers’ network performance.

To read about N-Able’s security patches, click here.

Another option for VARs and integrators wanting to gain quick entry into managed services is to partner with pure-play MSPs such as Invision Inc., based in Commack, N.Y., and Perimeter Internetworking of Milford, Conn., to resell their services.

Perimeter launched a formal partner program during the IT trade association CompTIA’s annual conference last month in Las Vegas.

At a VentureTech Network gathering last week, 60 to 70 percent of the 400 participating VARs and integrators said they were either interested in getting into managed services or were already dabbling and wanted to know how to do it more effectively, according to event organizers. Twenty-five percent of participants said they were offering managed services effectively.

VentureTech is made up of an elite group of VARs and integrators that source product from Ingram Micro Inc. in Santa Ana, Calif., the world’s largest IT products distributor.

Peter Sandiford, CEO of Level Platforms, said traditional resellers making the transition to managed services should take it slow.

“Attempting a wholesale transition of the business to become an MSP is a bad idea,” he said. “What most VARs are doing is adding remote monitoring and management tools to allow them to begin to create a recurring revenue stream, optimize their service delivery operations and provide better customer service.”

Corente pushes a managed services platform to the channel. Click here to read more.

Stewart said he expects to retain about two-thirds of the participants in the startup program as N-Able partners. He is counting on them making that decision after experiencing firsthand the benefits of managed services.

In addition to a free trial of Monitor Online and joint sales calls, program participants will receive training on best practices, how to make managed services sales, tools of the trade and business transformation, and a copy of N-Able’s “Blueprint for Success Executive Summary.”

Stewart said N-Able depends on the success of its partners, since it does not sell software directly to end users.

“Our success is directly related to our partners’ success. If they’re not successful we go nowhere.”

Prospective participants may register online.