One of the things that makes managing networks difficult is the lack of standardization across vendors. You’ve got hundreds of vendors with thousands of different device models between them. Each of the major players has their own twist on the OS so that commands for one box are different than the commands on another.

It’s frustrating. And frankly, it creates real hassles for you as the MSP.

At Auvik, we were curious to know the real numbers behind this problem. Just how much of an issue is vendor diversity across an MSP’s client base?

We have data on thousands and thousands of MSP-managed networks, so we put it all together into an industry report we recently published called Managing Network Vendor Diversity: The MSP Challenge.

Alex Hoff is Auvik’s VP of Product and Sales and the primary author of the report. Today, Alex and I discuss some of the findings and what they mean to you.

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What’s Going On

[02:28] Adverse weather conditions recently affected Microsoft and one of their Azure data centers. They had to turn to Twitter to notify Azure users there was a problem.

[03:15] The tweet said to go to the Azure status page for updates, but the status page was also down.

[03:26] Services that relied on Azure Active Directory and customers trying to provision new subscriptions were affected.

[03:31] The issue lasted around 24 hours and was caused by severe weather conditions.

[03:48] This is a wake-up call for MSPs to provide robust communications and disaster recovery solutions.

[04:05] Karl was doing a presentation on cloud services. People were distracted by the fact that their staff was having issues with Azure.

[04:25] We need to remember that there are going to be issues, no matter what the technology is.

[04:41] What we can change is having a good backup system and making sure we’re communicating.

[06:27] Keep in mind that most of the discussion about Azure is at the enterprise level. Most MSPs don’t have the resources, personnel or money to build redundant operations in two different Azure clouds on different sides of the continent.

[07:04] This reminds Richard of VOIP and how clients have an expectation of any telephone system just working. Clients have almost reached this stage with cloud technologies.

[07:53] It’s important to communicate with clients about their expectations of cloud services or voice services and let them know what to do if there is a problem.

[08:25] In the small business space, we need to focus on hosted services not hosted servers.

[08:34] If you’re running your own exchange server on an Azure server in the cloud you have lots of maintenance and you’re subject to outages. There’s no excuse for this if you’re supporting a client with 30 or 50 desktops.

[09:13] Richard doesn’t think anybody is expecting MSPs in the SMB space to put together faultless redundant solutions.

[09:44] What we’re able to do today was unimaginable 15 years ago, so practical and reasonable improvements are coming.

[10:14] The biggest lesson learned from this article is probably not to rely on any one form of communication to reach clients.

[10:38] Look at your own client lines of communication and ask how you would communicate if the phone lines were down or email was down.

[11:08] Reddit has recently become the third most popular social media website displacing Facebook.

[12:27] More time is spent per user per day on Reddit than on Facebook.

[13:00] Facebook has had so many issues that they may be heading down a bit. Reddit really represents the way nerds used to communicate on the internet.

[13:42] Reddit also allows you to be completely anonymous. The MSP subreddit is full of good content.

[15:17] The recent redesign makes it look like they are getting ready to do massive advertising increases.

Interview with Alex Hoff: Managing Hardware Vendor Diversity in an MSP

Alex Hoff, Auvik Networks
Alex Hoff, Auvik Networks

[16:37] Alex Hoff is Auvik’s VP of Product and Sales. He’s here to discuss Auvik’s new report Managing Network Vendor Diversity: The MSP Challenge.

[18:07] MSPs face a large variety of hardware vendors they have to manage.

[18:22] There was a trend towards larger MSPs enforcing their tech standards a little more rigorously. The smaller MSPs tend to use what was already deployed by their clients.

[18:55] What will be interesting to see is how the network shifts over time.

[19:10] We learned a lot about popular vendors and who is dominating and who is emerging. Time will show us on a per network basis what vendors are being swapped out because of legacy or emerging trends.

[19:48] Some of the switch vendors were interesting. Some are specialty vendors or focused on submarkets. There were over 100 different switch vendors.

[20:37] With so many different switch vendors there’s a lot for technicians to learn and understand. There’s a lot of manual effort to make sure networks run the way they should.

[22:16] Alex shares an example of all of the different steps that have to be done if a technician leaves. The procedures need to be documented. There’s almost no automation.

[22:58] Auvik provides a scalable solution to help MSPs manage efficiently. Documentation is also a best practice.

[23:24] Document the procedure so the next time you have to work with the product from that vendor all of the information is right there.
[23:47] Process and documentation is paramount for managing networks effectively and efficienyl.

[24:06] We’re starting to see low-cost, high functionality Wi-Fi solutions.

[24:41] Alex was surprised how dominant Cisco actually is.

[25:13] The flipside of having so many vendors is more choice. Finding the right vendors for a client is tricky because it depends on the skill set of the MSP. It also depends on the size of the network.

[26:57] It really comes back to who you feel comfortable working with and what knowledge you have.

[27:32] The big picture take-away from the report is the lack of standardization. It’s a message to vendors: Standardization is so important and would make life much easier for MSPs.

What’s Going On

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