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August 7, 2023
Artificial intelligence has taken off with nonstop media coverage and a range of reactions from fans to naysayers. While AI is evolving quickly by using machine learning to continually analyze terabits of data on the internet, it hasn’t (completely) replaced human minds.
What it can replace, in many cases, is the busywork people often dread but that is required to complete a variety of projects. The impact of AI on routine tasks, coupled with the buzz around new technology, is propelling growth in the AI market and a constantly growing list of AI solutions.
According to a report from Statista, “The AI market covers a vast number of industries. Everything from supply chains, marketing, product making, research, analysis, and more are fields that will, in some aspect, adopt artificial intelligence within their business structures. Chatbots, image generating AI, and mobile applications are all among the major trends improving AI in the coming years.”
By now, most, if not all, managed service provider (MSP) leaders will have heard about AI and how they should adopt the technology into their businesses. Doing so will save time and money that can be reinvested into other areas to maximize growth. MSPs can remove an enormous amount of friction, and therefore complexity and cost, in nearly every workflow by moving to intelligent and secure conversational AI applications.
Here are some ways MSPs of all sizes can include AI in their business operations.
Automation and optimization: When considering AI’s potential value, it makes sense to identify areas in the MSP wheelhouse that are relatively simple, often mundane, repetitive, and even painful tasks no one wants to do. These areas include automating work such as billing, order processing and administrative tasks like updating reporting data and internal business information.
When leaders and business owners add up the hours saved on routine tasks and figure out how those same hours can be invested in sales and service, the lights come on. Growth is more crucial to MSPs now than ever as competition, consolidation and client expectations continue to increase, and sustainable growth takes planning and time. Introducing AI to standard operations gives leaders the opportunity to devote time to thinking about the future.
AI can also be used to optimize cloud solutions many MSPs and small and midsized businesses (SMBs) rely on. I have seen massive gains in network performance at the edge, for example, when AI is used to analyze data generated by every device in real time. The same is true for major improvements in cloud optimization, as AI-based software can immediately pick up on virtual machines (VMs) that are not being used and can learn how to govern consumption based on seasonal patterns. For example, e-commerce companies may need 10 times the capacity during Black Friday events, or health insurance companies may need 10 times more instances during open enrollment periods. Properly applied AI can now calibrate supply and demand and save MSPs and their customers money while also enabling cloud providers, including the hyperscalers, to better plan capacity on their side.
Predictive maintenance and security: AI is also a powerful tool when used as a preventative measure aimed at keeping operations running as smoothly as possible.
The use of AI algorithms to predict when a device or system is likely to fail allows a network operations center (NOC) to take proactive steps to prevent downtime and avoid potentially dire consequences if a new firmware update is needed, more memory is required or back-ups in the cloud are immediately necessary.
Security remains a top priority for MSPs and all business owners. AI cybersecurity solutions can scan customers’ networks for anomalies, detect issues with accuracy and identify the root causes to solve the issues and prevent the attack quickly. Further, many application security and firewall solutions leverage AI to keep networks safe, so MSPs can enhance security and provide extra value to their clients.
Automated customer service: Increasingly smart and intuitive AI-powered chatbots can answer frequently asked questions and offer solutions for specific problems in personalized ways when the customer opts in. This doesn’t remove the need for staffed help desks, but automating standard responses reduces the burden on service teams. Some organizations are using bots to filter types of requests as they come in, so every customer gets a timely and accurate response. An MSP’s clients are just as busy as they are, and increasing speed while decreasing stress on staff will make everyone involved happy with the outcome. And when clients are happy, they’re more willing to invest additional time and resources into their MSP relationship.
AI isn’t perfect and is, of course, still developing. No one should rely entirely on technology in place of the human touch, but AI does have many benefits for MSPs and the businesses they serve.
Klaus Dimmler is co-founder and chief science officer at Pax8, where he leads the development of innovations that drive the next-generation marketplace of cloud products and services. His career spans positions in semiconductor processing and circuit design for AT&T, Bell Laboratories and Motorola; pioneering work for Lattice Semiconductor, Inmos, Cypress Semiconductor, Ramtron and Simtek; and several startups. He earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering from Cornell University. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @pax8 on X.
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