Building a rock-solid MSP tech stack
There are a lot of things to think about when starting or growing your MSP. One important topic that shouldn’t be overlooked is building a rock-solid MSP tech stack.
Illustration: Karthikeyan Ganesh
When we say tech stack, we refer to all the software products that you will use as an organization to manage and monitor, deliver service, document, and more. It also pays dividends to standardize the hardware you use upfront so you can limit the scope of what you’re supporting and allow your staff to become true experts. Here are several essential items every MSP should have that will make them more efficient and profitable.
RMM (Remote monitoring and management)
Solutions for remote monitoring and management are key to efficiency for MSPs. This is a toolset that typically has an agent deployed on every supported workstation. Most RMMs will allow you to automate Microsoft patches and updates. This makes them an essential time-saving solution. In addition, they allow you to easily remote into a machine to give support. You can see all the hardware specs on a particular device and get inventory reporting.
RMMs allow you to monitor the servers and devices you’re supporting on a granular basis. You can typically set it up to monitor just about anything. Offline alerts, HD full past a certain threshold, memory pegged for a certain amount of time, predictive failure alerting, and more.
The best RMM solutions will allow you to use PowerShell scripting to manage an entire organization or globally for all your supported machines. This can be an absolute lifesaver when critical security patches are found and need to be rolled out globally.
There are a million more uses for them as well. You can deploy software via script to an entire organization or globally. You can manage local administrator credentials. Some RMMs will even allow you to access the command prompt while the user is still on the machine. This allows you to fix certain issues without interrupting their work.
PSA (Professional services automation)
A quality PSA is another critical tool for MSPs. This is really the life-breath of the service department. PSAs are where you keep track of client help tickets and projects. Your technicians can make notes on resolutions and log time spent for each client resolving problems.
Many PSA allow you to attach SLAs and workflows to incoming tickets. This allows you to set it up so that when a ticket goes unresolved past a threshold, you set it will notify management. In fact, you can set a workflow rule to continue to escalate and notify different individuals until the issue is resolved. This gives you much higher visibility into the level of service being provided and allows you to ensure that your team is meeting SLA.
PSA generally has tight integration with your RMM, and alert tickets flow directly from one to the other so they can be worked efficiently.
Many PSA will also handle billing and even have some sales forecasting and marketing functions built into them.
Most MSPs will have a solution in place for documentation. This works best when it’s in a web-based solution that can be easily shared with your whole team. Each client should have a minimum set of documentation that is required when they get onboarded. This typically includes the location of all network devices, configurations, passwords, client-specific software, office 365 settings, and more.
Your team should be educated on how to create knowledge base articles and keep documentation up to date. As they change passwords or other items on a clients’ network, they should update the documentation so that it’s usable for the rest of the team.
The very best documentation systems will also have integration with your RMM and PSA. Some even have the capability to auto-update your documentation when a configuration changes on a specific device. Look at features like this as well as ease of adoption when making your selection.
Mature MSPs will also want to look at a solution for reporting and dashboarding. Most PSA and RMM tools have some reporting built-in. However, they frequently aren’t in a pretty format you can present to your clients. Manually building reports can take your staff a TON of time. Make their lives easier by finding a good tool for reporting and dashboarding that integrates with your RMM/PSA tools.
Another thing that you should be thinking about is standardizing your hardware stack. Pick a manufacturer and sell only their gear if possible. This allows you to have more buying power and make better margins, but it also allows your staff to become deep experts on the hardware you recommend.
Standardize your software solutions as well. Pick one supported email solution. (Hint: it should be office 365) Research and select a standard stack for security. Firewalls, perimeter protection, endpoint protection, and more should be standard. It can get unwieldy to sell different products to different clients. It makes it difficult to bill, support, and make a profit off. Work to find the best solutions and implement them across the board for your clients.
To sum up
There are a lot of tools that can help you to be a successful and efficient MSP. They can increase your bottom line if you implement them correctly and save you a ton of time. Look closely for the right fit when you pick RMM, PSA, documentation, reporting, hardware, and security solutions. Keep the future in mind and know that investing time upfront to pick the right stack will pay dividends later.