Free: The New MSP Strategy?

Free: The New MSP Strategy?

free_managed_servicesA so-called "free" strategy continues to sweep across the managed services market. But whether you're an association, a software provider or a managed services provider (MSP), "free" is a tricky strategy to manage -- especially as you try to convert free clientele into paying customers. Here's a look at the trend.

First, a look at some of the free efforts in the MSP market:

  • N-able has launched free software agents and free endpoint security options for its existing MSP partner base. The move aims to help MSPs expand their customer bases
  • Sophos is offering free data leakage prevention capabilities in its endpoint security offering
  • Spiceworks offers free remote monitoring software, powered by an advertising system
  • Trend Micro offers Worry-Free Remote Manager remote monitoring software for free to its security MSPs
  • At a conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) has announced "a new suite of member services" that are free for a limited time.
  • Additional associations and organizations -- everyone from the MSPAlliance to MSP Partners (recently acquired by CompTIA) and MSP University -- frequently pull together "free" offers to engage members or drive events forward
  • Stay tuned folks. I suspect we'll hear at least one new "free" MSP-oriented offer in the next 10 business days, and it could be dramatic
Free can be a great way to generate buzz and engage partners/customers. But at some point, you need to convert many of those free folks into paying clientele. Some businesses have done a remarkable job converting free audiences into paying customers -- the prime examples including Google (free search to paid search) and Red Hat (free Linux to subscription Linux). But free can also kill a company (prime example: Netscape).

Free for the Long Haul?

In the MSP space, the free strategy will need time to play out.

I'll be watching the N-able partner ecosystem particularly closely.
  • How will existing partners use those free remote management and endpoint security licenses?
  • How will they pitch the offerings to customers?
  • Will MSPs bill for the free offerings and pocket the profits?
  • Or will MSPs offer up the software for free to customers -- just to get them hooked on managed services?
So many questions. But one thing seems clear: Profitable companies like Red Hat have proven free is here to stay. Now, the rest of us have to figure out our free strategies -- especially in the managed services industry.

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