How MSPs Can Leverage the Power of Platform Integration to Grow, Thrive, and Profit
The typical managed service provider (MSP) faces a daunting array of obstacles to building a successful, sustainable, and profitable business. With so many providers offering basic break/fix IT services, MSPs need differentiated offerings to stand out. It’s also hard to effectively scale the business, generating enough growth to keep ahead of customer churn as well as capacity and management issues to meet service level agreements (SLAs). Cybersecurity has also emerged as a massive opportunity for the MSP sector. Customers are crying out for help fighting an ongoing surge in cyberattacks like ransomware, bridging the cybersecurity skills gap in their own IT operations, and securing a suddenly predominantly work-from-home (WFH) employee base in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To meet these challenges, MSPs must squeeze efficiencies out of their existing tech infrastructure and staff – even as they add new services. Acronis believes the key to this effort is a broad-based leveraging of integration and automation.
We’ve outlined the opportunities to MSPs in deploying broader suites of cyber protection services as well and tactics to address the accompanying integration challenges in a new white paper titled The Five Levels of MSP Platform Integration. Here’s a brief preview.
The power of integration
Many MSPs have built a multi-service offering slowly over time, cobbling together a patchwork of service delivery infrastructure from a collection of disparate vendors. The resulting lack of integration adds complexity, carries high costs, and inhibits service expansion. Meanwhile, cybersecurity services have emerged as an obvious lucrative path to MSP growth and profits. In a world awash in cyberthreats, most small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are desperate for help in fighting extortion, theft of sensitive information, downtime, and data loss.
Integration, greater interconnectedness, and cooperation across discrete tech infrastructure and business elements yield obvious cost reductions in capital equipment and operator efficiency. Automation technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and security orchestration are likewise emerging as essential tools, especially in order to keep pace with cybercriminals that are now using them, too.
Bolting on a few cybersecurity point products to an existing MSP service suite yields infrastructure heterogeneity, resulting in inefficiencies and resource conflicts that only get worse with the addition of each new service.
Acronis believes that to avoid these obstacles, MSPs must address five challenges of integration and automation at the operational and technological level.
1. Business integration
Cyber protection services that combine data protection with cybersecurity services are obviously attractive, but they only become profitable if they can mesh neatly with existing business systems. MSPs need to replace suites of services built on heterogeneous infrastructure from multiple vendors with a common, integrated service delivery platform that simplifies bundling, works with existing back-office systems and collapses the number of vendors to be managed.
2. User interface (UI) integration
The UI integration challenge is simple: more panes of glass equals higher training costs for techs, more complexity for them to manage, a greater chance that critical alerts will be missed, and the inefficiency of non-reusable skills for each technology. MSPs need an integrated management console with a uniform user interface that supports a common workflow across the services suite.
3. Management integration
Adding new services requires corresponding management elements to provision, remotely monitor and manage, trouble-ticket, patch and upgrade, and bill for them. Lack of integration with remote monitoring and management (RMM), professional services automation (PSA), and third-party cybersecurity products lead to costly manual operations and limits service expansion.
MSPs need to unify the management of policy, auditing, access, and privacy controls, and couple it with extant provisioning, ticketing, alerting, and RMM systems. Ideally, further integration can be achieved via APIs and integration points that enable the use of custom security controls.
4. Product integration
The dream of many MSPs is the ability to deliver new services via software enablement, like downloading a new app to a smartphone or flipping a toggle on a management console. Without it, adding new services becomes increasingly complex, inefficient, and costly for IT staffs to manage.
The answer here is a single platform that enables delivery of a complete set of cyber protection services: backup, disaster recovery (DR), file sync and share, anti-virus, anti-malware, vulnerability assessment, patch management, and a diverse range of storage targets simply by enabling them in the operator console.
5. Technology integration
Remotely managing a suite of services on VMs, servers, desktops and mobile devices can lead to the proliferation of local management agents. This results in adverse performance impact on endpoints, interoperability, and resource conflicts between agents, lack of integrated alerting and reporting, and inability to jointly exploit automation technologies like AI, ML, and security orchestration.
The solution is to rely on a single, multi-function agent on the endpoint to manage a range of cyber protection services and leveraging automation features.
The march toward MSP integration is inevitable, with benefits to providers and customers alike. Acronis is helping its MSP partners leverage the power of platform integration and thereby enabling:
- Reduced customer cybersecurity business risk, data loss, and downtime
- Lower vendor and technology management costs
- Leveraging of AI, customer self-service, and other automation features for better business results
- Flexible bundling of packages of services
Want to learn how you can take advantage of the Five Levels of MSP Platform Integration in your own MSP business? You can read the full white paper in the Acronis Resource Center. Or, for a more hands-on experience, try a complimentary 30-day trial of Acronis Cyber Cloud, our service provider platform that delivers a full range of cyber protection solutions.