Four industry experts share invaluable do’s and don’ts when selecting a remote monitoring and management tool for your managed services business.
Recently, I spoke with an MSP who was caught off guard when her RMM (remote monitoring and management) vendor sent notice that it was raising its licensing fees 10 percent within the next 30 days. The MSP was already monitoring several hundred end points with the vendor’s product, and her customers were paying a monthly flat fee, so she had to absorb the cost increase. That conversation got me thinking about how dependent MSPs can become to their vendors and a potential downside to the “stickiness” of managed services. With that in mind, I talked to four industry experts to get their advice regarding any additional pitfalls MSPs need to look out for when selecting an RMM vendor to minimize any unexpected surprises later on.
Tip #1: Know What Your Clients Need
good place to start your RMM journey is by evaluating your customer base, says Alex Hoff, VP of sales and product at Auvik Networks. “If your clients are single-location businesses with 15 or fewer employees, and they all have simple network configurations, they can be managed with a much simpler tool than a company with multiple locations, a data center, and more sophisticated business availability requirements.”
Brett Cheloff, ConnectWise Automate (formerly LabTech)
Tip #2: Beware Of Long-Term Contracts
Keep in mind, too, that it’s possible that your RMM needs could change down the road as your business grows and you expand into new vertical markets. “As your business evolves, you don’t want to be stuck in a contract that doesn’t work for you six months from now,” says Carl Resnik, senior product director of RMM at Continuum. “Think about your long-term goals. Does the RMM vendor’s model align with them? Your business is focused on growth and profitability, and your RMM provider should be focused on helping you achieve those goals, too.”
Tip #3: Choose An RMM With A Price Model Similar To Yours
Although no one likes to think about a customer going away, it’s a reality every MSP must face. Don’t make these situations worse by selecting an RMM that locks you into a long-term contract, warns the experts. “If you bill your clients monthly, for example, you need an RMM solution with a monthly pricing model, so you don’t have to continue paying for software agents after a client goes away,” says Resnik.
Tip #4: Look Beyond Price To TCO (Total Cost Of Ownership)
While it’s tempting to select an RMM provider based solely on licensing costs, consider what is — and what’s not — included in their price, advises Resnik. “Is training for your techs included? Will you have to pay more for better support? Is the platform easy to update and manage, or will you need to hire additional technicians to handle that? Also, does the vendor have the tools you need to service your clients? If not, what additional costs will you incur?”
Auvik Networks’ Hoff concurs and adds, “Keep in mind the level of talent you’ll need on your team to use and support the RMM solution. Some RMM vendors bundle NOC [network operation center] services with their RMM tool, whereas others leave that up to the MSP, or they charge extra for it. Make sure to consider all this when doing your due diligence.”
alerts the RMM tool detects, make sure the RMM vendor offers support for its product, says Resnik. “The last thing you want is to migrate to a new solution only to realize that when you run into a problem, you’re on your own. Some RMM providers make you pay for support, or they only offer the highest level of support to the MSPs who are spending the most with them. Make sure you engage with support a few times during your trial period to ensure that it meets your expectations.” And support should go beyond just technical support, says Resnik. “The RMM vendor should offer resources and training for your sales team, opportunities for your company to engage with and learn from peers who have been successful with the vendor’s products, and an account management team dedicated to helping you expand your business, not just selling you products to meet their quotas.”
Carl Resnik, Continuum
Tip #5: Ensure The RMM Integrates With Other Software
Another point to keep in mind is that RMM isn’t a stand-alone tool; it’s one of many in an MSP’s arsenal, and it must work well with those other software products and tools. “The goal is to ensure you have freedom of choice and don’t end up being limited because of your RMM,” says Brett Cheloff, general manager, ConnectWise Automate (formerly LabTech). “Look at the company’s website to see if it offers vendor integrations in key categories, from security and backup to remote control and PSA [professional services automation].”
Hoff concurs and adds, “Pay especially close attention to how well-vetted the RMM vendor’s PSA integration is. It should offer more than just alerting; it should provide automated documentation. For example, when scanning a customer’s computers or network equipment, the software should capture the serial number and make it easier to validate patch levels and keep track of service tags. These automation features make it easier for your technicians to troubleshoot problems more quickly, too.”
Tip #6: Know Your RMM Vendor’s Road Map
Many RMM tools are now being offered as suites, which include antivirus, security, and several other tools. “The first thing the MSP should do is a little homework,” says David Weeks, senior global channel sales manager at SolarWinds MSP. “Find out when each additional tool was brought into the vendor’s RMM technology stack. Ask the vendor if they’ve done any work on the software to make it better support their RMM platform and their partners, and find out what their road map plan is. Also, figure out if the software fits into the vendor’s strategy moving forward, or if they may be planning to phase it out. As an MSP, you don’t want to sign on for a new tool and then have to switch course when the vendor’s plans change.”
Weeks also suggests MSPs analyze which solutions in the RMM suite truly fit their business needs. “For efficiency and ease of use, you want all of the software to work together,” he says. “You’ll need to evaluate each software separately, too, giving each product the same attention you did when selecting the RMM platform.”
Tip #7: Bundled vs. Best-Of-Breed — What’s Best For You?
The previous tip brings up an often-contested debate among MSPs: Is it better to select a stand-alone RMM product, and add “best-of-breed” software solutions separately or choose an RMM suite with several products bundled together? “Typically, vendors have better negotiating power than an individual MSP, and as a result, they can deliver a suite of products at a lower cost, which results in greater profitability,” says Weeks. “Additionally, a bundled suite makes it easier for an MSP to scale more efficiently, especially if the MSP is currently supporting multiple antivirus products, for example, and decides to standardize on the one that comes with the RMM suite.”
Continuum’s Resnik offers an opposing view in the best-of- breed vs. bundled debate. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to software,” he says. “Bundled software can be attractive from a pricing standpoint, but you should have the option to choose the tools that maximize your efficiency and best fit the needs of your clients. Look for an RMM solution that provides flexible integration with other solutions and allows you to design the platform that works best for you.”
Cheloff concurs, adding, “You won’t find a one-size-fits-all solution. You — not your RMM vendor — should decide which software vendors you use.”
Tip #8: Don’t Skimp On Training
No matter which RMM tool you choose, it’s going to require a commitment, say the experts. “Don’t try to train your staff on the RMM tool by yourself because you’ll miss key features,” warns Weeks. “Skipping this key step will inevitably create frustrations among your technical team and could potentially lead to buyer’s remorse.” ConnectWise Automate’s Cheloff concurs, adding, “Set time aside for at least one person in your company to fully understand your RMM product’s capabilities. Without knowledgeable users driven to create automation, an RMM won’t help you achieve the profitability multiplier you desire.”