Fifteen years ago, just having a few basic remote management tools available to remotely monitor customers’ computers made you a managed services provider. It was revolutionary, a shift in strategy that lead many IT firms to revise how they did business, and who they did business with.
The focus on block hour contracts and storefronts, which were quite popular in the 1990s and early 2000s, continued to wane over the past decade, and a more proactive and engaged client-centric model slowly emerged. It is truly hard to describe the transformation that occurred between the time leading up to Y2K and today to those who didn’t experience it firsthand. The MSP evolution is still underway. The model and the players must continue to morph to the address the ever-changing needs of its clients.
Recurring revenue and remote monitoring and management are and will likely remain key elements of a managed services practice. But competition, compliance and new technologies are forcing providers to continually-refine and enhance their customer approach and focus. The tools are just as crucial today as they were in the early days, if not more so, but an MSP organization’s understanding of its clients’ operations, goals and aspirations is now its top value proposition. Everything else is inconsequential today.
Business has to go on, regardless of the technical or process challenges a customer faces. Irrespective of the company’s budget or technological capacity. Uptime is essential and data has become a valuable commodity. Protecting them both is essential.
That helps explain why business continuity, data backup, disaster recovery — or whatever term MSPs prefer to use to describe these services — has become a key differentiator. Information is that important in today’s business environment. From compliance requirements to businesses intelligence, protecting and leveraging the data that each organization collects and retains is a high priority. MSPs also need to ensure that the programs and applications that keep their clients’ operations running remain intact, or could be completely and quickly replicated should a disaster occur.
Our reliance on technology has never been so high, and that upward trend is sure to increase with Big Data, IoT and more advanced, data-driven applications coming on line. If those systems go down and can’t be quickly restored, the losses could be astronomical.
That leaves many businesses at the mercy of hackers, natural disasters such as fires and tornados, or something as simple as a neighborhood power failure. Remote monitoring and management won’t help them in those situations. Those companies need backup systems, data migration plans, and quick and effective processes in place to ensure they can get back up and running as soon as possible. Those are the types of services MSPs should be offering to build their own, highly profitable practices.
More than Tech
The tools are only part of the story. Simple backup applications are readily available for anyone to install. You can go online right now and register for a new service and, after following a few easy steps, think your information will be available when and if disaster occurs. And then you’ll likely forget about it. That is until something happens and you go back to retrieve a file or, worst case, all the data needed to restore your system. Many follow that path every day and weeks (maybe months) later find their online backup wasn’t saving properly (or at all).
That’s why BDR should be a cornerstone of every MSP’s business. Businesses need someone qualified to prioritize data, map out processes and implement the right tools.
Of course, these backup and recovery systems must also be tested regularly, even when the company isn’t forced to by government regulations and agency dictates, or industry standards. Validation of the process is crucial, as no business wants to find out its systems will fail after a disaster happens. BDR has become the ultimate, business-critical managed service. Many organizations depend on their IT services providers to implement these proactive tests and measures, and to continually monitor their backups and all associated systems. Most are willing to pay a premium to minimize the risk of considerable downtime, compliance violations, and major headaches.
An MSP’s value in this area can scale substantially. It starts with a thorough assessment of the systems and policies already in place; followed by the implementation of industry best practices and other improvements. Process excellence is critical here. If data is mapped properly, and the restoration measures align with industry standards and regulations, the technical aspects should be fairly straightforward.
Regardless of whether you call it BDR or business continuity, expertise in this area is a major differentiator today. Providers who can take the lead and reduce the stress levels for their customers will be better positioned to secure long-term managed services contracts and grow their “wallet share.” That’s a win for MSPs, and an even bigger win for their business clients.
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Brian Sherman is Chief Content Officer at GetChanneled, a channel business development and marketing firm. He served previously as chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@getchanneled.com.