Before increasing its focus on managed service providers (MSPs), security specialist SonicWALL spent a few months studying the market. Jan Sijp, director of policy management at SonicWall, earlier this year began interviewing MSPs to get a sense of what approaches to pursue, and pitfalls to avoid, in building such a business.
“The majority of the solutions provider base doesn’t really do managed services yet in full force,” Sijp said. “So people are looking to be educated on how do become one.”
Based on his own meetings and discussions with VARs and MSPs, here are a few areas Sijp said he believes a company in transition should focus on:
- Staffing: “You have to move to more of a help desk model,” Sijp said of building an MSP practice. “People have more of a break/fix, product-based, field-force-based business.”
- Sales and marketing: “When they get into the MSP business, they have to get more sophisticated about sales and marketing,” Sijp said. However, a 3, 5, or 10-person reseller shop may depend on word-of-mouth sales, he said, noting that such companies should set aside time for sales and marketing. That could mean dispatching experts to speak at events or assigning someone to recruit new customers.
- Infrastructure: Resellers will need to think about a network operations center and a disaster recovery plan as well, Sijp said. Here’s where resellers will need to decide whether to build their own or partner with a master MSP.
Educating resellers could pay off for SonicWALL over time. The company’s product line is geared toward remote monitoring and management. And MSPs already make up half the customer base for SonicWALL’s Global Management System, the company’s console for managing its security appliances.
SonicWALL has been particularly vocal about the managed services market in recent weeks. The company launched its so-called "next Generation Managed Service Provider" initiative on June 3 -- which is being rolled out in four phases.
At the same time SonicWALL has been carefully managing its own costs -- making a small number of staff cuts in May 2009 to help maintain profitability.
Contributing blogger John Moore covers Master MSPs and Web hosts, and has written about the IT channel for two decades. Additional reporting by Joe Panettieri. MSPmentor is updated multiple times daily. Follow MSPmentor via RSS, Facebook, Identi.ca and Twitter. And sign up for our Enewsletter, Webcasts and Resource Center.