From The Editor | November 18, 2011

Where MSPs Go To Grow: IT Nation 2011

Jay McCall casual

By Jay McCall, networking and managed services editor

Orlando, FL – Last week's IT Nation show was the perfect event to mark my return to covering the channel. One thing that stood out to me right away about this show is that the attendees were there to learn and grow their businesses. This was not a lifestyle-VAR-friendly event. I started getting this vibe about the show on the plane ride to the event, where I sat next to Al MacKinnon, VP of Business Software Solutions at Protek Systems, an IT solutions provider based in Ontario. MacKinnon was going to this show with one goal in mind: to select the right PSA (professional services automation) solution for his business. He already had it narrowed down to two choices – ConnectWise and one other. He felt the show would give him key access to ConnectWise's executive team, not to mention the PSA's channel partners.

On the opening night of the show, I ran into Doug Elliot, general manager at NMGI (Network Management Group Inc.). NMGI is part of an HTG peer group (http://www.htgpeergroups.com), which, per the organization's site is group of 6-12 like-minded IT company leaders who meet quarterly in non-competitive environment to network and discuss issues specific to each member's concerns as a company owner, president, or manager. "The accountability is what makes it so valuable," says Elliott. "Our business is up seven points over last year, which I felt pretty good about. But, at our HTG peer group meeting earlier today, our peers challenged us that we should be having twice the success than we are now."

While at the show, I met with several RMM (remote monitoring and management), BDR (backup and disaster recovery), networking, and security vendors. Here is a highlight of what I learned (in the chronology I met with each vendor).

OS33 – IT-as-a-Service delivery platform for MSPs. Recently, the company announced OS33 Cloud Drive, a technology that creates a unified file system by bringing together storage from different private and public cloud technologies. I spoke with Alex Osipov, CTO of OS33 at the show and got his insights on what MSPs were looking for at this year's show: how they can make the move to the cloud. Here is a 2-minute video clip of my interview with Osipov.

SonicWALL – Networking and security vendor, well known in the SMB market. SonicWALL wants you to know two things: 1.) It has a viable offering for the enterprise, not just the SMB market (and it has partners that are winning enterprise size deals. Stay tuned for more details on that topic). 2.) It has an MSP Advantage Program, which you can learn more about in my interview with SonicWALL Sr. Director of NA Channels Vince Massey.

Intronis – Online BDR vendor. Intronis' challenge to MSPs that are deciding among the dozens of cloud BDR options is to consider "Manhours Per Gigabyte," which MSPs can determine via a simple calculation tool found here. I also interviewed a couple of Intronis' partners to get their take on the process of selecting and selling a cloud backup solution. Click here to check out this podcast.

Datto – BDR and business continuity vendor. At the show I spoke with Shannon Kohn, general relations and marketing director at Datto, about their SIRIS business continuity solution, which earned the vendor a Best New Product award at The ASCII Group's Chicago and Boston events held earlier this year.

Just prior to the event, I interviewed Austin McChord, CEO of Datto and Brandon Nordquist, Co-founder & VP of product management at StoreageCraft Technology Corp. about how their partnership benefits their resellers. You can listen to this interview here. Finally, don't forget to check out "The World's Most Backed Up Man," Datto's version of Dos Equis' most interesting man.

Symantec – Backup and security vendor. I met with Monica Girolami, director, SMB product marketing and Dal Gemmel, principal product manager, SMB and Symantec.cloud at Symantec. They discussed their new managed service provider strategy. Girolami and Gemmell talked about Symantec's commitment to providing service providers with trusted solutions and flexible deployment options through a new and expanded integration with RMM (remote monitoring and management) platforms and new cloud-based offerings (e.g. Symantec.cloud). You can get more details here.

GFI Software – Backup, security, and network monitoring vendor. I stopped by GFI's booth and spoke with Bob Lawson, product marketing director at GFI Software who gave me an update on their Monitis acquisition, which he said has been four to five years in the making. Shortly after my interview with Lawson, we discussed an upcoming webinar related to the topic of trends happening in the managed services space. Below is a description and a link to sign up.

In this webinar, MSP Industry Visionaries Bob Godgart and Jay McBain will report on the trends that will shape the MSP landscape over the next three years. With trends such as mobility, cloud, consumerization and convergence rapidly accelerating, MSPs are facing an environment including hundreds of new emerging vendors, dozens of new technologies, and a threat to their business model at the same time. Hear where the money is, what secret game software vendors play, and how you can position yourself to win. Click here to sign up.

Symform – BDR vendor. While visiting Symform's booth, I met with Margaret Dawson, VP of marketing who explained how Symform is different from other BDR vendors. Think bit torrent. Symform uses RAID 96 to divide blocks of data into 96 fragments which it encrypts and stores in multiple distributed storage environments. "We also offer unlimited cloud storage for a low flat fee as opposed to a cost per gigabyte model," says Dawson.

CharTec – BDR vendor. While at the show I met with CEO Alex Rogers who talked about how CharTec helps MSPs differentiate themselves from their competitors. "After talking to literally hundreds of service providers…they all have one thing in common -- they all sound like everybody else in the market," says Rogers. "They're telling me how great their people are, they're telling me how great their services are, and how great their products are. When there's two, three, or four competitors all presenting to the same CEO or CFO at a prospect company, they're all sounding the same." During our interview, Rogers offered a few tips for MSPs to stand out from their competitors.

Zenith RMM – RMM vendor. I met with Michael George, CEO and Steve Ricketts, VP of marketing at the show who explained that Zenith RMM differentiates itself from other RMM vendors by automating more of the ‘management' tasks associated with RMM. "We're the only true RMM," says George. "We own the NOC [network operation center] where our partners store their customers' data, and our IntelliMonitoring system not only identifies server problems based on monitoring multiple server metrics, it automatically fixes many problems that other RMMs can't." This differentiator is what George and Ricketts say accounts for Zenith partners being able to grow their business profitability 8- to 10-fold without having to hire more people.

eFolder – BDR vendor. This vendor makes a compelling point about recovering data that other vendors didn't emphasize: ensuring that the recovered data is still good before you actually need to recover it. According to Jan Spring, VP of channel development at eFolder, there is a dirty little secret in the storage world known as "silent data corruption." This situation can be caused by bad memory, bad disks, or other anomalies that result in CRC errors when a data restore is attempted. "Our service includes constant monitoring and comparing of the original data with the backed up data to ensure the data maintains its integrity at all times," says Spring.

Axcient – BDR vendor. I caught up with Justin Moore, CEO of Axcient at the show who shared with me that Axcient is adding 15 TB of data capacity per day to the cloud and is projected to grow by 400% this year. "We will change data protection forever," says Moore. Shortly after the show, Axcient announced a partnership with LabTech, an RMM vendor. Here's more info on how Axcient Cloud Continuity Makes Downtime for SMBs A Thing of the Past.

Quest Software – RMM vendor. I spoke with Elisabeth Buford, director of marketing and Mike Byrne, director of MSP at Quest Software. Quest distinguishes itself from other RMM vendors by pricing its service via a flat client license model rather than the typical model, which includes a cost per node. "In addition to offering our partners a simpler, less costly service, we also provide them with deeper insights into what's happening in their customers' networks," says Byrne. "For example, if an end customer's network experiences a spike in bandwidth usage, our solution alerts MSPs about the root cause – whether it's someone spending time on Facebook, downloading a video, or doing something else that could be against the end customer's policy."

Level Platforms – RMM vendor. My final meeting at the show was with Peter Sandiford, CEO of Level Platforms. By this time at the show, I felt like there was no way Level Platforms could be different from the half a dozen other RMM vendors I had met with earlier. I was wrong again. Sandiford explained to me that most RMM providers use agents to capture information and report on hardware performance within a data center or work station environment. Level Platforms uses agentless technology, which Sandiford believes is the way of the future. "With agentless technology, our service communicates with devices on the network at the IP address level," he says. "This is the best way to monitor services that are moving to the cloud, and it opens up opportunities to monitor additional types of hardware such as cell phones and other mobile devices."

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