Guest Column | March 13, 2023

MSPs Face A Tough Proving Ground For Network Management

By Andrew Kahl, BackBox


Managed Service Providers (MSPs) play an essential role for enterprises that don’t have a dedicated network engineer or access to the talent needed to automate network management capabilities. Small and medium businesses (SMBs) have few options when it comes to network management and therefore many outsource these roles.

However, the increasingly critical role of the MSP as an outsourced network operations team creates some unique pain points for MSP companies themselves as they seek to reliably access, manage and continually secure what may be dozens, or even hundreds, of customer networks. From configuration and access management to network visibility, compliance, and more, MSPs must deal with unprecedented levels of complexity and scale as they protect the various IT estates of their many client organizations.

In the face of these challenges, MSPs must establish the right protocols and industry partnerships to thoroughly automate network updates for agile management and continuous improvement of the management posture across the many networks they are paid to protect. These pages will explore how MSPs can best achieve this for enhanced revenue generation and service margins as they serve their enterprise clients.

The IT landscape for Managed Service Providers is incredibly demanding. A typical MSP must be able to navigate a diverse range of multi-vendor ecosystems and a wide variety of configurations already deployed and running in their clients’ production environments. MSP engineers must routinely juggle access and authentication methods and protocols that vary contextually across many domains and network environments – with policies, rules enforcement, data standards, and workflows varying wildly from client to client and network to network.

These technological challenges become more daunting as MSPs increasingly include managed firewall services as part of their solution to remain competitive in securing business – either directly from enterprise customers or through white-label sales.

The irony is that such clients are turning to the MSPs for their seasoned network management and firewall engineers, but these engineers can quickly run out of hours in the day if forced to manage networks by hand.

Against this backdrop, MSP network engineering teams are increasingly turning to automation as a way to handle the various configuration changes, backups, restores, patching, and related network management tasks that need to happen across their many client networks. But not all automation solutions are created equally. For instance, insufficiently robust automation may allow for the streamlining of some routine tasks but may have trouble handling multi-cloud environments; remain too costly to scale; or may not be able to handle the more advanced aspects of managed firewall services.

According to research by EMA, 80% of all network management issues can be tied back to problems with configuration management. The quality of network automation is critical to MSP’s business continuity and mastery of configuration management across multiple vendor and enterprise ecosystems. The stakes are high and MSPs must do their homework to ensure they work with trusted partners and solutions to automate and scale network management on behalf of their many clients.

About The Author

Andrew Kahl is the CEO of BackBox.