There are a lot of ways MSPs can distinguish themselves. Some do so by providing unrivaled technical excellence. Others focus on giving superior customer service. Then there are those who invest in clever marketing.
But at Aegis Technology Partners, simplification is helping to set this Norwalk, Connecticut, company apart. For the third year in a row, the small technology provider that “punches above its weight” has landed on the 2018 MSP 501 list. This year, it comes in at No. 493.
In this MSP 501 profile of Aegis, which offers managed services, cloud services, and data backup and recovery, we turn to Jay Parisi, partner and senior engineer at the company. (Other MSP 501 companies that we have profiled in this series include No. 4 Ensono and No. 322 Digital Boardwalk.)
In the nine years that Parisi has been at Aegis, he has witnessed a great deal of change in technology, business models and customer expectations. We started our conversation discussing the one area that seems to be changing most today — security.
“Criminals are rapidly getting better,” says Parisi. Take the way a few targeted one of his nonprofit customers.
After Googling the organization, cybercriminals found the name of the organization’s executive director and director of finance. After posing as would-be donors, they were able to get a return email sent to them from the executive director. Armed with his credentials, they then sent a note to the director of finance asking that he transfer some organizational funds into a new banking account. Because the two executives happened to work close by one another, the finance director was able to verbally check with the nonprofit’s head before transferring any money. In the end, no funds were lost. But imagine if the executive director were traveling?
You've got to hand it to the criminals, Parisi says.
“They put in the effort. In this instance, they had the guy’s email signature, fundraising information, etc. This just wasn’t a ‘pray and spray’ type of attack that we used to see a few years ago,” says Parisi.
When it comes to malware, only two of the company’s customers have ever been infected with a crypto-type infection. The last one was almost three years ago. In both instances, Aegis simply restored their data from backups.
“Everybody gets the occasional spam or phishing email,” says Parisi. “Most of the time, they will delete it or forward it to us and ask, ‘Hey, what is this?’ But every once in a while someone falls for something.”
In one instance, a customer got a bogus call from someone pretending to be from Microsoft. They told the customer that their computer was hacked and they needed access to it. The customer obliged. Before the cybercriminal did too much damage, however, the customer thought twice and called Aegis.
“Luckily, we nipped that in the bud. But it was a reminder that we must educate our customers constantly,” says Parisi. “It’s like being a parent with teenagers. We just have to keep banging into their heads what they are supposed to do.”
To stay abreast of the times, Aegis continuously evaluates leading security vendors. One that it finds itself getting closer to of late is Sophos. With Sophos, Aegis has been able to close business with much larger customers than it is normally accustomed to. Another company under consideration: Datto, which is based literally right up the road from Aegis.
In addition to staying on top of cybercrime, Parisi has spent a considerable amount of time trying to help the company run more efficiently. Beginning three years ago, it changed the way it charged its customers for services. Previously, Aegis offered customers three levels of service at different price points. But the complexity proved unwieldy. And the less expensively priced tiers didn’t produce the level of customer experience that the company wanted.
After some consideration, Aegis moved to a simplified, per-user pricing model. Depending on the customer, Aegis charges between $130 and $150 per user, per month. The plan includes Datto backup, Microsoft Office 365, spam filtering, antivirus — the works. The user fees also cover any project work that Aegis is asked to do. If a customer needs a new server installed, Aegis will only charge for the cost of the hardware.
In addition to creating a better customer experience, the plan has also made it easier for support engineers who work at Aegis. Thanks to the simplified business model, every customer is given the latest version of every software tool and application, which makes remote monitoring and management much simpler.
Increased standardization has led to improved profitability, Parisi says.
One thing controversial about Aegis: It doesn’t invest a lot in marketing. Instead of spending to get new clients, Parisi focuses his energies on keeping the clients that it already has and leaning on them for recommendations. So far, the practice has worked.
Thanks to the quality service that it provides, Aegis has lost only two clients, both of whom were acquired by a larger company with its own IT provider.
Looking ahead, Parisi expects to do more with Office 365 and with security, too. (He is presently mulling over whether he should partner with a third party with a security operations center so he can offer more sophisticated managed-security services.)
No matter what direction it goes in, Aegis will keep it simple and, no doubt, profitable.