I was recently at a community meeting of fellow managed service providers and the topic of remote monitoring and management tools came up.

It was the typical conversation: Who do you run and why? As we went deeper into the matrix of why everyone uses their tools, more and more service gaps came to light.

This is why I really enjoy going to conferences—not always for the breakout sessions, but for the hallway chats. The unabridged peer advice is worth the price of any ticket and flight.

I can’t tell you how many things I’ve changed in my business from these chats and conversations. Many shifts were amazing and groundbreaking for us. Some not so much— but at least we’re doing things and trying things.

During one session, I brought up the topic of real network monitoring. A few MSPs danced around the fact that their RMM tool doesn’t offer deep monitoring of network components like switches, firewalls, access points, and such. Many said they just track ups and downs.

I started to talk to them about a solution named Auvik and how it helped me use technology to work smarter, not harder.

What’s your difference?

That night, I sat with a few of my MSP friends and we reflected on those conversations.

When we talk about the managed services business, we’re always looking at key differentiators. Typically, we all use the same type of software. In most cases, the quotes look the same, the tickets look the same, and the levels of service are the same.

When you compare MSPs, the look and feel of the offering is often the same too. So when the customer tries to compare MSP A, B, and C, what are the real differentiators they can leverage? (It’s not always about price. If the customer is shopping you on price, perhaps they’re not the best fit for you.)

I feel one really good differentiator is network monitoring; I mean real network monitoring. It’s one thing to check a box that says you monitor network devices. It’s another thing to actually do it.

Spend time on it. If you have two pages in your agreement about how awesome your RMM tool is for Windows, you should have the same level of detail for network and SNMP monitoring.

Get an edge on your competition

Each time we have a new customer that signs up for a network assessment prior to go-live, we come in and run our tools. One of those tools is Auvik. In some cases, we bring a piece of hardware with Auvik pre-installed. In other cases, we spin up Auvik on the customer’s VMWare or deploy it on a server.

This is typically a billable engagement where we start the pre-onboarding process. We spend a few hours configuring the switches and other network equipment to be recognized by Auvik. And it’s pretty amazing what we find.

In some cases, the current IT support provider doesn’t know the passwords to certain devices—red flag! When they do know the passwords, they’re often the defaults—red flag!

Think about it. Setting up Auvik is somewhat of a forced onboarding—but in a good way. Seven times out of 10, an MSP will put in the RMM agent and call it a day. With Auvik, you spend time identifying network devices, gaining access to them, finding out what devices need better passwords.

Once you do that, it starts telling you which devices need updated credentials, which ones have outdated firmware, and which ones need special attention. If you’re doing all this in your pre-onboard stage, now you really do have an edge on your competition.

About two months ago, we put Auvik in and found a single customer was using the same user ID and password—admin/admin—on all 12 of their switches. Eeek!

To make matters worse, the other provider port forwarded port 80 (not 443) to the core switch from the firewall. Double eeeek!

Within the first hour after installing Auvik, we’d been alerted on thousands of failed login attempts on the switches.

Baking Auvik into our offering has really helped us with the gap of traditional RMM tools. The ability to report on network loops and ports that have high I/O, and the ability to take backups of switch configs each night, are real key differentiators. And in today’s semi-commoditized MSP market, that’s what you need: differentiators.

See you at the shows!