GFI Building Blocks Program Helps VARs Ramp Up Managed Services


The Building Blocks to Managed Services program is designed to help VARs deal with pricing concerns, set service level agreements and eliminate surprises for both the VAR and its customers, said Doug Wilson, general manager of GFI MAX RemoteManagement for GFI Software.

"We buy into the Warren Buffet [comment] that the human race has a tendency to make simple things complicated. Managed services is a straightforward concept but people have not taken the time to [understand it]," Wilson said. "VARs are looking to hit home runs and take customers from 0 to 60 miles per hour in one fell swoop. We say just get on base. Make clear propositions to wandering break-fix customers, look under their hood, see their systems, build credibility and transition over time. Go for base hits. That's more easily sold vs. home runs."

Many solution providers have a hard time demonstrating the value of managed services to customers and believe that implementing a managed services practice is too difficult or time consuming, according to Wilson. As part of its Building Blocks program, Cary, N.C.-based GFI has compiled a list of three basic steps for several different services stacks including server and networking monitoring, e-mail, continuity and workstation monitoring.

The company has compiled tools and collateral to help VARS transition their customers along each step, Wilson said.

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The first step in server and network monitoring is to perform a simple safety check once a day for two critical systems: antivirus and backup, Wilson said. "We recommend to VARs that for 50 cents to $1 per day they do this. We'll send a small report highlighting small issues. It gets your foot in the door," Wilson said.

The issues are resolved on a break/fix rate schedule, allowing solution providers to bring issues to the surface and get paid to fix them. "The customer can contact you to fix the issues. It's not a business transformation for the VAR. It's not a revolution. But once the customer gets hooked, you can move on to the next building blocks."

The second step is to perform a daily server network health check. A more complex analysis of RAID devices, e-mail systems and network devices also includes a report branded by the VAR highlighting for the end user issues that should be addressed.

"The VAR can say 'you can fix them, otherwise give us a call.' You generate more break/fix income without asking them to transform the business," he said.

A small VAR in the United Kingdom generates $600 per day in additional break/fix revenue through this strategy, Wilson said. "A byproduct is it gets systems into good shape and you're ready to take the last ultimate step to managed services," he said.

The third building block is real-time server networking monitoring. "It's crticial for customers to know about problems right away. If you're monitoring, you can send the customer an alert and depending on the contract you might go in right away. Say if it's an Exchange problem you might be set up to immediately fix and send a bill.

There's still no business revolution at this point. The end customer is hooked in a little tighter and the VAR can see under the hood a little more."

For each step, GFI has collateral, cost calculators, sample contracts and sample Web site text to help solution providers figure out what they can do and for how much. "These building blocks are shaded a little in favor of the VAR [getting more comfortable] than the end customer.

The risks are shaded toward the VAR. If you go in blind without seeing their systems and getting to know that customer, it could be a problem," Wilson said.

GFI also offers a try-before-you-buy program in which MSPs can install the Building Blocks program for up to 35 days at a customer site for free.