2024’s Best MSP Tools and Software Reviewed

We describe how to identify the best MSP tools available on the market, explain how they can make the day-to-day job easier and enhance solutions for clients.

Dave Raffo, MSP News Editor

July 5, 2024

1 Min Read
Best MSP tools and software

Organizations that lack in-house IT expertise or budget will often outsource key functions to managed service providers (MSPs). MSPs commonly perform services such as cybersecurity tasks, data protection/disaster recovery, remote monitoring and management (RMM), network management, cloud computing and storage, and day-to-day maintenance such as patching and troubleshooting.

MSP customers tend to be small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) and midmarket businesses with fewer than 500 employees, but larger midmarket and enterprises also use MSPs. Managed service providers are popular across many industries, including financial/banking/accounting, manufacturing, health care, nonprofits, insurance, real estate, legal, engineering/architectural, construction, and state and local government.

Unpacking the Role and Importance of MSP Tools

The software and managed applications MSPs used are called tools. Rather than developing applications from the ground up, MSPs usually subscribe to vendor tools and build management, observability and orchestration functionality on top of them.

The Evolution of Managed Service Provider Software

Driven by the need for cybersecurity, popularity of cloud services and the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), MSP revenue is outgrowing the overall IT market. Expect that trend to continue over the coming years, according to industry analysts.

Jay McBain, Canalys chief analyst, says the managed services market will hit $548 billion in 2024, up 12% from 2023. McBain says IT organizations spend more than twice as much on services as on either hardware or software, and services are growing at a faster rate than hardware or software. He says 86,000 MSPs worldwide account for at least 30% of their business as recurring revenue, and 335,000 companies sell at least one managed service. McBain says the MSP landscape has also evolved from almost entirely North American when it started in the late 1990s, to a worldwide model, with North America now making up 45% of the market. He says Europe is now 29%, and Asia 23%, of the market.

(Canalys and Channel Futures share a parent company, Informa.)

The Best MSP Tools on the Market

MSP tools provide services in the areas of cybersecurity, device monitoring and management, cloud backup and restore, networking, cloud compute and storage, and infrastructure as a service.

Here are the most common types of MSP tools, along with their characteristics and leading vendors.

Managed IT Services Software

Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM): RMM tools do what their name suggests. They monitor and manage IT systems remotely. Common functions of RMM tools include patching, updating software and troubleshooting. MSPs should perform these tasks automatically.

RMM tools: Auvik Network Management, ConnectWise Automate, Datto RMM, Kaseya VSA, Microsoft Intune, N-able N-central, NinjaOne NinjaRMM, SolarWinds RMM.

Professional Services Automation (PSA): PSA tools handle day-to-day operations such as billing, ticketing and project management. Alleviating in-house staff from these responsibilities can save companies many staffing hours.

PSA tools: Autotask PSA, ConnectWise Manage, HaloPSA, Kaseya BMS, ServiceNow, Zendesk.

IT Service Management (ITSM): ITSM tools are commonly used for service desks and service delivery functions. They help design, implement, deliver and support IT services.

ITSM tools: BMC Remedy, Ivanti, ServiceNow, TeamDynamix.

Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR): These tools help save a companies’ important data in the case of human error or disasters that make facilities unavailable. According to a recent poll by analyst firm Canalys, 88% of MSPs they attach backup to some of their managed services deals.

BDR tools: Acronis Cyber Backup, Axcient x360, Barracuda SaaS Backup, Cohesity, Datto, N-able, Rubrik, Veeam.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM): These tools automate sales and marketing tasks to help MSPs manage relationships with their customers. They track sales pipelines, marketing outreach and other customer interactions.

CRM tools: HubSpot Salesforce, Zoho CRM.

Channel Futures TV: ConnectWise's Keith Graham tells Channel Futures editorial director Craig Galbraith about some of the biggest challenges facing MSPs today.

Cybersecurity MSP Tools

Cybersecurity services can protect against threats such as ransomware, malware and other malicious attacks. Cybersecurity tools are a major part of the MSP landscape, and MSPs are primary sources of cybersecurity products. According to Canalys, more than 90% of cybersecurity spending goes through partners.

Common cybersecurity tools include:

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): These monitor endpoints for suspicious activity and take action when detecting threats. Extended detection and response (XDR) goes beyond EDR to integrate data from network, cloud and email security as well as EDR.

EDR tools: CrowdStrike Falcon Insight, SentinelOne Singularity XDR, Palo Alto Networks Cortex, Trend Micro Apex One.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): SIEM tools collect logs from applications and devices and analyze those logs to detect and block attacks.

SIEM tools: Datadog Cloud SIEM, Microsoft Azure Sentinel, Splunk.

Features that Set Top MSP Tools Apart

Important features of MSP tools vary according to the type of tool, but there are common characteristics across the best MSP tools.

These include:

  • Automation: A main goal of any MSP tool is to automate manual and time-consuming tasks. MSP tools can use artificial intelligence to streamline repetitive tasks through automation.

  • Integration: To ensure smooth workflows, MSP tools must work seamlessly with other systems. This is especially the case with monitoring and alerting tools.

  • Scalability: MSP tools must often grow as clients add devices, applications and data. The tools must be able to manage a client’s expanding business without sacrificing performance.

  • Remote access: This is necessary for MSPs to manage client systems without being onsite. Remote access has gained importance with the rise of a remote workforce.

Key Features for Specific Types of MSP Tools

  • Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM): RMM must provide patch management/deployment, system monitoring, and alerting/reporting,

  • Professional Services Automation (PSA): PSA billing and invoicing, ticketing, project management reporting and service level agreement (SLA) management.

  • Backup and Disaster Recovery: These require common data backup features, plus data replication, migration, failover/failback and rapid recovery for restores.

  • Cybersecurity: Must-have MSP security tool features include anomaly detection, multifactor authentication, antivirus, vulnerability scanning, encryption, intrusion detection and endpoint protection. These tools’ vendors must also keep them up to date to protect against the latest threats because types of malicious attacks constantly evolve.

Advanced Functionalities for Tomorrow's Challenges

Like with many areas of IT, artificial intelligence will play a major role in MSP tools. MSPs already incorporate AI, but its use will expand as the technology matures and becomes more integrated in the tools.

AI helps MSP tools automate tasks to increase efficiency and reduce resolution times for troubleshooting issues. AI also plays a significant role in anomaly detection for cybersecurity. Canalys predicts that at least one-third of MSPs will use AI to build their own tools and automation processes by 2025.

Going forward, AI will help drive preventive troubleshooting by increasing the database of logs and analyzing the data for warning signs. The more data collected, the more efficient these AI-driven tools will be.

Channel Futures TV: SuperOps AI's Juan Fernandez talks with Channel Futures editorial director Craig Galbraith about RMM/PSA in the age of AI.

MSPs are incorporating popular commercial tools such as ChatGPT into their workflows. Vendors have also created AI tools customized for MSPs to do things such as automate ticket resolution, provide remediation suggestions, and provide guidance to help humans solve support issues. AI tools customized for MSPs come from CrushBank, Invarosoft, MSPbots.ai, Pia and Rewst.

MSPs are heavily investing in Microsoft Copilot, both in pilots and production use cases. Microsoft made the generative AI chatbot generally available in November 2023, but it has already generated more than 5 billion chats and 5 billion images.

TD Synnex, the distribution giant and system integrator that sells through MSPs, claims more than 2,000 partners are involved and more than 500 individuals have been certified in its Copilot enablement program.

Copilot for Security lets customers save their natural language prompts for common security tasks and search and query their content. It can generate reports on who is using it, how frequently, and for what tasks. Copilot can work with other Microsoft tools and supports integration with third-party tools.

How to Decide on the Right MSP Tool for Your Business

Before you can choose the right MSP tools, you must make a thorough assessment of your IT requirements. Your assessment should include requirements for devices, servers, applications and networks with an eye on recurring pain points. An organization should look at its internal IT capabilities and staffing expertise, and how they match its IT needs.

Evaluating an MSP goes beyond looking at its tools. An MSP should have the technical certifications, infrastructure support, automation capability and cybersecurity features that match its clients’ needs. Tools are part of it, as an MSP is only as good as the technology behind its services. But with common tools available to all MSPs, other issues − such as an understanding of a client’s specific industry, customer support, the ability to scale as the client grows, and cost − come into play.

A client that turns over all or most of its IT to an MSP would require 24/7 live support, ticketing and emergency response processes. The MSP should also supply status reports and updates, particularly if it is handling RMM and patching.

MSP tools are often priced on a per-device basis paid as a monthly subscription. But there are other considerations when negotiating an MSP contract. The MSP and client must set service-level agreements with metrics for performance and response times. The MSP must agree to stringent security requirements to make sure data is protected by industry standards and internal and external regulatory requirements.

A contract should also make it clear how either side can terminate service. It should include the period required to give notice, termination fees and how equipment and data will be returned after termination.

Real-World Applications: MSP Tools in Action

Success Stories from Businesses that Chose Wisely

MSPs and vendors publish case studies that show how end customers use their tools. Some examples of the value of MSP tools:

  • Ensono helped a health care company upgrade its disaster recovery process for its IBM iOS environment. This involved transitioning the customer’s physical tape library into a virtual tape library (VTL) that uses disk backup in the data center and replicated data to Ensono’s Power Cloud. Ensono automated the DR process while also meeting strict regulatory and compliance requirements. Ensono also upgraded the operating system to make the customer’s pharmacy distribution and fulfilment process more efficient.

  • Insight Enterprises' incident response helped a law firm avoid paying a $1.8 million ransom after a phishing attack compromised 700 devices. Within 24 hours after the breach, Insight performed an assessment of backups for restoration, addressed issues with the customer’s Microsoft Office 365 tenant, restored servers and desktops and enabled multifactor authentication, firewalls and other security measures. Insight’s security services helped the law firm restore part of its business functionality within two days and full functionality in a week. It avoided having to purchase the criminal’s decryption tool or pay the ransom.

  • MSP Sephno Systems business continuity specialist Xavier King said his team was overwhelmed by day-to-day tickets before switching to Kaseya’s tools. King said Kaseya IT Complete with RMM, Datto SaaS data protection and EDR, and Rocket Cyber security operations center (SOC) and other tools saved Sephno 20 hours per month in dealing with tickets and security threats.

  • MSP Epsilon reported an average of 150-200 tickets automatically cleared daily with ConnectWise’s RMM tool. Epsilon previously took from 100 to 200 daily calls before adding ConnectWise RMM to ConnectWise PSA.

Future Trends: What's Next for MSP Tools?

The 20-plus-year-old MSP model has continually evolved and will continue to do so. Managed services are growing in popularity with nontraditional MSPs getting into the game. Public cloud providers AWS, Google, and Microsoft offer managed services, as do traditional on-premises infrastructure vendors such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. MSPs sell tools from these vendors, making this a hot area of competition.

Channel Futures TV: Kaseya CEO Fred Voccola joins the Coffee with Craig and James podcast to offer advice to MSPs and to discuss the success of the company's Kaseya 365 subscription service launch.

MSPs know success comes from more than selling subscriptions and gaining recurring revenue. The difference between MSPs and the larger cloud or IT infrastructure companies is the hands-on relationships MSPs enjoy with their customers. For all of the technical advances, those relationships often make the difference. Successful MSPs take the time to understand their customers’ needs and alter their services to fit those requirements as they change.

With many companies facing IT skills shortages, they will rely more on MSPs to serve as de facto in-house IT teams. MSPs can help their customers rapidly expand and keep them informed about the latest technologies.

With acquisitions growing in the MSP space, MSPs are expanding geographically, and in the breadth of services offered. This is a dual-edge blade for MSPs: It can grow their business faster but can make it harder to maintain close relationships with customers.

MSPs see their future as rosy. In a recent Canalys poll, 56% of channel partners expected more than 10% year-on-year growth in their managed services businesses in 2024. MSP tools will play a large part in that growth, with the help of AI and vendor innovation.

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