Level Platforms: Office 365 Cloud Management for MSPs?

Level Platforms: Office 365 Cloud Management for MSPs?

Microsoft Office 365, the cloud service for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and more, turns one year old in June 2012. I've gradually warmed up to Office 365, but I continue to wonder if managed services providers (MSPs) will actually "manage" Office 365 for customers, especially since the cloud suite lives in Microsoft's own data centers. Now here's the twist...

During a recent meeting, an MSP told me he believes all the major RMM (remote monitoring and management) software providers will need to integrate Office 365 management into their dashboards to remain relevant. I'm not sure I fully agree... but the comment caught my ear. And I relayed it onto Level Platforms CEO Peter Sandiford, a proponent of Office 365 management and cloud management solutions for MSPs.

Expanding Market?

Sandiford conceded that cloud monitoring and management has been a pet project of his for a few years now. "I understand that this is not the top priority for all MSPs right now, which is likely the reason we are the only company providing this capability in a serious way," Sandiford asserted. "However it is clear to me that cloud monitoring and management will soon be a basic requirement for all MSPs as the business shifts from monitoring and managing traditional devices to the much more valuable focus on the end user experience. I see this shift as absolutely inevitable."

Along with that shift, Sandiford believes, MSPs will need a single dashboard for managing on-premises devices and applications, and cloud applications.  "The wide adoption of Office 365 has really driven the recognition of this requirement," he said.

As a result, Level Platforms' software can monitor and manage Office 365 directly from inside the Managed Workplace dashboard. The capability has been around since Managed Workplace 2011 R3 debuted in November 2011.

Office 365 Monitoring: Potential Upside?

Still, I'm sometimes skeptical of cloud monitoring. In my mind a cloud application is either online or offline... alive or dead. And only the cloud service provider (such as Microsoft with Office 365) can truly manage and optimize the SaaS service.

Sandiford addressed my skepticism with some examples of how cloud monitoring can benefit MSPs and their end-customers. He noted:
  • MSPs can monitor the health of Office 365, provide proactive customer and vendor management in the event of problems, report on SLAs to support a past decision or justify a change, and help determine the cause of a performance issue when it occurs.
  • In Level Platforms' case, the company can track up/down status, response time, transaction duration, text search and more.
Also, Level Platforms offers prepackaged scripts to help MSPs with Office 365 moves, adds and changes. The scripts include:
  • Create New User
  • List Company Domains
  • List Company SKUs
  • List Company Subscriptions
  • Remove User
  • Reset User Password
"Our partners monetize this by bundling it into a managed email service, pushing the decision of on premise or cloud and which cloud provider into the background," Sandiford noted.

Small Business Server In the Cloud?

Meanwhile, that MSP who is looking for a single dashboard for on-premise and cloud applications told me the following: Even when he shifts customers from an on-premises solution (typically Microsoft Small Business Server) to Office 365, he continues to charge a monthly fee (about $200 to $250) for "managing" the service.

The MSP's key point: It doesn't matter whether the server is physical, virtual, on-premises or in the cloud. His customers are willing to pay for peace of mind.

I don't know if all customers will embrace that thesis. But it made for an interesting discussion and it triggered this blog post.
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