SMBs Ready to Embrace Managed Services

n-able
With technology becoming more complex and access to skilled IT staff more expensive, remote monitoring and management automation software vendor N-able has gathered managed service providers (MSPs) at its annual N-Able Summit to help them learn how to tap the growth potential in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market.

A key part of Ottawa-based N-Able's SMB strategy is a $115 million "freemium" program that will see some N-able MSP partners provided with up to $108,000 in free licenses, depending on partner size, for N-able offerings such as Essential, Policy Manager and Security Manager to help them convert new customers to the managed services model and go deeper with existing clients.

"We're taking our Freemium program to the next level," said N-able CEO Gavin Garbutt. "We know that if we invest in you and you achieve your goals, we're all going to be massively successful together."

SMB has been a key growth area for N-able, with the number of SMB customers managed by N-able's partners growing by 175 per cent since 2009, from 17,000 to over 50,000 today. But the vendor sees still further untapped growth potential.

"We want to help break down the barriers for small and medium-sized businesses to adopt managed services," said Garbutt. "We have to help you improve your internal processes and systems so your technicians can manage more devices."

The partners that have had exponential growth have learned you don't want to try to boil the ocean with SMB customers, said Garbutt, by asking them to go from 0 to 100 on managed services right away. Better to start small and focused, transitioning a key area such as monitoring, and growing from there, scheduling further projects over time on the road to a fully managed environment.

"Don't put a big cow on someone's plate and say they have to eat it all now," said Garbutt. "Feed them little fillet mignons they can eat every day and grow from there."

SMBs want a better level of IT service, and they want to understand how they can gain the efficiencies that enterprises realize through the managed services model. Partners should be proactive in developing an MSP practice and talking to their customers about the models and the benefits before someone else does, said Garbutt.

"There will be a lot of VARs that go out of business over the next couple of years because they can't evolve their business to this level," said Garbutt. "With MSPs managing more customers we'll need fewer VARs."

Focusing on automation

Right now N-able's technology focus is around automation said JP Jauvin, N-able's president and COO. In an interview with CDN, Jauvin said the technology development focus is around enabling MSPs to scale their business without adding staff. A key part of that is N-able's new "run books," essentially cook books to help partners more easily deliver consistent and quality service.

The technical run books are baked into the platform, and Jauvin said N-able has also created a more generic run book to help partners looking to transition their business from the break-fix model to becoming an MSP. Their partner development team also works closely with new MSPs to help them identify their customers and their needs, tailoring custom offerings to meet their needs and marketing collateral to help bring it to market.

While N-able is based in Ottawa, the growth potential in the Canadian market remains strong, said Jauvin, and activity has really accelerated the last 18 months.

"Generally, businesses owners in Canada don't have any difficulty understanding the value proposition; they see the writing on the wall for break fix," said Jauvin. "They're fully conscious they have to move to a new model and that it's when, not if."

Access to talent an MSP driver

One partner already well down that road is Calgary's Long View Systems, a CDN Channel Elite Awards winner that was honoured at Summit as N-able's MSP of the year. Sean Sabti, manager of Long View's network operations centre, told CDN they've been with N-able for seven years now and are really pleased with the level of continual innovation they see around the N-able platform.

He's also pleased with the Freemium program, which he said will really help Long View close deals more quickly in the SMB space by being more competitive on cost, which is one of the major barriers to entry in that market.

Long View has enjoyed strong success growing its MSP business in Western Canada, with demand increasing substantially after the recession. Sabti said one of the drivers is that as technology becomes more complex, companies are finding it harder to attract and maintain the talent in-house to maintain their IT infrastructure. It makes turning to an MSP and leveraging their resources all the more attractive.

"The technology trends are rapidly changing with the cloud, with Microsoft's new products, with VMware and NetApp, and unless SMBs are willing to invest in training, there's no way on Earth they can keep up," said Sabti.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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