Hosted Windows Desktops: Your Next MSP Move?
The inflection point is here: As MSPs and businesses prepare for Windows 7’s debut on Oct. 22, mindSHIFT — ranked atop our annual MSPmentor 100 report — is changing the rules of the game. The company has launched a hosted desktop solution called NextDesktop. It’s a cloud/SaaS service of sorts that blends Windows, open source, security and productivity applications for a flat monthly fee. Here are the details and the implications for managed service providers.
Yes, I realize a growing number of SaaS (software as a service) companies are hosting Windows desktops and/or promoting virtualized desktops. The VAR Guy, MSPmentor’s sister site, has even speculated about 2010 being the year of virtualized desktops.
But mindSHIFT’s move is particularly significant. As one of the larger MSPs that has made regional acquisitions in recent years, mindSHIFT is considered a thought leader in the managed services market. Also, the company has plenty of experience with more traditional hosted applications such as Microsoft Exchange.
So, mindSHIFT’s decision to introduce hosted desktops potentially is an “ah hah” moment for MSPs that are still sorting out their SaaS, cloud and next-generation desktop strategies — especially as Windows 7 arrives. Plus, the NextDeskop offering shows how MSPs can differentiate their services from Microsoft’s forthcoming Office Web and growing Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) services.
Plus, NextDesktop is a case study in how to build a branded service.
What is NextDesktop?
Priced $39.99 per user per month, mindSHIFT’s NextDesktop is far more than hosted Microsoft Office. The offering includes secure user access to office desktops anywhere, anytime and a choice of either OpenOffice (the open source application suite) or Microsoft Office 2007.
It also includes:
- Data and applications, including Windows, running in mindSHIFT’s 24x7x365 Tier 4 data
- Management of lag time with Internap Performance IP to decrease latency
- Instant Office feature: Web-based control panel for immediate setup of new users and
services by authorized administrative user
- PDF creator and Adobe Reader
- 1 GB of disk space for each user to store documents
- Daily backup of all data
- Real-time anti-virus and anti-spyware updates from Trend Micro
- Live U.S.-based Help Desk via telephone and email
- Timely, transparent software patches and updates
- Month-to-month contract
mindSHIFT also is connecting the dots between hosted desktop applications and hosted server applications such as Exchange Server, SharePoint, Dynamics CRM and a range of email and calendaring services. Very smart.
Big Questions, Big Opportunities?
Will NextDesktop work? Will customers buy it? Is the world ready to move away from traditional Windows desktops for hosted productivity applications — including open source applications?
I don’t have the answers. At least not yet. But I do believe there is a small, growing niche for SaaS solutions like NextDesktop. mindSHIFT’s press release does a fantastic job explaining NextDesktop’s potential financial and productivity benefits to budget-conscious small businesses.
Bottom line: Assuming NextDesktop works, the service is more than a technology case study for MSPs. It’s a business and marketing case study for how to launch a branded, recurring revenue managed service that includes multiple commodity products.