Posts Tagged 'GFI Max'

Interview with Autotask CEO, Mark Cattini

One of the keynote speakers at last weeks GFI Max UK User Conference was Autotask CEO, Mark Cattini.

Cattini took over as CEO at Autotask in November, 2010 and since that time the company has begun implementing a global strategy which has included opening a UK office which now employs some ten full-time staff, an Australian, Chinese and Indian office, and the announcement that it is localising it’s PSA tool with translations into six different languages – German, Mandarin Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. It’s hard not to believe that more translations are on the drawing board too.

This blog has a fair proportion of readers in Europe, and in recent weeks I’ve received a fair number of e-mails from MSP’s and aspiring MSP’s in the French and German market who have been asking me about Autotask’s plans for localisation. I’d go as far as to say these markets have been screaming out for a localised PSA product, thus the excitement at the announcement.

I was fortunate enough to sit down at the GFI Max Conference with Cattini to chat at length about how he sees the international MSP marketplace, and to record a video to specifically get his overview on the localisation of the Autotask PSA tool.

Interview with Mark Cattini, Autotask CEO

Thanks for Mark Cattini for sharing his time and recording our short video interview – very much appreciated.

Exciting times in the European MSP market! Will you be taking advantage of the localisation of Autotask? Let me know your thoughts either in the comments below or by getting in touch.

 

Richard Tubb is an IT Business Consultant who works with ambitious IT companies who want to grow their businesses in a scalable and sustainable way. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the elected chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him atrichard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Take a look at MSPComparison.com

I’m often asked for my opinion of the tools of the trade for Managed Service Providers. Which RMM tool do I recommend? What do I think of this PSA  versus that PSA product? What Mail Filtering vendor would I use?

The fact is, I’ve got experience using many of the tools available to MSP’s – and have my own preferred products and vendors amongst them. I will happily share my opinion on what I think the pro’s and con’s are of all the tools I’m aware of are, but when offering this opinion to somebody looking at investing in such a tool for their Managed Service Practice, I always suggest they speak to their peers for feedback also.

Nothing beats hearing the real-world feedback of other businesses in a similar position to your own.

MSPComparison.com LogoWith that thought in mind, I’m delighted to have been asked to be a part of the Managed Service Expert Panel over at MSPComparison.com, a site that I hope will help to educate MSP’s about the options for tools available to them.

MSPcomparison.com is intended to be an independent product directory site, which provides Managed Service Providers the ability to compare and contrast solutions from user ratings and reviews.

The site was founded by James Fletcher, who is an employee of CentraStage, themselves an MSP Vendor. After speaking with a lot of MSP’s across the UK, and understanding their need to research and evaluate the products they need within their business, James decided he would setup the site to help MSP’s find the right solution – even if it isn’t the solution he’s selling!

I wouldn’t have agreed to contribute to the site myself if I didn’t think it was vendor neutral – and so far we’ve had reviews of all manner of products from contributors – speaking openly and honestly about the products they use, and like… or dislike!

The site is community driven, so the more members who join and participate, the more useful the site is to all.

If you’re an MSP of any shape or size – check out MSPComparison.com and get involved!

 

Richard Tubb is an IT Business Consultant who works with ambitious IT companies who want to grow their businesses in a scalable and sustainable way. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the elected chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

How Smartphone Users See Each Other

I’ve had a ton of feedback from iPhone, Android and Windows Phone fans about my blog post on my Mobile Phone experiment.

I was wrong when I said that this reminded me of the days of the Atari vs Commodore “format wars”. This is much more intense! People are *really* passionate about their mobile ‘phone O/S of choice!

Alistair Forbes, General Manager at GFI Max sent me this cartoon (courtesy of www.csectioncomics.com) which I think sums up what people really think of other Smartphone users! Smile

 

How Smartphone Users See Each Other

 

For what it’s worth – two days in to the first phone of the experiment (an iPhone) and I’m *loving* the wide variety of apps, but am getting irritated by the flaky Bluetooth support and relatively poor battery life. More soon…

 

Richard Tubb is an IT Business Consultant who works with ambitious IT companies who want to grow their businesses in a scalable and sustainable way. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the elected chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Looking at Managed Anti-Virus for MSP’s

Last year I gave a series of presentations to a number of SMB IT User Groups about my belief that one of the keys to growing a successful IT Managed Service Provider (MSP) is to move away from the “big bang” model, and to instead be looking for recurring revenue opportunities.

Never is this more apparent than with Anti-Virus products.

Weekly World News paper headline "Computer Virus Spreads to Humans!"I know I’m not alone in saying that managing and maintaining Annual Anti-Virus renewals is a chore. You’ve got numerous problems, not least of which is the admin overhead of expanding the Anti-Virus (AV) license when a new workstation or user is added to a client’s network. Sending multiple invoices throughout the year with Pro-Rata costs for new licenses is a chore, and worse, if pro-rata *isn’t* available from your AV Vendor of choice, you’ve got a whole heap of licenses with different expiry dates to manage.

From a clients perspective, Annual AV renewals are a pain because they are inflexible. With the economic downturn of recent years, I’ve seen MSP clients who were reluctant to sign-off on an Anti-Virus renewal for x amount of licenses because their gut-feeling was that in 3 months time they’d actually only need x minus 3 licenses, due to reductions in staffing. As the MSP you get into that sticky situation where you’re chasing the client to renew their license renewal in order to keep their network safe, but the client themselves are in no hurry to sign off.

Then there is the fact that traditionally Anti-Virus Vendors offer juicy incentives to new clients to lure their business away from competitors. Your client approaches you to say he’s seen an offer for Anti-Virus that is half their current Anti-Virus renewal rate – and you have to spend time trying to persuade them to stick with the solution they’ve already got.

So it’s fair to say that Annual Anti-Virus contracts are typically are a chore, for both MSP and client.

Then there is the actual Anti-Virus product itself. Many products are not aimed at the MSP market. For years, AVG Anti-Virus was one of my MSP’s favourite products for the Small Business market, because it was aggressively priced and reliable. But as we added more and more MSP clients the reality struck us that we were doing a lot of remote administration across a variety of admin interfaces – very inefficient. Wasn’t there any way to administer all of these clients sites from a central console? With AVG, the answer was sadly no.

The Anti-Virus product any MSP chooses to work with nowadays should be fully multi-tenanted. In other words, you should be able to manage as many functions of the product as possible (starting virus scans, dis-infecting files, responding to alerts) from a single interface covering all your clients, rarely having to remotely connect to a clients server through Remote Desktop or a similar tool to perform functions.

So as an MSP you want a multi-tenanted Anti-Virus product that does not bill on an Annual basis.

The solution is a rolling Anti-Virus contract with an MSP aware AV Vendor. My own MSP moved away from annual renewals to monthly recurring contracts around two years ago, and life became much easier – both from a technical management and an administration perspective.

Trend Micro LogoAt that time we moved on to using Trend Worry Free Business Security under the Trend xSP model. Put simply, Trend provided us with a license code which enabled us to install to as many end-points as we chose, be they workstations, servers or machines that were off the main company network – very useful if the Managing Director or his family want their home computers covered and managed by their MSP!

Each month, we would bill the client for the number of licenses that they had used. If a client added or removed machines during a month, the number of licenses for the following month would be amended appropriately.

Once a Quarter, we reported back to Trend on the number of licenses we had used during that quarter – and paid our bill appropriately.

From our perspective as an MSP, we were never laying down cash for AV renewals on behalf of our clients because we’d already received payment from our client on a monthly basis. We didn’t have to pay the Vendor for their licenses until the end of a Quarter, we were much more efficient from an administrative perspective, and we made a tidy profit to boot.

I’m also a believer in the more line items you have on the monthly invoice you send to a client, the “stickier” you are likely to be with that client. Always be letting the client know the reality of the wide variety of work you do for them every month, to help them understand the value in your relationship with them.

From the clients perspective, they had the flexibility of only paying for what they used and as they paid monthly they didn’t have to suffer the “big bang” of annual Anti-Virus renewals.

What’s more, as an MSP working with a MSP savvy Vendor in Trend, we were given a single web interface (Trend Worry Free Remote Manager) that allowed us to be much more efficient about managing our client machines from a Technical perspective. From that web interface our engineers could respond to Virus alerts, remotely kick-off virus scans, amend AV engine settings and monitor the status of dozens of client sites from a single location.

The product wasn’t perfect, by any means. As an MSP we were not alone in becoming used to experiencing issues with Trend’s “Smart Scan” function which seemed to kill certain machines performance. There was still a need to remotely connect to clients servers to perform certain tasks which we’d have preferred to have completed centrally, and deployment still required work on the client site too. We’d also have liked the Anti-Virus reporting to have fed back to our PSA Tool (ConnectWise) to enable alerts to be managed through a single interface and reports to be delivered to our clients in a single uniform fashion – but these points aside, it was fair to say that Anti-Virus management with a Managed AV product such as Trend Worry Free Business Security was infinitely easier and more profitable than with traditional AV products.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to have a play GFI’s new Managed Anti-Virus offering – which integrates into their RMM tool, GFI Max.

GFI Max LogoGFI Managed Anti-Virus (MAV) has caused quite a stir in the MSP community since it’s release a few weeks ago, with lots of chatter on LinkedIn and Twitter about it.

The killer feature here is integration. If you’re an MSP running GFI Max as your Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tool, that word “integration” is very significant!

imageGFI Managed AV is built on the Vipre Anti-Virus product, produced by Sunbelt Software. GFI acquired Sunbelt and the Vipre product in July 2010, and have been working on incorporating Vipre into their Managed Service Provider range since.

The product is priced aggressively, and MSP’s can bill their clients on a monthly basis for the product and receive payment from the client before GFI ask for their license payment.

Tracking license usage is very simple thanks to GFI Max’s strong reporting features. There’s no danger of an engineer deploying to a new workstation and your billing department forgetting to invoice – everything is automatically tracked.

From a technical perspective – rather than go over the features the GFI Managed Anti-Virus brings to the table, here’s a short video of the product that managed to sneak it’s way onto YouTube ahead of the actual product launch recently.

GFI Managed Anti-Virus

There are still some features that I’m sure MSP’s would very much like to see – for instance, there is rarely a MSP client who doesn’t already have an AV product installed, so a tool to automatically remove existing AV products before deploying MAV would be a boon. That said, many GFI Max users have already created scripts deployed through GFI Max to automate some of that process, and I understand the Developers at GFI are working on an official tool to achieve the same goal.

But the real benefits are seen in on-going management terms. Rather than you or your engineers having a separate interface to visit to manage AV (such as Trend Worry Free Remote Manager) they simply visit the GFI Max Dashboard and use the same familiar interface to deal with Virus Threat alerts, Scan Results and Virus Quarantine.

GFI Max Dashboard Anti-Virus Features

All issues and alerts are reported into this central dashboard, which means they can automatically get raised (and closed) as tickets within your PSA tool of choice – ConnectWise or Autotask.

The ability to set Anti-Virus Policies centrally is a time-saver, both in terms of setting up and the amount of on-going maintenance it minimises. I’ve seen many MSP’s who struggle to uniformly deploy AV using the same policies (such as directories to exclude from File Scans, etc). MAV uses a hierarchy similar to Active Directory, so you can amend policies at the Client, Server or Workstation level – but easily use a standard set of policies across multiple deployments.

The reason I’ve always personally been a very vocal raving fan of GFI Max is the simplicity of their products. As a very small MSP, there simply wasn’t time for me to take deep-dives into products before I started using them. As my MSP grew in size, I wanted engineers to hit the ground running rather than having to be extensively trained in a product. The GFI Max Dashboard is easy to learn and use, and now that ease of use has been made available for an Anti-Virus product too.

Whilst I’ve traditionally been a huge fan of “Best of Breed” for MSP’s when choosing products to deploy at their client sites, I’m rapidly warming to the idea of having many products within a single dashboard for the efficiencies it provides. What’s more, whilst I’ve no prior experience using Vipre as a stand-alone product so am still learning about it’s weaknesses, I’d be stunned if I found any other AV that was so much better than Vipre that I’d be persuaded to use it in preference to those integrated features we’ve covered.

If you’re an MSP using GFI Max as your RMM tool, then MAV is going to be a no-brainer for you to adopt. The benefits of having AV in the same interface your engineers are used to is the killer feature.

If you’re an MSP with no RMM tool currently in place, then MAV may persuade you to adopt GFI Max. You’re probably already frustrated with having multiple interfaces for all those different AV’s, and using MAV quickly kills that frustration off.

If you’re using a competing RMM tool such as Kaseya or Zenith Infotech which already has an AV bolted into to it, then you’re probably happy with it (and have invested a lot of time into getting it working as you like it) so I’d actually urge you not to check out GFI MAV for fear of becoming envious.  Smile

The bottom line here is that if you’re an MSP or IT Support provider using a variety of Anti-Virus products across many client sites, typically on an Annual Renewal basis – then you’re probably not making life easy for yourself. Problems with billing, problems with administration, problems with maintenance.

Standardising on a product, especially one that is multi-tenanted and MSP friendly, brings many efficiency benefits and starts to help you to increase your recurring revenue stream.

 

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to enable them to feel more in control and to grow their business. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Trust 30 Challenge

Last week I was fortunate enough to be asked by GFI Max to deliver a webinar to over 200 IT companies on my thoughts for using Social Networking in Business (If you missed the live webinar, it’s now available to view again at the MSP Business Management web-site).

There were a flood of really interesting questions from the participants, but none more so than around the topic of blogging.

I suggested that the benefit of blogging to me was less about reaching lots of people with my message, but more about me growing better at delivering my message. By learning how to positively express my thoughts and ideas through blog articles, I feel I have become a better boss, a better public speaker, a better salesmen and perhaps even a better party guest!

As Seth Godin puts it in this brilliant video with Tom Peters, “If you’re good at it (blogging) then people will start reading it. If you’re not good at it, then stick with it and you’ll get good at it".

This thought apparently struck a chord with a number of people who attended the webinar who wrote to me to say they’d been sitting on the fence with regards to blogging, but were now thinking again about getting started.

The response that brought the biggest smile to my face was from AstoldbyGel who was inspired enough by our webinar to start blog writing, and posted this blog post to explain why.

But I received many more e-mails saying that whilst they could see the benefits of blogging, they felt they had nothing to write about, or that they couldn’t see how they’d find the time to write. I understand, because I’ve been there too.

Front Cover of "Self Reliance" book by Ralph Waldo EmersonIf you’re one of those people, then serendipity strikes – check out #Trust30.

#Trust30 is an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your now, and to create direction for your future. 30 prompts from inspiring thought-leaders will guide you on your writing journey.”

The #Trust30 initiative is brought to you by The Domino Project and features a “Pledge” that I think will help get those people who wrote to me about hesitating to blog, get started.

The Pledge Details

  1. The #Trust30 challenge starts at 6am ET on May 31st and runs for 30 days.
  2. Each day we’ll post a prompt from an original thinker and doer on RalphWaldoEmerson.me. You can also sign-up for daily emails.
  3. Fill out the short form here to commit to participating in the #trust30 online initiative.
  4. Blog, journal, or create something on each of the 30 days.
  5. Tweet using the hashtag #trust30 to show your support and involvement.

I’ve signed up to #Trust30, and I’ll be doing my best to generate as many new blog articles in the next 30 days as is possible.

I hope you’ll join me in doing the same! If you do so, please let me know so I can let others know about your work! Smile

 

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to enable them to feel more in control and to grow their business. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Social Networking vs Traditional Networking

Statue of Shaking Hands

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with Clare Tucker of Birmingham based The Vocational Marketing Academy (VMA). Clare is a highly qualified and experienced Corporate Marketing professional, and after picking her brains on all things Marketing, our conversation turned to Social Networking vs Traditional Networking. Clare expressed frustration that so many people in business are missing a trick because they don’t understand the benefits of Social Networking, or that they think it’s a replacement for Traditional Networking. Clare understood that the two work hand-in-hand.

For the past couple of years or more, I too have spent a good deal of time talking with business owners about Social Networking. I’ve found that those I speak to typically fall into one of three categories:-

  • “I know I should be doing it, but I don’t have the time”
  • “I’m not sure I understand why I should be doing it”
  • “I’m not doing it. It’s a waste of time.”

Those who say they “don’t have time” often regret saying it to me, as I start breathlessly rambling on about tools and techniques for using Social Networking. I typically stop when I see the glazed look in their eyes.

Those who say “It’s a waste of time” – I change the subject. Engaging this individual in a conversation about Social Networking and I may as well talk about either Politics or Religion, all three topics are going to be equally as fun to discuss.

But the majority of the people fall into the second category, “I’m not sure I understand why I should be doing it”. What’s more, people in this category often cite the fact that they already spend a lot of time doing “traditional” networking – attending groups like BNI, the Chamber of Commerce and other local face-to-face business networking groups.

Spending time doing traditional networking is fantastic. People do business with people they like, and face-to-face networking builds up trust and respect. But when I ask traditional networkers what their “system” for building relationships with new people they’ve met, and maintain existing relationships between face-to-face networking events is… they often confess that they’ve got a lot of business cards on their desk gathering dust that they must get round to doing something with.

For me, this is where Social Networking comes in. I have written before about the process I use for collecting Business Cards, and it heavily involves linking up with people I’ve met in the “real world” via Social Networking to aid in continuing the conversation. We connect on LinkedIn, I start a conversation with them on Twitter, or in some cases, we friend on Facebook.

I consider myself a person to whom relationships are very important, so I spend a lot of time meeting with people and keeping in touch with others via the telephone – but I know I’m not alone when I regularly think of somebody, or a persons name comes up in conversation and I say “I’ve been meaning to catch-up with them”.

Social Networking is a great way for passively keeping in touch with people. If somebody is an active user of Social Networking then you can let people know what you’re up to, add value to conversations, share information of mutual interest, and much more. If they aren’t an active Social Networking user, you can still keep in touch with them quickly and easily via e-mail – sending a link via e-mail with a note saying “I thought you might be interested in this article I wrote/found/had passed on to me” is not time consuming, but maintains the relationship between ‘phone calls or meetings.

It works in reverse too. If you spend all of your time doing Social Networking, just like spending all of your time doing traditional networking – you’ll get some results, but you’re missing an opportunity to take things further.

There are many a relationship that I’ve built solely through Social Networking – where I’ve found people via their blog, Twitter, or visa-versa, and which I then take to the next level by organising a meet up at a face-to-face business networking event.

It all comes down the individual you’re dealing with. Some prefer regular face-to-face or telephone calls, some prefer social networking – but whatever their preference – having the right tools to stay in touch with them is paramount.

In conclusion, for me the argument of Social Networking vs Traditional Networking is a non-starter – it’s all just …networking!

Two quick plugs – if you’re interested in hearing more about my thoughts on networking or want some tips on techniques for either traditional networking or social networking then register for my webinar “Finding customers by Networking”, hosted in conjunction with GFI Max, which takes place on Thursday 28th April at 4pm GMT (12pm EDT). Hope to see you there!

Secondly – Clare at The VMA has made available to download a free  Marketing training Module entitled “Traditional vs New Marketing”. Go grab it!

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to enable them to feel more in control and to grow their business. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

IT Distributors – Box Shifters, or Value Additions?

This week I was given the opportunity to speak at the GFI Max Distributor Conference in Dundee, Scotland – presenting to a large group of IT Distributors from across Europe. My presentation was given from the perspective of IT Companies and MSP’s, with the goal of helping Distributors understand the challenges these companies face and the opportunities Distibutors (or Disti’s, as we typically refer to them as) have to build relationships with them.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that my experiences with Disti’s in the UK has been far from a positive one. As the former owner of a small Managed Service Provider, Distributors typically weren’t interested in building a strong win/win relationship with my company – the volume of sales we put their way simply wasn’t high enough, and they offered scant support to help us grow our business. To us they were simply Middle-Men who added nothing in value to our business.

There were, of course, exceptions – we had superb Account Managers at a couple of UK Distributors who we subsequently did lots of business with and recommended to others – but we always remained envious of our peers in the United States who seemed to enjoy strong relationships with the larger Disti’s – working much closer together to add value to the relationship for mutual gain. Overall, I’d often publically refer to the larger UK Distributors are nothing more than “Box Shifters”.

Well, I certainly had my eyes opened to what is possible from the Distributor/IT Company relationship this week in Dundee! It was fascinating to speak to Disti after Disti who talked less about product sales, and more about how they added value – working to help smaller IT companies to grow their business. Of course, volume of sales will always be important, but it’s logical that by Disti’s helping IT companies grow their businesses, it will naturally result in more sales volume. It’s a Win/Win situation.

I had the opportunity to meet Chris Walsh and Phil Barrow of UK based Exclusive Networks. Phil spoke about the steps Exclusive took to help smaller IT companies (especially in the 1-15 employee space) grow their businesses. I learned how Exclusive added value by offering Technical Support, marketing advice and even Consulting resources. Exclusive were not alone in taking this view towards helping their customers, IT Companies.

One man who took me to task on my attitude of Disti’s as “Box Shifters” was Rick Hebly of Dutch based Portland Europe. Portland pride themselves on offering extensive support to smaller IT providers who want to make the move from Break/Fix to Managed Services, and his enthusiasm was clear to see. I took the opportunity to ask Rick about his opinions on camera.

Rick Hebly, Business Development Manager, Portland Europe.

The Conference was an eye-opener to me and I acknowledge the fact that there are clearly a lot of great Disti’s who are committed to helping their customers, smaller IT Support companies, grow their business and not just shift product.

If you’re an IT company dis-satisfied with your Disti relationship, I’d urge you to reach out to your Disti Account Manager to talk about the challenges you are facing and see how they might help you. You may be pleasantly surprised at what they can offer, and if not… I’d be happy to share with you details of a number of alternative Disti’s who’d be happy to step up and help you instead!

 

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to enable them to feel more in control and to grow their business. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.


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