Level Platforms, SilverBack Spar Over Best Way To Become An MSP

Level Platforms CEO Peter Sandiford said VARs looking to become MSPs should understand that the task is relatively simple and inexpensive. In contrast, Jim Hare, vice president of worldwide sales at SilverBack, said VARs that believe becoming an MSP is simple and inexpensive are "being sold a bill of goods."

At the conference Monday, Level Platforms, Ottawa, introduced version 4.0 of its Managed Workplace MSP-enabling software. Version 4.0 adds an array of new security monitoring features to Managed Workplace and allows for Windows security audits, Sandiford said.

The ability to monitor firewalls, intrusion-detection systems, antivirus software and the performance of storage backup routines are now part of the Managed Workplace feature set.

Sold exclusively through the reseller channel and targeted at the monitoring of end-user environments consisting of between five and 250 clients, Managed Workplace 4.0 is a simple and relatively inexpensive way for a reseller to begin offering managed network monitoring services, Sandiford said.

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"Offering remote monitoring should not be an elite thing," Sandiford said. "Other vendors like SilverBack may make it sound like a big deal, saying things to resellers like, 'Give us $100,000 and you're in the club.' But we only cost $60 per month, and all a customer needs is a Windows server. So that's a thousand bucks for the server and a $60-per-month subscription fee to us."

Level Platforms also offers resellers interested in managed services a free training program called MSP Now, which outlines all a VAR needs to know about offering MSP services, including pricing models and sales training, Sandiford said.

SilverBack's Hare defended the vendor's more expensive and time-consuming approach to becoming an MSP by warning that VARs that take the bait of quick, inexpensive routes are being set up for a fall. "There are guys making promises like Level Platforms and saying that this MSP thing is easy to do, but that's wrong," said Hare.

SilverBack, Billerica, Mass., also on Monday launched its BusinessBuilder Program, a custom, step-by-step development course for VARs looking to add managed, remote network monitoring services to their roster, Hare said.

The BusinessBuilder Program is a six-month engagement that takes a VAR and creates a comprehensive MSP offering based on the VAR's core IT competencies, be they security, network traffic management or other areas of expertise, Hare said.

Applying something similar to a franchise model, the BusinessBuilder program builds data sheets, brochures and even scripts for a VAR's outside sales team, all better preparing the VAR to offer managed services, Hare said.

SilverBack is so confident the program works that BusinessBuilder has a guarantee dropping $10,000 from the $76,500 price tag if a VAR sells 75 of its 150 monitoring licenses within 24 months, he said.

"The reason we came out with this program is, unfortunately, some of our competitors have done some damage to the MSP business trying to add thousands and thousands of partners to a plan that's oversimplified," Hare said.

Both vendors have invited VARs to inquire about their MSP-enabling services and decide for themselves.