This, as someone who works at a vendor, is a tricky topic to navigate. I could be accused of being slightly biased and, indeed, that would be true. I’m putting that to one side as I want to share some tips for MSPs when it comes to working with vendors.
Way back when, I was an MSP. I was really keen to stay up to date by using the latest and greatest products and services. It’s not always easy to find these products and services, but these would be my top tips for choosing top vendors:
I’m a huge advocate of all kinds of events, this could be vendor specific events such as IT Nation Connect, DattoCon, Kaseya Connect IT etc, or more general events such as CompTIA, Ascii or ChannelPro. Even small regional meetups of MSPs, whatever the event, I love them.
Learning and networking are really important, of course, but so is speaking to new vendors. The halls are usually full of vendors eager to speak to you, so it’s a great way to learn about many different solutions in one place. Often, you quite literally get the t-shirt to prove it.
Looking back, most of the solutions I deployed in my MSP came from discussions I had with vendors and peers at events. This is because it’s often the first time I get to see a new solution but perhaps more importantly, I can speak to other MSPs about it and ask how it’s helped them within their business.
Ask Your Peers
We all like to think our own business is special, and I am sure in your case it is. The reality is that 90% of what MSPs do (Service Desk, Proactive Monitoring, Patch Management, etc), in terms of the services they provide and the ways they provide them, is the same from one MSP to another. So take the time to speak to your peers and ask them things like:
- What tools are you using?
- How are you solving a problem?
- What is making your MSPs life easier?
This is a great way to learn about other solutions and, as it should be a two way street, your peers will learn from you too.
Be Socially Aware
Social media has changed the way we communicate. Check out Facebook Groups, LinkedIn, and/or Reddit for advice. Be aware though, not everything is always as it seems. Tell someone that water is wet* on Reddit and you will, surely, read someone saying that it isn’t.
Forums like these are great tools, but, as with most things, discount the most gushing praise and terrible criticism. The truth tends to lie in the middle of these two extremes.
Integration is key of course, so speak to vendors and see how nicely they play with your existing systems. You want to work towards a single version of the truth and ensure your staff doesn’t waste time duplicating entries or jumping between non-related systems, so understanding what integration possibilities exist can be just as important as the new functionality the technology brings to begin with.
So when you ask the vendor about integrations, get into topics such as:
- What is possible now, and what is forthcoming?
- What mechanisms to integrate exist? Are there APIs, out-of-the-box (OOTB) connectors, or both?
- If integrations come OOTB, at what rate are new ones included (and can you influence that roadmap)?
- What is available via integration? Can data be exported (and imported) via integration? Can commands or features be activated (or can this product be used to activate another) via integration with other systems?
Billing – the necessary evil. Too many vendors of MSP tools create invoices that only someone with a PhD in mathematics can understand. A clear and friendly invoicing feature is even more important when you’re looking at a “sell-thru” solution that you offer to your clients.
Spending hours each month trying to reconcile bills from multiple vendors isn’t easy and wastes so much time. So, when evaluating any new solution, ask for a sample of an invoice first – if they can’t provide you with one it may be a sign of difficult times ahead.
I’m honestly not saying this because of my MSP background, but check if the vendor has staff who are familiar with MSPs. Ask if their staff has worked in an MSP or if they have worked for other MSP-focused vendors. This should give you some reassurance that they understand your business.
Try It Out
This is, of course, the most important thing. Try it out! You need to see it working with your own eyes, touch it with your own hands, and you shouldn’t need to sign a contract or expend any money to do this. Most vendors will offer a free trial. And if they offer implementation and training services, take them up on the offer as this will improve your experience with the product.
Of course I’d say JumpCloud ticks all the boxes above. If you don’t believe me, get in touch with our team. We understand MSPs. We are MSPs.
*This is more of a debated question than you might think, don’t go down the rabbit hole I just have on this.