Building a strong revenue stream is a primary goal for MSPs, but it can be hard to break out of the daily grind to get to the next level. MSPs can find themselves stuck in a loop of addressing current projects without enough time to build a process to get them ahead.
The good news is that MSPs have found a solution for building a sustainable revenue stream and growth plan, long-term strategic planning with clients. By going beyond the standard services and becoming a trusted partner to clients, MSPs forge stronger ties to their clients and increase the likelihood of contract renewals.
Renewed contracts mean sustainable operations while also creating opportunities for increased revenue.
With automated services becoming more prevalent throughout the industry in almost every aspect of operations, MSPs now have the tools to break free from break-fix service or only focusing on current projects.
People working in the MSP industry often have stories of getting blindsided with new problems or emergencies from their clients, and massive responses are needed with little to no warning, putting the rest of the MSP service at risk in order to address the problem.
Darrin LeBlanc, client engagement manager at PEI, strongly values preemptive communication with clients to help them plan their IT service projects in advance and prepare them for the unexpected. By taking initiative with clients to help them address outstanding issues and plan for the future, PEI has found success in the MSP space helping their clients break down what they need to take care of, while planning out a timeline for them to accomplish those goals.
He is so adamant in this approach because he has seen the consequences to clients when they don’t take proactive actions.
When a client ignored recommendations to protect the health of a domain controller, despite warnings from LeBlanc and the team, a lightning storm rolled through and took the whole server down.
While the team was able to provide critical support, the client was down for about a week, LeBlanc said.
“It could be a $500 piece of hardware with maybe an $800 solution, and yet they undoubtedly lost more like $24,000 over a week. If that’s even in the realm of the number. It’s probably higher than that,” he said. “‘Help me help you,’ It rings true over and over again in this business for us.”
David Mercer, CEO of David Mercer Consulting, said a client once called him to ask about why their printers weren’t working in their new office. That client neglected to mention that the entire business had moved into their new space that day.
“They failed to let us know. When they called us “By the way, we’ve shut down the old place. We’re in the new place now and the printers don’t work.’ Why didn’t you tell us about this? You didn’t think to tell us the day you were moving?” he said.
With experiences like that, Mercer has dedicated much of his time in the MSP space to communication with clients to be proactive and stay ahead of any new issues that might arise.
To preempt similar situations from happening, Mercer has embraced longer term strategic planning with his clients. Communication around warranty renewals is an important part of revenue generation for the MSP. Creating a plan got clients to see the bigger picture and how they could benefit by incorporating future IT decisions into their budgets.
“We were able to take that information and say ‘Here’s a predictable replacement schedule, here’s when we think you should do that, and here’s what you can expect to spend,’” Mercer said. “But also we had a couple machines that were only a year old, but were out of warranty… I was able to say ‘Let’s bring all these up to a five year warranty and this is what it’s going to cost.’ They loved that.”
When the ad hoc requests start piling up, an unprepared MSP can get weighed down by the need to address new tasks on the fly. Additional pressure can lead to lower quality service for the client and delays in other ongoing projects.
Becoming a trusted advisor for clients goes beyond mapping out projects for the next 12 months. When a client communicates their business plan, MSPs can respond by demonstrating how integrating IT services into that plan can make it even better, either through optimizing time spent, creating more efficient workflow, and more.
Bryan Dux, Contract Management at PEI, said many clients working with MSPs do not put much thought into their IT planning until budget season, which may not leave enough time to create the best plan.
“Some of these smaller organizations don’t have the forethought or the planning. We’ve been trying to push them a little bit to avoid the circus when something does break. But typically the only time we see this kind of forethought or planning from customers is during budget season,” he said. “They just don’t have any thought about age or machine or when they wanna renew something… So sometimes it’s just getting it on their mind to start thinking ‘What’s your plan?’”
MSPs involved with long-term planning can also show their clients how IT projects will impact budgets, and can create recommendations such as timing on hardware replacement or warranty renewals. Depending on budget constraints, MSPs and clients can then work out a schedule for project timing that best works for their budget, like separating hardware replacements quarterly across 12 months.
When a client can see the deeper value an MSP brings not just to the IT service, but to their business goals and the plans to get there, they trust their MSP to make that a reality. Building trust is the number one way that MSPs can ensure service contract renewals. You aren’t just the contracted IT team, you are a partner to their business.
Improved business relationships can also lead into more opportunities for increased revenue through new projects and high tiers of service.
Putting a strategic planning plan into practice can be a hurdle for MSPs that needs to be tackled over time through client review meetings such as quarterly business reviews. That’s why more MSPs are using Lifecycle Manager to renew their QBR process and develop long term strategic plans with clients.
Lifecycle Manager’s Roadmaps feature allows MSPs to map out recommended projects, such as server replacements and warranty renewals, across quarters up to five years in advance. With an accessible visual design and easy sharing functionality, MSPs can bring roadmaps to their clients to gauge reactions, make changes and settle on a preferred approach to their IT support. Get Lifecycle Manager’s Free Edition today to go hands-on with the best asset monitoring, reporting, and planning tools for MSPs.
Tracking technical details for clients is part of what MSPs do best, as clients often can’t keep up with the full scope of service, like tracking asset lifecycles or backups. While it’s ideal when a client doesn’t need to worry about their technology, MSPs often face challenges when working with clients who have varying degrees of technical knowledge.
Some may be the type who want to be too hands-on with their tech, while others may not understand anything about the technical details that power their business. Understanding how to keep your clients engaged with your MSP is a key factor in maintaining contracts, growing revenue, and building trust.
One of the quickest ways to upgrade your client experience is by taking proactive interest in a client’s needs. Don’t wait for clients to volunteer information during review meetings or summaries of the entire tech environment. MSPs have reported clients losing interest during QBRs due to overwhelming detail of reports, spreadsheets, and technology they don’t understand.
Get right to the point and ask questions about what goals they want to achieve or roadblocks they have faced.
Do they have goals around staff productivity and slow computers? Manual tasks taking up staff time when they could otherwise be automated? Compliance requirements associated with their industry? Take the first step to ask about what the problem is and what solutions have been discussed to see if there are actionable steps your MSP can take to make the goal a reality.
Jeff Fulton, fCIO at the SafetyNet, makes a point of starting discussions with pre-existing and new clients about what types of goals they have. That way, regardless of their technical knowledge, an MSP can talk about solutions immediately without having to go through the details of their entire operation to uncover potential projects.
“As you come in and work with clients, especially new clients, as the fCIO I come in and I’m asking the questions of ‘What kind of compliance are you up against?’” he said. “‘I know you’re a credit union so you’re gonna be up against GLBA and other state financial institution laws. Or you manufacture body armor and it goes to the Coast Guard. So you’re gonna be in compliance with the Department of Homeland Security… And so that conversation is had, and then you start molding, ‘I think you’re deficient on a few of these things. Let’s see if we can work on being able to put the tools in to answer the questions because if you can’t answer those questions then it’s really hard to be compliant.”
Showing interest in improving a clients’ business operations can build a lot of trust, and lead to more buy-in to collaborate on future goals ahead of time. MSPs across the industry are finding massive success and growth by moving from basic services like break-fix work and asset management, to strategic planning.
That same approach works for Carrie Green, VP of Strategy at Alt-Tech Inc., who said that engaging clients proactively also can help them be more receptive to making investments in their own business.
“It’s huge growth for us. That’s where we get our projects from too… Here’s something we wanna bring forward to you, but we can plan for it moving forward, as opposed to ‘You guys need to do this, you need to do it now. Where’s the check?’ Right?” she said.
So if you have those conversations with your clients to move forward and to look into the future, I think they’re more receptive to it too, because it’s not like you’re always trying to get money from them. You’re not always trying to get another project. You’re not always trying to upsell. Here it’s ‘Let’s work together and when is this gonna work for you? Do you have a slow time in your business? Let’s plan to do it in those three months.’ As opposed to ‘No, you’ve got to do it right in the middle of tax time for an accountant.’ That’s not good.”
When working with clients to manage assets or backups, providing them a spreadsheet exported from some monitoring software isn’t going to cut it. Clients won’t have the same level of technical expertise, so detailing every single ticket an MSP responded to, or running through the warranty status of every server will overwhelm them.
Tailoring information according to your client’s priorities is critical. Presenting specific information, like upcoming warranty expiration dates for PCs, can keep clients engaged as they consider that one topic, how it affects their productivity and budget, and begin to plan for a solution.
Instead of going through every warranty, show clients which specific warranties need to be renewed and why. Talk about the risks associated with lapsed warranties, and get buy-in to develop a warranty renewal plan so that this conversation doesn’t need to happen again. Even if the client doesn’t take immediate action, that topic will stick with them and inform their decisions moving forward.
David Mercer, CEO of David Mercer Consulting, has used this approach in the past to keep clients aware of what is coming up, instead of trying to address topics as they become current problems.
“I think it helps to reassure them and also to be prepared. I know I need to be buying three machines this year. So it’s not so much of a shock when we tell them, ‘Hey that machine’s out of warranty so you can replace it, but we can’t fix that hardware problem for you. Which I think is helpful. They may not ever take action on it, but they want to see it.”
By putting some thought into curating how and why an MSP tackles managed service, clients can react to the relevant information and recommendation, rather than having to hunt for the information themselves. They don’t need to understand technical details, when they understand the potential risks and how those risks may impact their business.
Help clients make decisions more easily, allowing your MSP to spend more time getting things done.
To put these strategies into practice, MSPs around the world use Lifecycle Manager to automate their asset monitoring and generate easy-to-understand Scorecards that evaluate their clients assets, provide recommendations, and estimate budget requirements. They use scorecards to dive into a clients’ tech environment and develop plans to address their clients’ concerns. Get Lifecycle Manager’s Free Edition today to go hands-on with the best asset monitoring tools, allowing MSPs to strategize with their clients more effectively than ever before.
MSPs looking to offer digital maturity advising and planning to their clients need the right tools for the job. To confidently advise on digital maturity planning, MSPs rely on accurate and complete data on all of their clients’ assets and processes. That’s where ScalePad comes in.
ScalePad offers MSPs the perfect tools for completing digital maturity assessments, developing strategic planning, and collaborating with clients on projects. With tools for automated monitoring of hardware, software, and backup status, comprehensive reporting, and creation of project proposals, ScalePad Lifecycle Manager and Backup Radar allows MSPs to dive deeper into their clients’ tech.
Former MSP owner and CEO of Digital Maturity Advisors Lane Smith said MSPs have shown they are more competitive in the market once they begin to leverage advising services. In his work training MSPs in digital maturity advising, Smith has seen how client relationships improve, and the level of service increases.
“Companies either have a good business maturity or not, but we know that as long as they have a good foundation, increasing their digital maturity can help the business grow,” he said.
While MSPs may learn the strategies to become digital maturity advisors, how they accomplish those key tasks is just as important.
As a digital advisor, one of the first projects an MSP will take on is a digital maturity assessment. The assessment aims to give clients a clear breakdown of where their technology stands compared to competitors and other similar companies.
MSPs thoroughly examine the state of the client’s technology environment and how their technology is used in daily operations. This can be a daunting task to accomplish manually, with hours of time and effort needed to make sure the assessment gets done right.
With Lifecycle Manager’s automated asset monitoring capabilities, MSPs are able to get comprehensive information about a client’s hardware and software assets at the click of a button. Backup Radar also gives MSPs a complete dashboard, with automated monitoring and ticketing, for the backup solutions a client has in place.
Instead of spending hours collecting data on a client’s assets, a digital advisor can save that time and get right into a meaningful assessment for clients.
MSPs can go through details, like age of device, operating system, and warranty status, to examine if any assets are operational, no longer being used, or are vulnerable to breaks or malicious attacks. For older assets, old and unsupported software or operating systems can be a big vulnerability that businesses will want to address.
Once a digital advisor has all the data they need, Lifecycle Manager can also kick off the assessment process with the Insights and Digital Maturity Index (DMI) features.
Lifecycle Manager’s Insights automatically measure the client’s hardware and software asset metrics against industry standards. Lifecycle Manager allows the creation of custom grading standards as well, so MSPs can be flexible with their client’s needs and internal standards to run their business.
DMI grades the client’s entire tech environment and scores based on the overall health of the clients assets. Having a benchmark to show clients how they fair against IT industry standards can help in setting goals in the improvement of a business’ digital maturity.
To complete digital maturity assessment, the advising MSP and client assess where the clients’ successes are and what areas need improvement to benefit their internal operations and processes.
Advisors and clients work together on a digital adoption plan to implement the improvements and goals identified in the assessment.
MSPs use the Initiatives feature to create and deliver proposals directly based on the Insights, allowing the advisor to bring actionable steps to the client and begin planning. Initiatives create a short proposal that can be sent to clients from the dashboard, helping advisors offer solutions. Even if the client makes a different decision, taking the initiative with a proposal can inform the client to make better decisions for their business.
The digital adoption plan includes recommendations addressing each of the client’s needs, outlining how the recommended actions tie into the client’s business plan. Lifecycle Manager’s Initiatives are a way for advisors to track the success of the digital adoption plan as the client makes progress.
With the plan done, Lifecycle Manager can help your MSP implement and track the client’s progress, how their operations are improving with new policies and assets, and what projects need to be budgeted for next using our Roadmaps function.
The growth of digital maturity advising in the MSP industry is a direct result of the increased value to clients, deeper client relationships, and improved margins on advising services. To make the most of it, MSPs need to leverage the right tools to make their work more effective and efficient.
With ScalePad LifeCycle Manager and Backup Radar, MSPs that offer digital maturity advising can become more competitive in the MSP space, and even qualify for grants and funding opportunities like the Canadian Digital Adoption Program.Get started with ScalePad and get the tools you need to succeed. Book a Lifecycle Manager demo, or start with the free edition today. To learn more about Backup Radar, request a personalized demo and see how it can keep your backup monitoring up-to-date and secure.
A stable and secure working environment is one where you don’t have to worry about the loss of data, but when disaster strikes will your data backup solution hold up to the pressure?
With the threat of man-made or natural disasters, data risks are not uncommon for any organization. Data Backups are your form of insurance, a safe snapshot of a healthy data environment to roll back to in case of an emergency.
How your organization responds to these high risk scenarios can often make the difference between a smooth restore or huge losses that can set you and your client back months. If disaster strikes with no backup safety plan, it’s likely your MSP could lose the client and suffer damage to your professional reputation.
An organization’s backup and disaster recovery plan can often be a difference maker by outlining risk reduction measures. Automated monitoring of backups can be a key part of that plan as you can see the health of your backups without spending the time to check in.
Is your MSP still monitoring backups manually or have you established an automated monitoring process through Backup Radar?
Consider how your MSP’s data backup strategy would address these potential disasters.
Malware is a serious threat to both your MSP and clients. If infected, malware can render equipment unusable or, in the case of ransomware, lock and encrypt your data and force you to pay a ransom to get it back.
Addressing malicious attacks like this is a multi-faceted process that involves proactive steps on every level of your organization. Use endpoint protection for employee desktops, laptops, and phones, as well as employee cybersecurity training to avoid malicious attacks.
Increasing how often data backups are saved is beneficial too. In case of an emergency your data can be restored into a near perfect state with minimal downtime for you or your clients.
With more frequent backups, you can monitor their status through Backup Radar to detect any changes and address them in real-time. You don’t have to wait for the problem to develop when you can catch any issues early.
No matter how secure your data backups might be, the risk of a weather event like a flood or hurricane, or a fire, can be a massive threat. Your backups won’t be able to help you if they’re underwater.
In these situations, MSPs are encouraged to have multiple secure backups, including a cloud storage solution. Traditionally, a secure backup and disaster recovery plan has been a hybrid approach of on-premises and off-site copies.
Having three backups, the original, a copy on a different format, and an off-site copy, is known as the “3-2-1” approach. This strategy is one of the most commonly encouraged ways to maintain data backups, providing organizations multiple options when you need to recover data.
Make sure to test data recovery from the cloud backups to ensure that your team is familiar with the recovery process.
In the case of extreme weather like flooding, cloud-based backups give you an extra layer of security in case any on-premises backups are damaged or lost. Cloud-based backups are also known for faster recovery times, enhanced security, and cost savings due to consistent rates from providers.
Other measures of security are also offered through backup providers like storing data in multiple data centers, having generators or a stable power source, multiple high speed connections, and even physical protections such as alarms, gates, and locks.
Keeping your devices on the latest updates and patches will allow your MSP to stay current with security measures. Prevent outdated system files and firmware from causing unnecessary hardware problems.
In the case of hardware or power failure, cloud-based backups remain a fantastic option to provide security for your data. When an electrical surge or other hardware issue causes irreparable damage, your cloud-based backup can be a life saving resource, allowing your company to restore data quickly with minimal downtime and business impact.
Whether you’re trying to prevent data loss or are responding to an emergency, Backup Radar helps give MSPs oversight of their entire backup environment in one tool. Local, cloud, or hybrid model, Backup Radar will monitor and provide actionable reports based on the health and status of your current backups.
Backup Radar automates the monitoring process, allowing MSPs to scale up their business without spending time on manually monitoring their clients’ environment.
Get an inside look at how Backup Radar can make your MSP better than ever. Request a demo today.
Loss of data can be catastrophic for your clients, and even worse for your MSP’s reputation. According to a survey in the International Data Corporation’s (IDC) recent report, “The State of Data Protection and Disaster Recovery Readiness: 2021”, 43% of organizations had suffered unrecoverable data within the past 12 months. And 63% of organizations had suffered a data-related business disruption. That’s why a comprehensive backup and disaster recovery process is more important than ever.
Today, the threat of phishing, ransomware, and malware are an ever-present hazard with a multitude of other data dangers lurking in the digital shadows. Whether your client suffers an attack or experiences a natural disaster that wipes out their servers, they will turn to you to get them back on their feet and restore their most important asset—their data. As a savvy-MSP, you know the importance of being prepared.
Here are five best practices to implement in your backup and disaster recovery process now.
It’s common best practice to recommend and implement a strategy of backing up your client’s data to multiple locations. At minimum, backups should be run both on-premises and to a cloud solution. Backing up and storing client data in just one location can be risky if that location were to be compromised.
For example, if backups are run and stored on-premises, a natural disaster like a flood could easily take out the servers. This is where ensuring cloud backups are being run will diversify and keep data restores protected.
In any successful backup and disaster recovery process a very important element comes before a disaster is ever detected: proactive monitoring of all client backups.
According to the survey in the IDC’s report, the top concern among industry respondents was backup reliability. At least one-third of respondents indicated a problem with backup reliability as well as restore reliability, pointing to a much broader industry challenge when it comes to backup and disaster recovery preparedness.
An essential way to mitigate this uncertainty is to proactively automate backup monitoring processes—have a second set of eyes watching your backup environment.
Having an automated backup monitoring tool is essential to knowing that your last backups ran successfully and that you have the most recent data in the event a restore is required. In the event of a hardware failure or ransomware attack, your client will expect that you’ve covered your bases, and can jump into action restoring their data.
For a client, nothing is worse than downtime, lost revenue, and damage to their reputation. These consequences can be easily minimized or eliminated through thoughtful planning, documentation, and automation, letting you be confident that the most recent backup data is available.
Aligned with being proactive, expecting the unexpected will keep you ahead of the game in anticipating disruptions to your systems. To ensure that all of the members of your team are on the same page with keeping clients protected and properly backed up, have a document that clearly spells out every aspect of what should happen during disaster recovery. Having one for each client will keep you calm under the most stressful situations.
This is one of the key pillars to successfully managing your client backups.
Rather than crossing your fingers and hoping that things will run smoothly in your backup and disaster recovery process, it’s a much better practice to regularly test for each client. Data is the lifeblood of your client’s business, so it is a big responsibility to watch over and protect that for them.
Many MSP technicians have horror stories of the panic they’ve felt when a data restoration was suddenly requested or needed. A best practice is to implement quarterly testing of data restoration so when disaster strikes, you can be confident in your restore and recovery process. Your data backup restore process and testing schedule depend on the nature of your data. The key is to establish a testing schedule and stick to it.
At the end of the day, the best data backup and recovery process is the one that fits your unique client base and their needs. That may mean supplementing your existing environment to make sure you’re covered from all angles.
As the IDC’s report further states: “More than half (52.1%) of the survey respondents plan to invest more in both backup and disaster recovery improvements.” Some clients will need more strict protocol than others, but it is always up to you, as their MSP, to stay on top of watching and protecting their data.
By executing successful backup and disaster recovery practices and having a formal process to follow, everyone will benefit from the peace of mind knowing client data is accounted for, and in good hands.
We’ve just scratched the surface, with five best practices for your backup and disaster recovery protocol. Request a personalized demo of Backup Radar’s one-of-a-kind backup monitoring software and achieve peace of mind knowing you have a watchful eye over your backup monitoring processes.
When faced with the need to protect clients, MSPs aim to reduce risks and create a safe environment for clients to work in. But despite the hard work and effort that goes into MSP security measures, it’s not always possible to be 100% protected.
Now more than ever, MSPs need to know about cyber liability insurance. With recent studies reporting that cyber threats have increased by 81% since the global pandemic and that ransomware payments are increasing rapidly, MSPs are looking to refine their security and recovery plans for clients.
We’ve detailed below what you need to know about cyber liability insurance, how it affects both MSPs and their clients, common ways to qualify for insurance, and how other MSPs have recovered from cyber attacks.
MSPs around the world are now working even harder to protect themselves and their clients against lasting damage or monetary losses created by ransomware, data corruption, backup destruction, and other malicious attacks.
Insurance helps businesses by compensating them for losses to assist with the recovery process and provides access to beneficial services like security audits and investigation expenses. MSPs have been able to prevent extended downtime for clients, recover money and data, and prevent clients’ reputations from damage.
Protecting clients also protects your MSP. A cyber attack is a high stakes situation that can often make or break an MSP’s reputation and relationship with clients. A business could be looking at extended periods of downtime where normal operations are not possible, sensitive information could be leaked, sold or stolen, and important data can be destroyed or encrypted. These situations could cause irreparable damage to an MSP’s reputation.
A fast and effective recovery process will help you maintain good relationships with your clients, potentially attracting other businesses to hire your MSP for its security services.
MSPs have been working with clients to make sure they are taking the steps necessary as an organization to qualify. Insurance providers request that the applying businesses can demonstrate that they already implement cyber security best practices before being eligible to receive coverage.
It’s also important to determine if the insurance provider is the right fit for their client by evaluating their coverage policies and costs. What types of coverage does a client want and what would be most effective to have in place? MSPs need to work with their clients to find the right fit in coverage and cost.
The common best practices insurance providers look for when approving applications include:
Making sure your clients are able to qualify through standardized security metrics like these can be time consuming. Tools like Lifecycle Manager and Backup Radar are used by MSPs to show clients where the vulnerabilities are in their tech environment. By automating data collection and showing clients an analysis of their tech, MSPs can work with clients to take any steps to modernize and secure their workplace to qualify for cyber insurance.
Implementing these policies will never make a business 100% secure, but by improving their internal practices, creating a disaster response and recovery plan, and getting insured, your client will be running a much safer business.
Jeff Fulton, fractional CIO of SafetyNet, has assisted clients with reviewing insurance options, helped them file for it, and work through any audit process. Fulton said he needs to know if there are other kinds of compliance that a client requires based on the laws or industry the business operates in. For example, government agencies often require a more strict set of requirements that MSPs can work with their clients to achieve.
A comprehensive report on the tech stack is an extremely useful tool for MSPs to provide to auditors evaluating the client’s application. ScalePad Lifecycle Manager has been a key method for MSPs like SafetyNet to easily provide that information.
“The Lifecycle Manager report is an artifact we send to the auditors in most cases. A question that a banking auditor is going to ask is ‘I need a copy of everything in your fleet, age and OS,’ because they are going to look at it and [see which assets still are on Windows 7]. We are providing them that level of documentation,” Fulton said.
With tools like Lifecycle Manager to monitor hardware and software as well as Backup Radar managing a client’s Backup environment and health, MSPs can leverage this information in the insurance application process to help secure coverage.
For Luis Alvarez, CEO of Alvarez Technology Group (ATG), cyber liability coverage was able to help his clients when struck with ransomware. The recovery processes can take a few weeks, he said, as the insurance provider needs to do a forensic analysis and work through their internal analysis and evaluation process.
Alvarez was able to help speed up that process using asset lifecycle reports from Lifecycle Manager. ATG was able to provide the comprehensive report of the client’s tech stack for the insurance company’s forensic review. With the report in hand, the insurance provider was able to get the client working again as soon as possible. Lifecycle Manager’s detailed scope of work proved to be an important part of working through the recovery process.
“It made it really easy for them to get approval from the insurance company to move forward, it didn’t take [more than] 24 hours. We included all the information they normally would have to extract from another provider,” Alvarez said.
Every client will have different needs in the insurance and recovery process, and understanding those needs is going to be one of the most important goals for the MSP. Working with clients to determine how they can become operational after an attack is vital.
Security measures are constantly evolving and MSPs need to stay up-to-date to protect themselves and their clients. For Alvarez, he sees the next phase of security as one of compliance with new standards. With a growing number of laws being passed by governments around the world regarding digital security regulations, it is vital for MSPs to stay at the forefront of compliance.
“We are used to our banks, financial institutions, doctor’s offices, and hospitals having regulations to comply with and to protect private information. The rest of us don’t think it impacts us and what we are learning is, yes, it does impact us,” he said. “So it’s up to us in the MSP space to get smart about those things and start providing advice and the kinds of tools and services our clients need.”
Get started on modernizing your clients’ tech stack to qualify for cyber liability insurance with Lifecycle Manager. Use our best-in-class asset monitoring and warranty renewal services to help reduce hardware and software vulnerabilities. Keeping clients as safe as possible during normal business operations can make working with insurance providers easy. Book a demo or start with the free edition today.
As the sophistication of cyber attacks increases, businesses are working to find the best ways to protect their data. While backups are an incredibly important way to protect data, they are not immune from cyber attacks and malware. Now more than ever, MSPs need to know that their backups are running properly.
Ransomware, malware that encrypts data and holds a decryption key for ransom, is a major security threat for modern businesses. Not only does this type of attack threaten to disrupt operations, but any theft of data, potential exposure of sensitive information, or cost of the ransom can do serious damage to an MSP’s reputation and relationships with clients. MSPs mishandeling security have been subject to litigation, lost clients, and lost revenue.
Often your last line of defense, backups and backup monitoring will help you retain access to data, allowing your team to recover quickly from an attack without that disruption to the clients’ business.
Even the backups themselves can be potential targets for attack, as they can be encrypted alongside the current “production environment” that the business is working in. To prevent backup infections, MSPs are using alternative security methods and automated backup monitoring with Backup Radar to keep their clients safe and secure.
By following the commonly used “3-2-1” best practice of having three copies of your data (local backup on two different types of storage and remote backup) businesses think they are safe, but this method is becoming more vulnerable as cyber attacks and threats evolve.
Malware can gain access into a piece of hardware or network and begin to compromise your clients workflow and sensitive information, causing interruptions in their business and damage to their files and reputation. While backups are often seen as a fall back solution to restore from, they are not entirely safe by default.
Malicious software can often infect backups by having compromised data backed up either to local servers or cloud services. When a business finds their backups have been infected the disruption to operations can be huge. With recent backups compromised, they are forced to restore to an older backup that may result in huge amounts of lost work.
This is one major scenario that shows why monitoring backups are so important. MSPs need to be aware of how often, how many, and when backups are being recorded. Backup Radar makes sure you know how often the state of the client’s data is being recorded and if the process was successful or not. The best solution is prevention.
With the sophistication of attacks increasing, businesses have been incorporating alternate security strategies built to prevent attacks from causing any lasting harm.
One of the most common solutions to prevent malware from getting into backups are Write-Once, Read-Many (WORM) services that prevent data from being modified in any way.
Another popular solution is a method called “air gapping,” where a backup of the client’s data is stored on hardware taken offline. With a backup disconnected from any network, the only danger it faces is physical damage. While air gapping is not a new strategy, it is still a powerful security method and modern technologies like cloud-based solutions recreate a very similar “air gapped” effect.
A growing method of cloud-based data protection is virtualization, a method that creates restore points as virtual machines. Virtualization allows businesses a temporary method to rapidly access files in the event of data loss.
Virtualization allows businesses to keep operations running smoothly, while a full restore is ongoing. A complete data recovery process from a backup usually takes time to complete, so access to a virtual machine restore point for files can be a way to prevent any downtime.
Much like traditional hardware based backups, methods like Air Gapping, Virtualization, and cloud-based services are only as good as the frequency and reliability of the backup process.
Backup Radar makes it easy for MSPs to track clients’ security
MSPs need to know if these backups are even working in the first place, which is where Backup Radar works to bring all of the security measures together. Backup Radar can shine for an organization that needs intelligent backup automation, records of update times, if any backups failed or faced errors, and produce reports.
The automated monitoring system Backup Radar offers saves MSPs from having to track backups through email alerts. By reducing the barriers to tracking all of the backups for a client, MSPs can focus on using that information to work with the client to make more informed security decisions and prevent cyber attacks from damaging their clients.
With the threat of ransomware ever-present for modern businesses, MSPs need the best tools to stay on top of security for their clients. Backup Radar can be an important tool in BCDR/BDR protool and disaster recovery plans. Request a personalized demo of Backup Radar and learn how it can take your MSP’s security services to the next level.
MSPs are expanding into advising services to improve their clients’ “digital maturity,” allowing clients to capitalize on their potential for growth. This expansion in services is letting MSPs grow their client base while also providing a much deeper level of service to businesses they already work with.
Lane Smith, CEO of Digital Maturity Advisors (DMA), works with MSPs to develop their internal digital maturity services. As a former MSP owner, he has seen how the industry has become stuck providing a service that is becoming a commodity and how MSPs are trying to differentiate themselves.
“There’s a huge disconnect in the IT space,” Smith said. “We’ve created this narrative over the past 25 years that we are taking care of your technology so you can focus on your business. That has pigeonholed us.”
“If we can change the narrative, we can start to get the ear of these business owners and say ‘We’ve been doing your technology, but we know business and we’re running successful businesses. We can help your business mature through digital maturity.”
As basic IT services become commonplace, Smith has seen MSPs begin to bridge the gap between IT services and business strategy. In the modern MSP market, defining your value to clients can make a big difference in getting new business. Expressing why your team is more than another simple IT provider is a crucial step MSPs are taking to stand out from the competition, he said.
Digital maturity is the metric that businesses use to describe how they integrate technology into their business strategy. By using deeper technology integrations in the creation of strategic business plans, advising clients have shown improved efficiency in achieving their business goals. MSPs have seen similar growth by working with their clients as advisors to create strategies, improving relationships with existing clients and bringing in new business.
The goal is to evolve the MSP-Client relationship from just IT services to a business advisory role. MSPs are expanding their revenue base by working with client leadership on how to best use and integrate technology to achieve results desired from short and long-term planning.
“By raising that maturity level, usually it will raise the business maturity as well. MSPs and clients have to look at everything, have a clear vision and mission of what they are doing,” he said.
Areas advisors can assist clients in include application modernizations, collaboration and communication methods, data management, risk management, process, productivity, and operation efficiency.
While MSPs assist their clients with technology and IT planning, Smith said, they don’t often engage with their clients’ business plans further than that. Digital maturity assessments begin with examining the client’s implementation of technology in their day-to-day operations. From there, MSPs can work with clients to create a strategy around how their tech can be used to best support and improve their business operations and future goals.
“Once you’ve got a strategy in place, then you can say ‘Here’s our three primary goals for the next three years. One of them is to increase market share, another is to increase profit, and another is to prepare a company for sale.’ Then you look at what we can do in the clients’ different departments to achieve those goals by leveraging new technology.”
MSPs are stuck in offering similar services as their competitors and, according to Smith, have been trying to branch out into other adjacent service markets such as security. As these expanded offerings become more common, the margins on those services get smaller to keep MSPs competitive.
“The MSPs are adding security services at less margins than they should be. How can an MSP increase margins? Well, they can outsource services and they can raise prices, but if all they’re providing is that utility service, it’s hard to raise prices,” Smith said.
“Go ahead and keep offering the utility. That’s fine. You’re gonna get margins on it, but you need to offer something of high value to the customer and that’s where [digital maturity advising] comes in. It’s a much higher margin solution and that’s how you get out of that commodity trap.”
While the traditional MSP services will continue to be the core of business operations throughout the industry, branching out into a new, high-value field can help MSPs escape this cycle.
By developing the experience and obtaining advising credentials through organizations like DMA, MSPs can expand their customer base and differentiate themselves from the competition.
MSPs becoming advisors have reported more success in landing new clients and securing business over their competitors. With opportunities like programs and grants available to gain advising credentials, digital maturity advising is becoming a big step for MSPs to offer deeper service to new and existing clients.
Smith, who has worked with MSPs to help them get advising credentials, said MSPs have used their credentials as a way to market themselves and uproot other MSPs, a traditionally difficult task.
“While most clients and MSPs form long term working relationships, the role of advisor can be such a strong value add that clients have been swayed to leave their existing MSP to work with an MSP with digital maturity advisor credentials,” he said.
Other financial benefits are also available to MSPs with this experience. One new opportunity for MSPs to develop in this space is the Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP), a grant program that offers funding to Canadian MSPs to improve their clients’ digital maturity in order to make Canadian businesses more competitive.
The CDAP program understands that digitally mature companies are more successful and have invested $4 billion into this program to develop Canadian businesses.
Uprooting another MSP is a notoriously difficult task, Smith said, but clients can work with an advisor when they already have an existing contract with another MSP. By getting that foot in the door, Smith notes that an MSP with advising credentials could eventually take on the full contract, pushing out the previous competitor.
Clients are looking to digital maturity assessments that will grade multiple aspects of the organization. From tech integration to performance indicators, MSPs work to develop the strategies to assist their clients. Branching out into advising can not only open new doors for MSPs, but also strengthen existing relationships.
DMA offers a certification program that works to develop the framework for this process. Smith said his organization has successfully helped MSPs gain the skills to bring clients through a “digital transformation” with their six-month certification course. DMA’s certification course prepares MSPs to deliver business improvement reviews, digital maturity assessments, discovery and planning services, and more. Certified advisors also participate in month group sessions to keep up-to-date on trends and best practices.
MSPs are also using services like ScalePad’s Lifecycle Manager and Backup Radar as tools to conduct the digital maturity assessments. These MSPs need to monitor and track the status of client hardware, warranties, and backups, providing vital information for MSPs to work with as part of developing technology and business strategies with clients. The Digital Maturity Index in Lifecycle Manager is just one system that evaluates a client’s tech environment and gives a score based on asset status, age, and warranty.
While the pandemic forced many businesses to use remote working solutions, many companies still struggle to make the most of their digital resources. In an effort to increase the competitive value and competition of Canadian businesses, the government of Canada created a new investment program to help businesses make a digital transformation.
Introduced in the 2021 Federal Budget, the $4 billion Canadian Digital Adoption Program (CDAP) aimed at address the technology gap for businesses across the country. Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) looking to upgrade or adopt new technologies can get assistance through digital adoption planning and apply for grants and loans.
MSPs in Canada can be a major part of this program by becoming digital advisors and helping Canadian businesses close the technology gap. The $4 billion program provides up to $15,000 for any business to work with digital advisors on the creation of a digital adoption plan. Digital advisors are listed on CDAP’s Digital Advisor Marketplace where businesses can see their qualifications and reach out for advising services.
According to Lane Smith, CEO of Digital Maturity Advisors, Canada needs thousands of advisors to help get this program moving forward, which represents a great opportunity for MSPs.
“There are only just over 120 approved advisors right now and if they are going to spend the $4 billion in four years, they are going to need like 3,000 approved advisors working full-time,” said Smith. “So there is a huge opportunity for MSPs to get in there, become an advisor, and start marketing to your customers and prospect base.”
SMEs and digital advisors begin with a digital maturity assessment and create a digital adoption plan. Specific recommendations tailored to the client’s needs are incorporated into their business plan. Digital advisors and clients must develop written agreements outlining the objectives of the services to be provided, a detailed work plan and timeline, the roles and responsibilities of each party, and the proposed payment schedule.
Once the digital adoption plan is finalized, SMEs will upload it to CDAP and receive the funding as a reimbursement for 90% of the cost of development, up to a maximum of $15,000.
The government has seen how companies with digital strategies perform, Smith said, and developed this program as a response to support Canadian businesses in a marketplace that is becoming increasingly global.
“The government realized that businesses who have a digital strategy in place were out performing those that don’t. So they wanted to ensure people have adequate digital strategies. That’s where they came up with this advisor concept,” he said.
CDAP is also offering the Grow Your Business Online grant, which is designed to assist up to 90,000 small businesses improve their e-commerce capabilities. Eligible businesses for this grant can receive up to $2,400 to invest in e-commerce improvements and implementation.
To become a CDAP certified digital advisor, MSPs must meet requirements to deliver high-quality advisory services. According to the official CDAP eligibility page, criteria to qualify include:
Smith’s Digital Maturity Advisors has developed training and certification courses to prepare MSPs to offer digital maturity advising as part of their service offerings. Not only increasing an MSPs value to clients, but preparing MSPs to join programs like CDAP to develop new business leads and find new clients in Canada.
Digital Maturity Advisors have a free ebook for MSPs to learn all about what the CDAP opportunity can mean for an MSPs’ client and revenue growth.
Tools like ScalePad Lifecycle Manager, Smith said, can help MSPs conduct digital assessments for clients to get a full inventory and status update of their hardware, software, and asset warranties. Being able to accurately conduct a digital maturity assessment is vital for MSPs and clients to collaborate on a digital adoption plan.
MSPs who are eligible to join CDAP have a big advantage in the marketplace. They have exclusive access to clients looking for digital advising services, and an entirely new way to create new relationships with businesses and grow their MSPs clientele.
Find out more about CDAP from the official website, including the full list of criteria, what grants your business is eligible for, how to become a digital advisor, events and webinars, as well as the ways other companies are digitally transforming their business.