Data powers every business’ bottom line. It’s no wonder then, that companies are outsourcing their IT needs more than ever — relying on the expertise offered by professional managed service providers (MSPs). For MSPs, this means that the MSP software they use is more important. With the right tools at the ready, you can serve clients with limited budgets and knowledge — significantly enhancing their technological capabilities.
In fact, the MSP market is estimated to reach $557.1 billion by 2028. While this may sound like a golden age for MSPs, the increased demand for data protection services in particular raises the bar on what customers are expecting. To compete in such a crowded marketplace, MSPs must carefully choose their managed service software to ensure it delivers the components and capabilities customers seek.
To meet your clients’ demands for heightened data protection, you should consider:
- How reliable is the data protection you offer — and how easy is it to use?
- How efficient is the MSP software you use?
What is MSP software?
MSP software is a solution that provides service providers with a single point of view of all client IT systems so they can track, manage and troubleshoot system issues, network problems, software deployments / updates and security issues.
Core Functionalities and Features of MSP Software Solutions
The best MSP software providers must cover a vast array of features to stay competitive and ensure an optimal client base. Reliable MSPs offer extensive professional services automation (PSA) options to provide businesses of all sizes with all the features they need to scale and succeed.
- Account Management
A robust managed service provider (MSP) can help you govern all client accounts from a single, centralized platform. Moreover, you can customize every entry to reflect unique customer information and assign a dedicated account manager to optimize account management costs and effort.
- Alert Management
Alert management tools can identify issues across your entire environment before they snowball into full-on breaches or crashes. A high-tier alert management solution can quickly detect anomalies in connected devices and notify the responsible agents. The alerts can vary from a simple software update to significant operation disruptions; the sheer scope of a dedicated alert tool can provide optimal problem resolution across the board and save you time, effort, and costs.
- Auditing and Reporting
As a managed service provider, you should be able to monitor and audit your activities periodically. Such activities include hours worked, services rendered, ongoing project billing rates, etc. The reporting platform should also house and provide historical data (e.g., expenditure, past revenue) to help the MSP calculate budgets, hire additional specialists (if needed), and optimize resource costs.
Automation is critical to handle both existing and new workloads for growing MSPs. Instead of worrying over routine tasks (e.g., device maintenance and monitoring), agents can dedicate their time to business-critical project management and potential issues resolution. Automation, especially when integrated with cloud computing, helps MSPs scale significantly faster without compromising the quality of services they provide for client networks.
- Backup and Disaster Recovery (DR)
Backup and restore features are imperative for a sound disaster recovery plan. Your client's critical data, operating systems, device configurations, etc., must be backed up on a strict, pre-determined schedule and stored securely in encrypted storage, both on-site and off-site. (physical local storage, off-premises data center, and a cloud-based platform)
Safeguarding data backup copies ensures organizations can recover their essential information after system crashes, power outages, human error, natural disasters, or cyberattacks. Developing an efficient disaster recovery strategy can minimize downtime significantly and ensure business continuity.
- Billing and Contacts
Managed service providers rely on billing software to track all offered services and their corresponding revenue. Managing multiple clients via various billing tools can be challenging and slow down business processes. Many MSPs would benefit significantly from automated billing solutions to organize, monitor, and issue invoices promptly upon completion.
- Configuration Management
Configuration management refers to rolling out and maintaining device configurations for client networks. It is a critical process to ensure unhindered day-to-day operations. A configuration management solution can provide the optimal configuration ("golden configuration") for a particular device type. The MSP can then roll out this ideal configuration for all similar devices simultaneously to speed up the deployment process.
However, even after successful deployment, device management requires responsible agents to monitor and align device behavior with the ideal standard continuously. Otherwise, they risk exposing devices to a so-called "configuration drift" - a term used to describe a device that strays from the golden standard over time. If neglected, such devices can severely affect performance and other connected systems. Configuration software helps MSPs frequently compare a specific device's current configuration with its last-reviewed "best" configuration to alert technicians of potential deviations.
- Contract Management
Drawing up and juggling contracts for multiple clients is challenging for most managed service providers, making contract management a critical process for MSPs with a diverse client base. As no two clients are alike, MSPs must prepare different contracts to reflect uniquely tailored services for various organizations. For example, one client can pay a fixed fee per month, while others can choose to follow a project-based payment plan.
Contract management lets MSPs generate contracts automatically based on comprehensive templates that follow strict legal and regulatory guidelines. Such contracts take into account billing rates, account work orders, and overheads to create a unique invoice that the MSP can then edit and verify. Moreover, robust PSA solutions provide entirely digital contract management tools, eliminating pen-and-paper bids to streamline stakeholder collaboration.
- Customer Management
Similar to how a Customer Relationship Management platform (CRM) logs customer progress from the time they enter the sales pipeline, PSA customer management helps MSPs track client progress and contribution. However, with MSPs, the scope of the CRM feature is much more significant, as they offer an array of IT infrastructure services instead of a single product.
While a traditional CRM tool will only store typical customer info (e.g., contact details), PSA solutions comprise extensive details about MSP clients, including contracts, past bids, service-level agreements (SLAs), specific billing info, and more. A robust solution can rid MSPs of investing in numerous separate tools to fulfill the abovementioned functions and provide transparency and visibility in the long run.
Moreover, a dedicated PSA tool will also include customer IT asset inventory so MSPs can track and manage SLA-agreed services more efficiently. Lastly, a robust contract management solution will store access credentials for customer devices, which must be hosted in a secure environment and protected by passwords and encryption to prevent unauthorized third-party access.
- Customer Support
Typical service desk tools include self-service solutions and agent-enabled support. A PSA platform must:
- Ensure self-service options to help customers resolve issues so human agents can focus on critical project tasks.
- Provide a seamless transfer from self-service to human agents for queries that are too challenging to be resolved without expert assistance.
Customers should be able to register queries via the complete set of communication channels - email, chatbot, social media, phone, and app - to automatically issue a ticket to the helpdesk platform. The service desk should then assign the ticket to a human agent, who, in turn, will acknowledge the customer's request via email.
Moreover, a robust PSA tool should prioritize tickets and allow manual escalations. It should also be able to update ticket resolution progress and inform customers via email. Technical support staff must log ticket resolution notes to help resolve similar queries in the future.
The ever-evolving ransomware landscape requires businesses of all sizes to take network security seriously. The best MSP software providers must present a full array of data protection and Threat Detection and Response features to fortify client networks and ensure business continuity. Such security capabilities include:
- AI-powered antivirus and anti-malware tools
- Machine-learning threat detection, response, and analysis
- Endpoint detection and response tools (EDR and XDR)
- Multi-factor authentication for all on-premises and BYOD devices
- Data encryption for all critical assets
- Regular audits to ensure regulatory compliance
- Smart alerts, threat remediation, and threat investigation
Ideally, you'd rely on a service delivery that provides all critical cybersecurity features in one place, such as a centralized dashboard that's easy to use without the supervision of an in-house IT team.
Modern businesses typically rely on various applications to provide services for their customers. Synchronizing all tools and programs within a corporate network is challenging, but integration makes it significantly easier. If your MSP software integrates optimally with critical applications, it will save you time, effort, and resources.
For example, you can streamline ticketing systems and manage issues and incidents more efficiently by integrating your Remote Monitoring and Management solution (RMM) with your chosen Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool.
A user-friendly PSA invoicing module can generate bills for various service types delivered both by the MSP to client systems and by clients to their customers. The solution must include fixed and variable SLA charges and offer different charging options (hourly, weekly, yearly).
Robust invoicing tools can comprise customer management and contract data to ensure every service delivered is included in the final invoice.
- Event logging, Reports, and Analytics
Event logs record all managed services delivered by MSP technical support to ease problem diagnostics and maintenance. Time-stamped event logs enable technicians to perform comprehensive Root Cause Analysis (RCA) to explore issues in-depth and prevent similar problems in the future.
Top MSP software providers rely on reporting and analytics software to gain a comprehensive view of client systems and IT infrastructure by gathering data from all critical endpoints and compiling it into a user-friendly dashboard.
Analytics assist MSPs in tackling day-to-day issues on client networks, but they can offer so much more. By studying harvested data closely, MSPs can leverage data models to predict future IT demands and help with clients' decision-making and infrastructure expansion.
- Network Monitoring and Discovery
Proper network service management requires MSPs to know all critical components within a client's environment. Network discovery tools can scan and capture all devices (and objects) in a target network and add them to the MSPs service inventory. This way, MSPs can discuss all potential devices with the client and determine which ones will benefit from management software to draw up SLAs and calculate respective payments.
- Patch Management
ASAP Detection and deployment are critical for sensible patch management. MSPs must check with software vendors for incoming security patches, inspect compatibility levels (patch to client infrastructure), schedule deployment, and provide clients with comprehensive status reports. Security admins can then check and install all available patches promptly if no compatibility issues are detected.
- Project Management
Project management for MSPs refers to goals set by clients and agreed upon by both parties (the client and the MSP) in the SLA. Dedicated project management solutions offer enhanced capabilities (e.g., task assignment) to optimize costs for the MSP and the client. Integrated PSA tools can track project progress and all corresponding billing rates to remove redundancies when possible (or required).
Moreover, such solutions can include task tracking to help team leaders and managers track task progress by comparing it against a pre-defined checklist (and timesheets) to further streamline invoicing and billing processes.
Remote Monitoring and Management
Remote monitoring and management (RMM) systems are crucial for managed service providers. Remote monitoring tools rely on agents installed on target client devices to monitor the client systems; when prompted, the agents send data to a centralized controller running on the MSP's network so the controller can periodically issue updates and display calculated results on a real-time monitoring console.
Typically, agent-controller communication occurs via Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). When agents detect issues on a target device, they send alerts to the controller without being prompted (an "SNMP Trap"). These alerts guide technical support to identify and solve issues before they become a vulnerability or a full-blown breach.
- Remote Access
Remote monitoring and management rely on experienced technicians to transfer files, execute commands, and run scripts on client networks to ensure software deployment, upgrades, troubleshooting, and continuous maintenance. To do so efficiently, technicians need remote access to client devices. Typically, remote control is possible through the Secure Shell (SSH) protocol; the protocol can establish an encrypted MSP-client network connection. Then comes authentication, ensured via public-private key pairs or passwords.
Remote access can also include remote desktop software tools, enabling the MSP to monitor and execute services in real-time in the remote client environment. The best MSP software providers offer cross-platform support for Windows, macOS, and Linux devices.
- Endpoint management
Comprehensive endpoint management software helps MSPs manage every client desktop, laptop, server, and mobile device from a centralized location. Such a solution is suitable for businesses of all sizes and includes numerous service delivery processes:
- Endpoint patch management
- Mobile device management
- Software deployment
- Asset management and asset tracking
- Remote control
- PSA integration
- USB device management
- Device configurations
- Power management
Advantages of MSP software
Dedicated MSP software helps managed service providers with remote monitoring, asset management, endpoint management, cross-platform support, and more. In addition to helpdesk tools and service management, a complete solution can significantly boost MSP efficiency while reducing costs and easing decision-making.
Improved productivity and efficiency
Managing multiple client networks from a single platform saves your technical team significant time tracking dozens of IT operations across target systems. Instead of training new staff members on multiple solutions and juggling different consoles and screens, your specialist teams can focus on important projects and critical issues resolution.
Lower operational costs
Remote access and management solutions eliminate the need for MSPs to visit their clients' offices physically. Instead, they can streamline remote service delivery and design a complex management network to simultaneously satisfy SLAs for multiple clients.
Faster, informed decisions
MSP systems provide real-time data that your technical team can use to identify and prioritize vulnerabilities and remediate problems faster. Moreover, 24/7 access to extensive data streams enables in-depth analysis of future costs and project timelines to help MSPs and their clients grow as a business.
The Best MSP Software — Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud
Client data protection, efficient problem resolution, and quick threat response are crucial for modern managed service providers. MSPs must ensure access to all essential components of a reliable solution to deliver services to businesses of all sizes.
Below, we will explore what Acronis offers for MSPs who want to stay one step ahead of the competition.
Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud integrates backup and disaster recovery, next-gen anti-malware enhanced with machine intelligence, and endpoint protection in a single solution. Integration and automation provide unmatched ease for service providers, while the complete set of Acronis offerings can reduce complexity, increase productivity, and lower operating costs. Key features include:
Cybersecurity. Stay ahead of modern cyber threats with award-winning anti-malware enhanced with anti-ransomware capabilities focused on zero-day threats. The solution will complement your client's antivirus (or the AI-powered Acronis antivirus, should they leverage it), ensure military-grade data encryption, and provide advanced endpoint detection and response features to remediate pesky malware and other cyber threats.
Backup and recovery. Minimize data loss across your clients' infrastructure and workloads with unmatched backup and recovery, available in consumption-based or per-workload licensing models. Moreover, your clients will be able to design a unique backup and recovery plan powered by full, incremental, or differential backups, taken regularly on a flexible schedule to suit their data-handling needs and preferences.
Management. Built-in monitoring and reporting tools can streamline protection management and endpoint provisioning optimally. MSPs can assist multiple clients remotely to assess potential system vulnerabilities and eliminate security gaps. This will also increase visibility and transparency across the entire target network to counter future incidents more efficiently.
Disaster recovery. With Acronis, MSPs can automate disaster recovery processes for specific data-loss scenarios and ensure sensible system recovery to satisfy application interdependencies. Moreover, leveraging backup-based replication of production machines can optimize recovery times and lower service costs compared to other sophisticated solutions. Lastly, your clients can benefit from an immediate off-site failover by switching all production workloads to virtual machines (VMs) in a cloud recovery site to restore business processes after a crash or cyber attack almost instantaneously.
File sync and share. Increase productivity by enabling your clients to create and securely share corporate content from anywhere, anytime, and on any device. You will only get charged for the storage you use. Your clients can also benefit from notarization and eSignature for data validation purposes.
If you want to bring service management to the next level, you can expand your offerings with advanced protection packs:
Advanced Security. The Advanced Security pack extends the endpoint protection capabilities of Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud via enhanced anti-malware protection and sophisticated remediation services. It simplifies deployment, configuration, and management tasks with advanced integration and automation features.
Advanced Security + Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). Acronis Advanced Security + EDR enables MSPs to detect, visualize, and analyze advanced threats and hacking techniques that often evade traditional antivirus tools. Its easy-to-understand interpretation of attacks empowers MSPs to rapidly detect, investigate, respond, remediate, and recover from malicious attacks.
Your clients can streamline otherwise cumbersome investigations via potential incident prioritization, leverage minutes-not-hours analysis powered by automated correlation and AI-based guided attack interpretations, and increase visibility across MITRE ATT&CK® to study incoming attacks in-depth.
Advanced Backup. Paired with Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud, the Advanced Backup pack enables you to extend the cloud backup capabilities your clients need to protect their data proactively.
The pack supports file-level, disk-level, and application backups, as well as workload coverage for Mac, Windows, Linux, Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, VMware, Hyper-V, and more. All backup options are powered by continuous data protection (CDP) to back up data changes upon creation to ensure near-zero RPO and no data loss. Moreover, your clients will benefit from expanded backup support to cover Microsoft SQL clusters, MariaDB, Oracle DB, MySQL, SAP HANA, and Microsoft Exchange clusters. You can also leverage the data protection map to scan target environments and ensure all workloads, applications, users, and files are always protected.
Lastly, MSPs can use the Advanced pack to move backup tasks into VM operations onto another machine to optimize clients' workloads.
Advanced Management. Spend less time juggling solutions and more time focusing on client data, application, and system protection. Combining Advanced Management with our integrated Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud solution streamlines automated patch management and easy work planning to reduce your administrative load.
Advanced Disaster Recovery. The Advanced DR pack can protect clients' workloads when disaster strikes by instantly spinning up systems with cloud-based recovery to restore them anywhere. Adding Advanced Disaster Recovery to Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud can extend your service offerings to the optimal level your clients need in the long run.
Advanced File Sync and Share. The Advanced File Sync and Share pack extends Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud's integrated secure file-sharing capabilities with fully remote notarization, verification, and online signing. Ensure data authenticity and reduce fraud by layering advanced features on top of the essential pay-as-you-go service.
Advanced Data Loss Prevention (DLP). Acronis Advanced DLP empowers your endpoint management strategy with unmatched provisioning and simplicity. It can prevent data loss from clients' workloads on peripheral devices and during network communications to counter human error, system malfunctions, and cyber attacks. With automated, baseline DLP policy generation, you can accurately and efficiently create business-specific policies for each client.
Advanced Email Security. The Advanced Email Security pack, based on Perception Point's unmatched technology, extends Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud's capabilities to block any email-borne threat, including spam, phishing, business email compromise (BEC), advanced persistent threats (APTs), and zero-day attacks, in seconds, before they reach end users and potentially harm your client's network and customers.
Interested in learning more? See what Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud can do for your MSP business today.
Acronis is a Swiss company, founded in Singapore. Celebrating two decades of innovation, Acronis has more than 1,800 employees in 45 locations. The Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud solution is available in 26 languages in over 150 countries and is used by 20,000 service providers to protect over 750,000 businesses.