MSPs are facing pressure from conferences, the press and vendors to evolve into MSSPs, even when they don't have the skills to do so, according to Vince Tinnirello, managing director of Denver CO-based MSP Anchor Network Solutions.
Speaking to CPI, Tinnirello noted that market pressure means MSPs are struggling to work out their identity and what route they should be pursuing.
"I think MSPs have to figure out who they are. So much of what they do around decision-making is all the chatter they hear: Oh, should I be an MSSP?', and so they start going down this road. MSPs are struggling and trying to figure out where their place is, and I think that's something that we're all trying to figure out."
The managing director notes that Anchor is not trying to be an MSSP, which he pointed out is a highly specialised career, just like being a web developer or database administrator, for example.
"You had better have the right people on your staff to deliver service that way. It can't be just like, ‘Oh, well we install firewalls, we know antivirus'. No. Do you have any certifications in ethical hacking and do you know how to do penetration tests? It's very, very specific."
The pressure from peer events
One of the major issues is the amount of pressure MSPs are having placed on them in terms of materials they are sent and conferences they attend, Tinnirello said. While vendors bear some of the responsibility, it's conferences that are the real culprit, he said.
"We get sent a roller coaster full of material telling us we should do this or that. You go to a conference, you read about it, and then all of a sudden, the MSP business owner who happens to be a former technician gets enamored with bright, shiny objects and says ‘We should do that', until they figure out that it's not a good fit for them and they don't know how to do it, and they struggle with it. And I think it's pressure from conferences - one in particular."
Along with this, pressure from the media, which Tinnirello said comes in the form of articles describing successful MSP-to-MSSP transitions gives the impression that it's an easy switch that any MSP can do.
"Articles that we're reading in all of the channel magazines highlight an MSP who transitioned successfully, and it gives the impression of ‘Oh, so where's my toolkit, roadmap, blueprint? I just follow these steps and all of a sudden I'll be an MSSP'. So I think it's in front of them a lot."
Pressure from vendors comes third in line, Tinnirello said, with "a little bit of pressure there".
All of this means that MSPs are trying to figure out where they stand when it comes to security, when it would make more sense for the industry to reposition the message for customers to understand the value and importance of security and how and where to spend money on it, Tinnirello said. And for those MSPs who don't have the appropriate expertise, the answer is, of course, partnering with a security specialist who can serve that area of your clients' needs.
Understanding the hybrid model
Elsewhere, Tinnirello said that he has noticed customers are getting past "the cloud buzz" and starting to understand hybrid technology. Microsoft Azure plays its part here, he noted, as it helps customers understand better what the cloud actually means. The "bandwagon" mentality of cloud that was prevalent among customers previously has passed, Tinnirello said, noting that when the MSP used to talk to customers abut cloud, the conversation was often around the client thinking they should be on the cloud "because everyone else is".
"We used to get calls saying ‘I want to move everything to the cloud'. And I'd roll my eyes and say, ‘tell me why'. ‘Because I know this other CPA and they're doing it'. But now they have a better understanding. I think now we've moved past that hype stage to it being seen as another tool in the toolkit, and ‘let's see how it makes our business run more effectively, and does it make sense? And if it does, we'll do it'."
As such, Anchor is keen to move more of its clients to Azure in order to reduce some on-premise risk, but it has to be right for the organization in question. Tinnirello is not looking to stop selling servers any time soon.
"I don't want to stop selling servers for the sake of not selling servers, I want to do what makes sense and where it makes sense to make it better for the customer to reduce their on-premise risk and reduce our cost of support. But we're not setting a goal of converting all clients to Azure by a certain date, we still say business dictates everything."
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