SMBs And Managed Services: 5 Key Capabilities For MSPs

Sorting Through The Options

The world of managed services spans a seemingly infinite number of options that MSPs can provide to their customers, with many of those options being based on the particular provider's key expertise and the needs of their respective customers. CRN spoke with Jonathan McCormick, COO of Intermedia, a Mountain View, Calif.-based managed service provider, to learn which ones he thinks are most important for all managed services to be able to support in order to keep their doors open in the current competitive environment.

Data Redundancy

While many people think of data redundancies in the context of natural disasters, such as earthquakes or hurricanes, the need for such capability is often far more localized and specific to individual businesses. One key area in which managed services can solve problems for SMBs involves the ability to maintain redundancies that are frequently tested and validated. This, according to McCormick, is one of the areas where SMBs are frequently having business-threatening experiences.

"Maybe they've got redundant hard drives, and even a standalone tape drive. But in most cases, nobody within the customer ever checks to see if it's still working," he said. "Many people find out the backup system died after the primary system dies, but by then it's too late. Now you're down hard. Small failures become catastrophic because of a lapse in operational details. A managed service provider can replicate the data across multiple layers of redundancy."


"Customers want to be able to allow their people to bring their own devices, but they also need to control their data," said McCormick. "But once they allow that to happen, the corporate data is now on someone else's personal device. MSPs need to have control panels that can be very useful in reducing the risks associated with data walking away. Basic examples include a template that can be pushed to the devices that can increase the level of security. Our template can lock the device after a specified time of unused -- usually about two minutes. But locking it is not enough. It's also important to be able to remotely wipe the device in the event that the unit is lost. BYOD can add a lot of efficiency for your business, but it needs to be handled the right way, and most SMBs aren't especially familiar with how to do that."

IT Growth Planning

It's no secret that most SMBs are not in the business of IT. And since budgets are often very tight, an emphasis on ease-of-use and efficiency is often the key to being able to effectively leverage technology. McCormick recommends that managed service providers develop the necessary flexibility to easily accomplish tasks such as adding or deleting users, onboarding additional applications, and scaling up, or down, infrastructure. Failure to build simplicity into this model can add unnecessary costs to the equation, or leave security exposure caused by leftover user accounts from people who have left the company.

Data Security

Security has emerged as one of the biggest threats to SMBs, and criminals often target SMBs because they are often easier to penetrate and can be frequently used as a front door to access larger targets. Given the constantly evolving threat landscape, keeping up with the risks often requires more focus and expertise than is usually available. Thus, McCormick recommends that managed security services be offered as a means of raising the customers' security game.

"One of the biggest mistakes involves something as simple as not doing the necessary patching," he said. "Oftentimes the biggest exploits and most notable security incidents are traced back to a system that was way behind on patching, or was otherwise not getting security updates. Then the hackers find a way into that system and use it as a launch pad to pull off a bigger exploit. Good security is more than just setting up a firewall. It's important to have proper security capabilities."


Archiving has become increasingly important, especially in today's increasingly litigious society. "Very often, customers will call us and say we need to get a copy of data from over three months ago because there's a lawsuit, an investigation, or something else is going on," McCormick said. "So, archiving services is especially critical for companies needing to defend themselves. Sometimes this capability is even required on a legal basis in order to satisfy compliance requirements, especially if the customer is financial or healthcare-related. So [archiving] is a very solid area for managed service providers."