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Not ready to make a full transition to managed services? N-able Technologies has just the thing for you—time-based managed services.

What is that?

According to the brass at the Ottawa-based managed services platform vendor, the time-based approach, which N-able is calling the “Momentum System,” allows VARs and integrators to test the waters before making a full commitment to the model. The vendor is rolling out the system later this month.

Through Momentum, partners pay N-able a minimum of $70 a month in license fees to use the vendor’s technology to remotely monitor and manage their customers’ IT environments.

But rather than keeping tabs on customer systems on a 24/7 schedule, as is typical of managed services arrangements, the solution provider sells blocks of time to perform the services. Once the time is used up, the customer has the option to buy more.

If that sounds familiar, it’s not surprising. N-able essentially is drawing on the channel’s traditional break/fix model to make managed services palatable for holdouts. The break/fix model is popular among VARs and integrators that often lead with products and follow with services, and it is the model that managed services is supposed to supplant.

The time-based model is reactive, in that the solution provider reacts when the customer calls with the need for service, whereas the managed services approach is anticipatory, in that the provider constantly monitors systems to optimize performance and troubleshoot potential problems before they lead to downtime.

But demonstrating the value to customers in advance of adopting the model has been a challenge, according to N-able executives, because customers may not readily grasp the concept.

In addition, VARs and integrators making the transition to managed services find it isn’t an easy process, which requires retooling the business from a sales, marketing and technical standpoint.

In managed services, ideally the provider charges customers monthly fees for ongoing service, and that is a considerably different sale from charging for a one-time product deal or service call.

N-able’s Momentum System comes as competitor Kaseya delivers its own twist on managed services. The vendor on July 31 launched a program through which its partners can resell its managed services platform for in-house use by end-user customers. So rather than relying on a solution provider to monitor and manage their systems, users handle the tasks themselves.

In each case, it appears the vendors are taking a step back from ambitious plans to transform as many VARs and integrators as possible into full-fledged MSPs (managed services providers). But what both Kaseya and N-able are saying is that they are responding to market realities, giving the partners and their customers what they need.

N-able’s Momentum is an acknowledgement that not everyone in the channel is ready for the fixed-fee model.

N-able has found through research that only 10 percent of companies in the channel at large are ready to offer true managed services, while the remaining 90 percent would be happy with tools to help them automate their service offerings, said N-able CEO Gavin Garbutt.

The Momentum System lays the groundwork for the 90 percent to eventually switch to managed services by automating tasks providers would typically perform manually in responding to customer calls.

“Not everyone wants to radically transform their business and invest the resources, time and commitment necessary to become full managed service providers,” Garbutt said.

Click here to view exclusive channel research from Amazon Consulting.

N-able executives are banking that providers using Momentum will get a chance to demonstrate the value of a fixed-fee arrangement by first giving customers the time-based option, then moving toward the full managed services model as customers become comfortable with the concept.

For N-able’s partners, the Momentum System also has the appeal of affordability. Rather than buying N-able’s technology outright, partners instead license the use of it in a software-as-a-service arrangement with N-able as the host.

The vendor is packaging Momentum with marketing and training tools, as well as access to a help desk, with the intent of guiding partners through the process with minimal pain.

“We want our partners to have a clear understanding of what our commitment is to them and what their commitment has to be if they’re going to succeed,” Garbutt said.