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Users have become better attuned to managed services, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean providers can sit back and relax.

Managed services providers, or MSPs, still must work tirelessly to pitch the model to customers. Users want the peace of mind of knowing their MSP has the right tools to deliver on a model that, if executed properly, offers the potential to cut costs while increasing the reliability of their computing environments.

It’s a message that Ted Warner, president of Connecting Point of Greeley, Colo., uses frequently to persuade customers to embrace the model, through which providers remotely monitor and manage their customers’ IT environments.

Warner was one of four successful MSPs who recently participated in a panel I moderated during a one-day event organized by managed services platform vendor N-able Technologies, of Ottawa.

The other participants were Alan McDonald, president of AllConnected, of Simi Valley, Calif.; Michael Drake, CEO of MasterIT, of Bartlett, Tenn.; and Kent Gartside, vice president of business development at Pardee Network Solutions, of Lansing, Mich.

McDonald said he often uses the analogy that managed services work much like maintaining your car: just as you wouldn’t want your car to break down on the highway (or freeway, if you’re in California), you wouldn’t want costly systems downtime.

When pitching managed services, said Gartside, doing an IT assessment goes a long way. Pardee, he said, has a white paper that it shares with prospective customers to show them what can be accomplished with an assessment.

Many customers are reluctant about managed services when first approached, and overcoming their skepticism still requires a good amount of evangelism, which is something with which Drake is very familiar. His company has hosted a series of events to introduce this new approach to IT services to potential customers.

In addition to events, MSPs also have found it effective to invite prospective clients to their facilities, where users can observe the remote-monitoring tools at work.

Typically, said the panelists, persuading new customers of the value of managed services is easier than trying to convert existing customers. Often, prospects have had unsatisfactory experiences with other IT services providers and so are willing to try a new approach.

“Managed services are the best new client acquisition tool I’ve ever seen since I’ve been doing [IT services],” said Warner.

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Of course, after the client agrees to sign a managed services contract, it is important to keep the lines of communication open. Because clients see less of what is going on to keep their systems humming, they need to be reminded through periodical reports and occasional site visits of the work the provider is doing for them.

When something fails, the provider must communicate with the client immediately to avoid potentially jeopardizing the relationship, said Drake.

The participants in the N-able panel have made strong investments in managed services, and their success with the model is a result of a lot of hard work. It was instructive to spend some time with them and hear firsthand how they have made it work.

Hopefully, I have been able to pass some of their insight on to those of you who are looking to educate themselves to adopt the managed services model. It is the future, and the quicker you can figure out how to leverage it, the better off you will be.

Pedro Pereira is editor of eWEEK Strategic Partner. He can be reached at