An On-ramp to Managed Services?

What's the fastest way to become a managed service provider? Are there certain steps you can take to accelerate your success? I weighed those questions while meeting with Virtual Administrator, a Master managed service provider, at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference 2009 (WPC09) in New Orleans this week. Here's a recap.

Generally speaking, Master MSPs host applications and design SaaS (software as a service) offerings for peer VARs and MSPs. Competitors in the Master MSP industry include Do IT Smarter, Ingram Micro Seismic, MSP Services Network, and Virtual Administrator. In theory, Master MSPs can help VARs speed the transition to managed services because the VAR can leverage existing NOC (network operation center), remote management, monitoring, security, storage and other tools from the Master MSP.

The Strategy

Business models can vary dramatically from one Master MSP to the next. In the case of Virtual Administrator, the company wants to help VARs quickly walk on their own in the managed services market. In other words, the company is "an on-ramp" of sorts to managed services, as Virtual Administrator's Chris Amori states in this video:


Key Points

As I spoke with Amori, I realized Virtual Administrator has some unique qualities in the Master MSP space. Two prime examples:
  • I believe Virtual Administrator is one of only two U.S. companies that are licensed to host Kaseya for VARs and peer MSPs. (I'm still trying to interview the other one.)
  • Unlike a Salesforce.com or other traditional SaaS providers, Virtual Administrator doesn't want to hold onto you and your business (in the cloud) for life. If an MSP eventually wants to fly solo and move away from Virtual Administrator's services, then Virtual Administrator is more than happy to assist the process. In fact, Amori says, Virtual Administrator encourages its strongest customers to make that transition when they're ready.

Look Before You Leap

Please note: VARs and MSPs should do careful research before selecting a Master MSP as a potential partner. I've seen far too many Master MSPs come-and-go in the past two years. Plus, there are a lot of "pretender" companies that claim to be Master MSPs in a weak attempt to cash in on buzzwords.

Also, make sure the Master MSP is really licensed to host the software and services they offer. I'm aware of at least one alleged case where a Master MSP was offering hosted Kaseya software to peer VARs without the proper licenses in place. In the case of Virtual Administrator, I can confirm that they have a longstanding relationship with Kaseya.

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