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SolarWinds’ 'Head Nerds' Chat Line Helps Bottom Line, Partner Says

'We’re getting high-level, technical consulting on some of the toughest problems you’ll face as you are trying to roll out automation,' says David Rounds, CEO of MSP NetEffect.

SolarWinds’ Head Nerds program opened office hours for partners, during which they can talk to experts about automation, operations, security and backup on weekly calls with other MSPs looking for help.

Head Nerds has become a can’t-miss weekly engagement for one MSP.

“It's been invaluable,” said David Rounds, CEO of NetEffect, a Las Vegas-based MSP that has been a SolarWinds partner for 10 years.

NetEffect, which handles some customers in the gaming space and has many businesses that are part of Las Vegas’ 24-hour economy, started incorporating more automation about a year and a half ago so it could increase response time and decrease its number of tickets. Rounds said while it has worked according to plan, the highly complex automation packages can be difficult to manage, which is where SolarWinds has stepped up.

Every week, SolarWinds provides partners with its own in-house automation expert, Marc-Andre Tanguay, for office hours, where solution providers can call in and ask questions about best practices around installing and deploying IT service management.

“Having direct access to people like Marc-Andre where we can say, ‘Hey, we’re having a problem with this. How did this happen?’ and hearing other people’s challenges in trying to deploy automation policies and having direct, consulting-level access to solve some of those problems that aren’t some of the basic stuff is so much easier than putting in a support ticket with any vendor,” Rounds said. “We’re getting high-level technical consulting on some of the toughest problems you’ll face as you are trying to roll out automation.”

Tanguay, who goes by the title Head Automation Nerd, has worked one on one with hundreds of MSPs, helping them create, optimize and employ some of the strongest automation processes in the industry, said Colin Knox, head of community engagement at SolarWinds.

“He will fly out to partner offices and work with them for two days to help them streamline their own automation and help them build a culture of automation and help drive that,” said Knox, who came to SolarWinds after the company bought his documentation tool PassPortal. Knox said he chose to remain with SolarWinds because he believes in what it is doing in its partner ecosystem, particularly around the company’s Head Nerds program.

In addition to Tanguay, there is Head Security Nerd Gill Langston, Head Backup Nerd Eric Harless and Head Operations Nerd Eric Anthony. All of them have experience either as an MSP or have spent years working with MSPs,and understand the needs inside that market, Knox said.

“Some people are calling in to say, ‘Hey, I really need a script that does X, but I don’t have time to build it and I really need it,’” Knox said. “Marc-Andre will write that down and he’ll call them later and say, ‘Here, I wrote that script for you.’ Here it is out of our automation manager. Or they’ll call Gill, who is our Head Security Nerd, and just say, ‘Can you talk to me about how I can protect against X.’ It’s almost like having a counselor there who can give you advice, hear you out, tell you what thousands of other MSPs who we are talking to and benchmarking and working with are doing.”

Rounds said the program has been a boon to his shop, which has come to rely on its advice.

“It is absolutely a differentiator,” he said. “When we started in automation, which is the one we’ve participated in the most, the number of tickets has gone down significantly with automation. The number of tickets our engineers are able to complete has gone up significantly and obviously that brings a lot down to our gross margin by making our staff more efficient.”

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