2015 News Archive

12/24/2015

The Value of Having an Autotask Expert Advisor

The story is familiar.  Trying to improve a business.  From the better hiring practices you just adopted or the new and improved commission structure you just rolled out.  Everyone is looking to up their game and at the end of the day, make more money.  Then it must come as no surprise when you consider that numerous businesses in the quest for improvement, adopt a new software system to run their company.  It could be a core system, that runs everything or an add-on designed to boost efficiency in one area, but either way we’ve all been down the road of trying to implement a new system of some kind.  This is the true story of just such an undertaking.

It was 2014 and the Vice President of Operations of a Florida based IT services company, was looking to improve his company by implanting a comprehensive core software platform.  He had primarily been a paper and Excel based business up to this point.  After looking at the available solutions on the market he chose Autotask.  In preparation he began taking the Autotask online courses.  He also spent an extra $4,000 for the enhanced onboarding process.  However after months of trying to setup Autotask to match his company’s process flow, he was still no closer to implementing it into his business.

“It wasn’t a question of me not understanding how to configure Autotask, I could not find the answers to my questions”, said Mark.  “I needed to know how do I recreate activities unique in my business workflow into Autotask or how to determine the best way to group and invoice sets of work in Autotask?”

This truly is how most new core software integrations go.  You get it installed pretty quickly and easily on the server but then you have to set it up, configure it and make it work within the flow of your business.  This is the step where most integrations fail or at best reduce the true ROI business owners will see.  Things don’t get setup correctly or optimally and from the onset your system is hamstrung by poor choices made early on in the process.

This is where Steve Alexander, CEO of MSP-Ignite comes in.  His company is not only an Autotask trained and certified partner but he has personally used Autotask for over 10 years with his former IT company.  This makes him an IT services expert and an Autotask implementation expert at the same time.

Mark has great things to say about Steve and MSP-Ignite, “Autotask is so complex and the foundation configuration is so crucial to its success long term that it is very difficult to use and implement correctly without using an expert resource like Steve.  We would never have been able to implement or use Autotask as quickly and effectively without Steve.  I tried but I just could not translate what we did in to the Autotask format, with Steve’s experience in business and Autotask he became the perfect go between between me and the software  It was the middle of March, 2014 when I decided I needed help.  I called Autotask and they suggested that Steve could come up with a creative solution.  When the company I am paying suggests an expert that is advice worth listening too.  Working hand in hand with Steve within 20 days we had our Autotask configured to suit our custom needs and launched live.  This was much faster than even I thought would be possible.”

MSP-Ignite offers full service Autotask implementation and configuration services.  Steve says, “I regularly find that even companies that have been using Autotask for years don’t have it configured in an optimal way.  They may have things working but there is often so much more they could do to automate the system or have it setup in such a way that new and valuable pieces of data are now identifiable.  We can help companies with the initial install and setup or help them get much more value out of the investment they have already spent.”

Steve’s customers say it best though.  Mark continues, “Steve is an expert at managed services.  Steve is an expert at Autotask.  He even helped me reevaluate and optimize some of my business practices.  He is a great sounding board and has a level of knowledge that I have not found elsewhere.  Since my implementation of Autotask with Steve I have hired two new employees, given out 6%-16% raises to existing employees and all of my sales, profit and utilization numbers are skyrocketing.”

While not specifically identified “Mark” in the story is willing to talk with anyone about the successes he has had as a result of Steve’s work and expertise.

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12/9/2015

Surround Yourself With Experts

Everywhere you turn it seems like there are peer groups, focus groups and leadership seminars all trying to help you improve your business. Why? It works. What works?, you ask. Surrounding yourself with experts in a word, works. We often ask friends and family for advice or to look at a particular situation with us, but how often do we seek experts in our own field, people that have done it already to get advice from? That’s what we do. We help connect you with other IT experts so that the whole group can benefit.

MSP-Ignite creates peer groups that are balanced so each participating organization brings a level of expertise with them that will benefit all members. Now we don’t simply do this by looking at the company size in terms of employees or revenue, that’s too rudimentary. We actually evaluate companies based on competency, expertise, success in the market and other factors. What this ultimately does is creates a super star peer group where members challenge and motivate one another to do more, to do it better, to be best-in-class.

Here is just another story showcasing one of our members. MSP-Ignite peer group member Chris Johnson, CEO of Untangled Solutions and an IT security expert shows his stuff in this article highlighting CompTIA affiliated IT security experts.

Full Article: http://news.yahoo.com/comptia-security-experts-offer-perspectives-state-internet-security-143000044.html

If you run an IT services company and want to surround yourself with experts, check us out at www.msp-ignite.com

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11/10/2015

You Are Your Customers’ Trusted Advisor But Who’s Your Trusted Advisor?

Everyday MSPs talk with organizations and tell them, “We can take care of your IT needs.  We can be your trusted advisor, someone you can count on for solid advice and to give you a game plan on how to attack different technology problems.”  It sounds like good advice because it is.  But let me ask you a question:  Who’s your trusted advisor?  That’s what I do.  No, I’m not the trusted advisor you are seeking, but I know who they are.  My passion is putting IT companies together to work in a peer group for the betterment of all participants.  The group becomes the trusted advisor for business decisions that you need to make but don’t have easy answers for.

Let me share an actual example.  One of our members was facing an issue with a key employee talking about moving on. She was their Account Manager and former Customer Service Coordinator. She was also the companies longest tenured employee and had become the face of the company to many of the clients.  He didn’t know what the best course of action was. He reached out to the group as much for empathy as advice. Once the group heard the situation, some great ideas came forward on how to best handle the situation.  In the end the member ended up supporting the employees quest to try something new and replacing her with a senior and junior Account Manager.  Thanks to the power of the peer group he was able to make a decision that was best for everyone involved and a happier ending resulted.  Think about it.  As IT professionals we do it all the time when it comes to the technology.  We seek out peers that have installed some hardware or software solution before and find out tips and tricks so we can avoid a nasty surprise.  Why don’t we do that with the business side as well?  You could argue that as technology people we need more help with the business side of life.

Do you like to know about best practices as it relates to installing servers or setting up security software?  What about best practices as it relates to profit, compensation or growth planning?  Don’t give your customers great advice that you refuse to take yourself.  Your customers need a trusted advisor and so do you.  MSP-Ignite can help you get started down the road of corporate accountability and peer review of your financials, sales process, marketing efforts and everything you deal with to run your IT company.  We only deal with technology companies and we have a proven track record in improving the businesses of our clients.

Contact us today to get a glimpse into one of our peer group sessions to evaluate how much it could help you and your business.  I think one of our members said it best:

- “It’s a team of professional people with the attitude that they want to be helped and want to help others and grow in the process.”

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8/24/2015

Get by with a Little Help from Friends: How Peer Insight Helps with Business Growth

By Steve Alexander

Twenty years ago when I had a mere five years of experience running MSP businesses, people would ask me for advice based on my "vast" reservoir of knowledge. Given the amount of mistakes I was making it seemed odd at the time.

I have a lot more experience now, but so does our industry in general. In an Autotask survey of more than 1,800 IT service providers in 2014, more than half of respondents said managed services provide at least half of their revenue, and 3 in 4 said they plan to increase their managed services offerings. [http://www.autotask.com/resources/details/ebook/2015-managed-services-market-study-msp-peer-strategies-for-maximizing-revenue-and-retentionAll of this means growth] There's no doubt that the market need for a more collaborative partnerships is driving growth in our industry.

Growth is good, of course, but it presents many challenges for business leaders who aren't used to managing it. This is where the value of peer groups comes in. For the businesses I work with, peer groups offer a safe place to discuss management challenges and seek input from like-minded and experienced peers. We don't just discuss tactics. These are high-level discussions about business management issues, strategy, tools, and more.

I facilitate these groups as a leader, and members pay a fee to belong because the purpose isn't to socialize. It's to discuss business, receive validation that "you" aren't the cause (usually), and then formulate a new way of approaching the problem based on valuable insight from peer experience.

I see a growing need for these types of relationships in our industry. Many of the leaders I encounter at growing companies feel as if they are alone in their management challenges. They have their staff, and they've probably been frontline management somewhere in their careers. But they are now running a business that's bigger than they've ever experienced, and they start taking their problems home with them at night instead of solving them.

It's common to start thinking things like, "I'm a bad manager." But that's not always the case. Sometimes it's just a matter of adjusting your delivery or response to staff or situations.

In addition to the toll this vicious cycle takes on personal health and happiness, it also hurts business because it blocks us from becoming better managers. Without feedback, you don't improve, and getting feedback from staff is difficult.

Finally, peer groups can help with affective long-term planning. How much do you expect your business to be worth in five years? What factors matter most? I've owned and sold two MSP businesses, and it can be painfully frustrating when you've done everything you planned, but valuation is not where you thought it would be. Peer insight can help guide expectations to be realistic and then help uncover potential causes when those expectations aren't coming through.

Collective knowledge has become a huge value driver both in business and in society at large. Connecting with experienced peers through a group is a proven way to tap into collective knowledge when needed and then contribute your own experiential knowledge as others join. If you're struggling with management issues, take some pressure off yourself and turn to your peers for help.

 Opportunities for Peer Networking

  • http://www.msp-ignite.com/peer/MSP/
  • Network and Learn [http://www.autotask.com/events?event=network-learn]
  • Autotask Community Live [http://www.autotask.com/commlive]

Steve Alexander has 25 years of experience managing, building and eventually selling two regional Managed Services Providers. He has worked with hundreds of MSPs and has been involved in over a dozen mergers and acquisitions. He is a subject matter expert for CompTIA’s Managed Services Trust Mark, an Advisor to their Managed Services Community and has served on several regional and national advisory boards. He facilitates several industry peer groups.

Steve is one of the original Autotask MVPs and has successfully implemented and trained hundreds of Autotask users as a certified consulting partner.  

 

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8/17/2015

Solana Networks offers a discount on SparrowIQ to MSP-Ignite Peer Group Members

Solana Networks is an innovative technology company that delivers SparrowIQ – The only bandwidth monitoring and network traffic analysis software that has been built for MSPs, with their SMB clients in mind. 


SparrowIQ is a turnkey network traffic monitoring solution developed to provide MSPs with real-time traffic and bandwidth visibility into network usage, based on Conversations, Applications, Users, Domains, Countries, and Class of Service. SparrowIQ’s award-winning resource efficient design combines powerful performance monitoring capability in an easy-to-deploy, intuitive package. Sparrow’s versatility allows it to be used as both an assessment and continuous monitoring solution. 

Pricing starts at $19/month per network. With a 25% discount available for MSP-Ignite Peer Group Members who purchase multiple licenses. 

For more information or a trial contact: Danny Obaseki Director of Business Development Solana Networks 613-818-5138 Direct 866-647-2429 Fax|

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8/10/2015

W. O'Donnell Consulting SEO Services Drives Growth of MSP-Ignite Peer Groups

W. O’Donnell Consulting is pleased to partner with MSP-Ignite to offer MSP-Ignite Peer Group Members discounts on their already unbeatable services. According to MSP-Ignite President Steve Alexander the W. O'Donnell services have his phones ringing with opportunity several times a week. "They have helped us grow well beyond where we thought we would be at this time. The fact that they believe in our groups enough to provide discounts off of their already low rates says a lot about their commitment to our members" stated Alexander. 

Discount Offer:

  •         MSP-Ignite peer group members receive a 25% discount off of an SEO initial analysis (blue part)
  •         MSP-Ignite peer group members receive a 10% discount off of an SEO monthly package (green part)

2015 current rates:

Item

Silver

Gold

Platinum

Your website analyzed and scored

Yes

Yes

Yes

Competitors analyzed and scored

2

4

6

Initial phrases analyzed

5

10

15

Existing Google Analytics review

Traffic only

Traffic and locations

Traffic, locations & devices

Search engines analyzed

Google

Google + (Yahoo or Bing)

Google, Yahoo and Bing

Initial report/discussion/goal setting

30 minutes

60 minutes

90 minutes

Initial analysis price (one-time)

$399.00

$699.00

$999.00

Google Analytics setup if not already

Yes

Yes

Yes

Monthly reporting/discussion

30 minutes

60 minutes

90 minutes

Keyword phrases (1 keyword + 1 geo)

12 total (content creation)

24 total (content creation)

36 total (content creation)

OR

OR

OR

OR

Keyword phrases (1 keyword + 1 geo)

24 total (content exists)

48 total (content exists)

72 total (content exists)

Monthly price (12-month contract):

$465.00

$890.00

$1,275.00


For additional information about W. O'Donnell contact:

Allan Walters | Director of SEO & Marketing

P   212.838.3339   x309

E   awalters@wodonnell.com

https://www.wodonnell.com/offerings/services/seo.aspx






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8/3/2015

Are You Really Ready To Grow Your Business?

We all want to grow our business, but not many people stop to ask "Am I really ready to grow?" Sometimes, growing can be a bad thing for your business if you're not ready to accept that growth.

On this episode of MSPradio, we chat with Steve Alexander, CEO of MSP-Ignite, about how to build a scalable company that is ready to take on new growth.

Tune in now and find out if your business is actually ready to grow!

http://blog.continuum.net/are-you-really-ready-to-grow-mspradio-58

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7/29/2015

Autotask has announced plans to acquire Soonr, a San Jose, California-based provider of file synchronization sharing services with competitors that include Dropbox, Box.com, eFolder and Google Drive. Here are the details.

Autotask today announced plans to acquire Soonr, a San Jose, California-based provider of file synchronization sharing services with competitors that include Dropbox, Box.com, eFolder and Google Drive.

The move marks the second acquisition for the East Greenbush, New York-based professional services (PSA) automation/hosted IT business management technology vendor in less than a year, as Autotask seeks to assemble the killer package of technology services for IT service providers. Autotask announced plans to buy remote monitoring and management (RMM) provider CentraStage in Sept. 2014.

Financial terms of the Soonr deal were not available this morning. Autotask said that Soonr customers would experience no disruption in service. And Autotask said that it will continue to work with other file sync and share providers as it always has.

Soonr’s headquarters is in San Jose, but the company also has an office in Denmark, which could be significant to Autotask’s high-profile international expansion plans.

In an FAQ about the deal, Autotask said that data is a core productivity tool for SMB/SME/enterprise companies and that Soonr provides a superior solution to local file servers and storage appliances that are stitched together with intranets and accessed via VPNs.

Here’s what Autotask CEO Mark Cattini said about the deal in the company’s official statement announcing the acquisition this morning: “Autotask delivers innovative offerings that manage mission-critical business processes for our customers. This acquisition fits perfectly within that objective and represents a significant managed services’ revenue opportunity for all MSPs and ITSPs.

“FSS is a fundamental element of business continuity that ITSPs are expected to provide. Soonr provides a HIPAA-compliant, SaaS solution with 99.99 percent uptime that is IT-approved, easy to deploy, and simple to use.”

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3/6/2015

WattBox is a Must Have Product Line for MSP's

We don't come across many products that we consider "must have" for Managed Service Providers. WattBox® and OvrC from Aisle8 however are exceptions to that rule. Tired of losing time and money on service calls simply to reset a cable modem, router, access point or other network device?

The WattBox® IP+ Controllable Power Conditioner with auto reboot and remote access is the solution. It provides surge protection and noise filtration in a versatile rack-mount design, offers controllable outlets, and is smart enough to automatically reboot the device when network connectivity is lost. Add remote access, scheduling and email notifications – and you can say goodbye to unnecessary service calls. Plus with OvrC cloud management, you get remote access, real-time monitoring, and customer management all from your phone, computer, or tablet. The WattBox comes 12-, 8- and 6-outlet models--there’s also a compact, 3-outlet model ideal for those jobs that require mounting in tight spaces, like under a desk.

 

Given the low cost of these devices as compared to the cost of dispatching someone to a client for a simple reboot we recommend these devices be included as mandatory equipment for all managed service clients.

For more information contact Aisle8 at onaisle8.com and browse over to the power category.


 

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2/24/2015

CompTIA Blog ChannelTrends: Countering the Effects of Commoditization by Brian Sherman

Most everyone in the channel feels the effects of commoditization. The normal lifecycle of technologies takes a toll on the margins on solution providers, vendors and distributors. Time isn’t always a friend to channel business models, either. With a multitude of new cloud and managed service offerings entering the market, those platforms are already seeing pricing and profitability pressure.

Because of the pinch, solution providers have no room for complacency. If you aren’t innovating and enhancing your business practices and portfolios, chances are you’ve already fallen behind. A decade ago, you could still secure a fair amount of business by offering discounts or throwing a few extra services into the contract, but those opportunities are rapidly dropping away. With so many online and direct sales options available to your clients, the price cutting and add-ons would put all but the most financially stable solution providers out of business in no time.

Face it: Most channel companies aren’t built to win pricing wars, nor should they be. Successful solution providers resolve issues and take the pain out of their clients’ IT systems. They tackle potential issues before they become bigger problems, keeping their customers up and running as much as humanly — and in some cases, mechanically — possible. Your customers’ competitors may seek and find cheaper alternatives to channel companies, but they rarely have access to the personalized services and support you can provide.  

From design and implementation to disaster recovery and employee training, few enterprise-focused companies can offer the same level of care that regional IT services companies can. Those who understand that point will most likely end up fighting commoditization, but they can do it from a point of strength and value instead of reducing their rates.

Choose Your Battles  

Every business owner must have a firm handle on her or his company’s biggest priorities. While clients’ needs and business partners often influence their urgency, the game plan has to have some consistency, or you lose focus. In other words, don’t shift strategies based on which direction the wind blows. Many experts suggest that’s what happened to Radio Shack, which was on a seemingly constant search for a new identity until it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this month.   

Remain stable and dedicated to your principles and plans. Radio Shack’s plight perfectly exemplifies what can happen when you lose focus, shifting priorities and direction as quickly as you’d change a calendar. When battling commoditization, solution providers must identify their best options and strategize to address the issue.

Unless new information comes along that proves the strategy won’t accomplish the company’s objectives, the leadership team must commit wholeheartedly to its completion. That’s why choosing the right course of action is so critical. While the options are numerous, here are a few of the most frequent channel choices:  

  • Expand Your Solutions Portfolio This is typically a low-risk option that, when done right, should allow providers to better support their target clients.
  • Develop A Cloud Practice While the online applications are numerous (and growing), most businesses don’t have the tech skills required to make them work. Cloud is not only a fantastic recurring revenue option, but the income from design, implementation and training services can be quite lucrative as well.    
  • Create Additional Consulting Services Would expertise in more specialized areas lead to greater profits and build greater customer value? Consider the vast array of options, including compliance, security, managed print, social media and big data.   
  • Expand Billable Services Do you offer assessments, audits and create policies for mobility, security and other areas of your clients’ businesses?

Any changes that could improve your standing with customers and prospects should be considered, especially those that lessen the chance of a pricing war. Offer solutions and support that meet your clients’ more specialized needs and charge a premium. After all, when your company is able to handle more of their workload — and the corresponding headaches — it lets them focus more on their own business. That’s a benefit that larger IT companies rarely offer the SMB, and a real differentiator they may not be able to do without.     

Hold The Line

Even with a solid plan for fighting commoditization, it’s all too easy to cast aside deadlines and delay key elements of your strategy when business is hopping. Whether you’re distracted by a large, new prospect or preoccupied with replacing a crucial employee, remaining true to your future commitments is essential.

Keeping a steady course to implement positive changes can be challenging. The CompTIA Quick Start to Business Agility, available to CompTIA Premier Members, outlines some of the most frequently encountered obstacles as well as how solution providers can best master transformation in their organization. Change is rarely easy, but a little expert advice can reduce the risks and simplify the process.

That’s a frequent discussion topic for several CompTIA Communities, too. Regardless of specialties, virtually all of their members have had to transform their business models or portfolios in the past few years. The groups offer a great forum for sharing ideas and challenges, and they often join forces to develop industry-shaping initiatives and best practices. Over the past few years, the CompTIA Communities have collaboratively created a host of tools, programs and resources that can help IT businesses become more relevant to their customers.

If you’re looking for new ways to help fight commoditization in the industry — as well as in your own business — register and attend the CompTIA Annual Member Meeting on March 24-25 at the Sawgrass Marriott in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com

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2/21/2015

MSP-Ignite's Peer Group Alpha Helps The Little Guy

 MSP-Ignite's Peer Group Alpha concluded their first meeting yesterday. All members of this group employ less than five and share the unique issues that come with limited resources. Members of this group discussed how for many of them revenue was actually much more important than profits as they work to simply cover their expenses. The perspective on how to go from simply requiring enough revenue to survive to managing to industry expected profits dominated the two day meeting. Members learned about:

  •    Competing with larger companies
  •    Managed Service pricing formulas
  •   Standing out with process standards
  •    Customer Acquisition Strategies   
  •     Standard Operating Procedures
  •     Org Chart/staffing goals
  •     And more

According to Steve Alexander of MSP-Ignite “This group of hard working entrepreneurs are excited about having a group that they fit into. While peer groups that we have with more mature organizations are always willing to help smaller companies it is difficult to put smaller companies with those that are more established. Their needs and experiences are so different that the smaller companies simply can't contribute as much when paired with larger companies. This first meeting confirmed that the smaller companies can benefit from group consulting while sharing with their own peers.

To inquire about joining email MSP@MSP-Ignite.com or visit the company website at www.MSP-Ignite.com.

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1/14/2015

Diverse Clients Generate Interesting Strategies

This month I am working with a franchise owner that is taking over a struggling franchise, the IT Department of a large property management company implementing a PSA for the first time, a Cloud Service Provider and POS Software Company that are both implementing Autotask and a 100 plus person client that is integrating two new acquisitions into their portfolio. Of course, this is par for the course in my world.

When combined with the steady client work that I have the diversity of this workload has forced me to modify some of my standard procedures. The clients are so different that I need to take the time between client calls to review each client's profile in order to properly align the profile with the topic at hand. Onboarding new clients, managing service delivery, developing closed loop communications and even billing procedures are different for each of these organizations. The challenge of this diversity is actually helping me develop fresh approaches to proven procedures. While this requires additional time and focus it also generates fresh concepts that all clients benefit from.

Of course, having diverse clients coming in from a variety of sources is healthy in other ways as well. Managing new business development from multiple sources can be challenging however it does minimize the likelihood that business will dry up all at once. An important lesson for all of us.

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