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The Best Managed Service Provider Software Tools

We want to assist you in picking the right tool for you so we’ve prepared this overview of some of the very best Managed Service Provider Software Tools.

Managed Service Providers (MSP) are often tasked with monitoring large and complex environments. The types of environments with numerous servers and users. Even when they do manage smaller setups, they typically do it for so many different clients that using specialized MSP tools is a must. The one thing that strikes most people as they start looking into software tools for Managed Service Providers is the available variety. Between Remote Monitoring and Management tools, Professional Services Automation tools, Service Desk tools and Remote access tools, picking the right tool for your purpose can turn out to be a rather challenging endeavour.

Let’s begin by exploring in greater details what a Managed Service Provider is. As you shall soon see it can be more than one thing, each with its own specific needs. Different types of MSPs will use different types of tools and this is what we’re going to introduce next. We’ll have a look at the different types of software that can be used by Managed Service Provider to help them deliver their service to their clients. Finally, we’ll get to the core of our discussion and introduce some of the best Managed Service Provider software tools we could find. We’ll briefly review each one and present its most interesting features.

What Is A Managed Service Provider?

Managed services is a practice where an organization outsources on a proactive basis certain IT management processes and functions with the intention of improving operations and cutting expenses. It is an alternative to the break/fix or on-demand outsourcing model where the service provider performs on-demand services and bills the customer only for the work done. It is also different from “plain” outsourcing where the service provider’s team is deployed on location at the client’s on a full-time basis for the duration of the outsourcing contract.

Under the managed services subscription model, the client is the entity that owns or has direct oversight of the organization or system being managed whereas the Managed Services Provider (MSP) is the service provider delivering the managed services. The client and the MSP are bound by a contractual, service-level agreement that states the performance and quality metrics of their relationship.

The degree or type of management performed by the MSP can vary greatly. Some MSPs are highly specialized such as Managed Security Services Providers who will only handle security-oriented tasks such as threat protection or intrusion prevention. Sometimes the scope of a Managed Service Provider is limited under the terms of the subscription the client has. For instance, some clients could only subscribe to backup and restore services while others could only need monitoring and alerting. Managed services don’t necessarily have to be an all-encompassing deal.

The Types Of Tools Used By MSPs

Since Managed Service Providers typically provide various services for their clients, they can use different types of tools. However, since the challenges of managing IT environments for multiple clients pose some special challenges—such as the need to keep each client services separate—many prefer to use tools which are specifically targeting MSPs. These tools typically fall into several categories, as we’re about to see.

Remote Monitoring And Management Tools

The most common type of tools used by Managed Service Providers is the Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tools. While their name seems to be very descriptive of what they do, different RMM tools vary greatly in the functionality they offer. They are big integrated tools that try to cover as many needs of Managed Service Providers as possible.

They do, of course, allow the remote monitoring of client’s environment but the management part is where they vary the most. Most of them at least offer remote desktop control, some will handle patch management. Other common features of RMM tools can include security features such as antivirus, threat protection or intrusion detection and prevention. In fact, any task performed by Managed Service Providers can be included in an RMM tool.

Professional Services Automation Tools

Professional Services Automation (PSA) tools typically refer to the tools that Managed Service Providers will use to deliver services to clients but are not directly related to the provided services. A good example of that is a billing tool that will handle the financial aspect of the service management contract. Project management is another feature commonly found in PSA tools and so is knowledge management. Service desk functions are sometimes included in these tools. In fact, the line between the different types of tools used by managed service providers is a rather blurred one. It is not uncommon to see RMM packages with PSA-like functionality and the opposite.

Security Tools

Security tool is the next major type of MSP tools. It is another category with a lot of variety. The range of features offered by security tools targeting Managed Service Providers range from very simple, single-function tools like virus protection, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), log analysis, intrusion detection and/or prevention, and more.

Again, some tools are individual while others are integrated. In fact, all the features we just listed can also be found in some Remote Monitoring and Management tools.

Service Desk Tools

We’ve mentioned service desk tools as one of the potential features of Professional Services Automation tools but they are in a class of their own to their key importance. But these are not just important tools, they are also quite complex. There are a few basic elements shared by every service desk tool. They include things such as ticket creation and management but their extended feature set goes way beyond that.

The best service desk tools will include user management and asset management and will even be able to correlate them. For instance, when a user calls the service desk, is user account is linked to the assets inventory and the attendant knows immediately what equipment the user has in his possession. Another popular advanced feature of service desk tools is ticket escalation that will ensure proper attention is given to each ticket, thereby helping meet service level agreements.

Backup And Restore Tools

The last important type of tools we’d like to discuss is backup and restore tools. Data is often one of the most important assets of modern organizations. It has to be preserved at all costs. But data storage systems are prone to failure. This is why backing up data is so important. With the increasing complexity of IT environments, this has gotten to be an increasingly complicated thing and several organizations prefer to outsource that part of their IT operations. Some Managed Service Providers even offer other services that backups and restores. And just like most of the other services we just described, this one can also be included as a component of full-features RMM tools.

The Best Software For Managed Service Providers

Enough theory; the time has come to have a look at some of the best software for Managed Service Providers. All of the tools on our list are multi-function Remote Monitoring and Management tools with different levels of complexity. Some have a very broad feature set and could more than likely be used as an MSP’s sole tool while others are more limited and will typically be combined with other tools to offer complete functionality.

1- SolarWinds Remote Monitoring And Management (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds is a well-known name in its field. It’s been making great network and system administration tools for years. Its flagship product, called SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, is recognized as one of the best network bandwidth monitoring tools. The SolarWinds MSP division—created by merging activities from SolarWinds, N-able, and LOGICnow—specializes in building tools for Managed Service Providers. One of its product is a very complete Remote Monitoring and Management tool aptly named SolarWinds Remote Monitoring and Management.

The primary purpose of SolarWinds Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) is to let you manage the assets of clients on remote sites, either via direct contact or through automated procedures. Patch management and antivirus update coordination are two strong features of this tool. Furthermore, the Risk Intelligence module greatly improves the security features of the tool, which include malware protection as well as website protection. The system also protects against the possibility of infected websites being used as an entry point to the network.

SolarWinds RMM - Network Discovery

SolarWinds RMM is also an excellent monitoring tool which covers a wide range of devices, both physical and virtual. The tool enables administrators to keep track of system status on client sites from one centralized console. Several built-in reports help you monitor the condition of your client’s sites but also the performance of your management staff. One of this tool’s greatest assets is the simplicity of its interface which enables support staff to get to the most frequently-used tools quickly.

The breadth of the features of this product is impressive. It covers almost every service typically rendered by a Managed Service Provider. While we don’t have the space to go into details on each feature of the product, here’s a list of what it includes:

  • Remote Monitoring
  • Network Device Monitoring
  • Remote Access
  • Active Network Discovery
  • Automation And Scripting
  • Patch Management
  • Reports
  • Mobile Applications
  • Backup And Recovery
  • Managed Antivirus
  • Web Protection
  • Service Desk
  • Risk Intelligence
  • Mobile Device Management

Pricing for SolarWinds Remote Monitoring and Management is not readily available but can be obtained by requesting a quote from SolarWinds MSP. If you want to give the tool a test run and see for yourself what it can do for you, a free 30-day trial is available.

2- SolarWinds N-Central (FREE TRIAL)

Next on our list is another tool from SolarWinds called SolarWinds N-Central. This product was formerly known as N-Able N-Central until SolarWinds acquired it. This product is designed to assist Managed Service Providers manage remote resources from a central location. It is an integrated tool that offers several remote management and monitoring features.

Some key network monitoring tools are integrated into N-Central. They give you a view of the status of the circuits and services that deliver apps to end users. This includes, among others, web services and Microsoft Office 365 applications as well as on-premises and in-house applications.

SolarWinds N-Central - RM

An important component of SolarWinds N-Central is the Endpoint Security Manager. This module focuses on patch management and lets MSPs keep track of the versions of all applications, services, and operating systems. The tool’s central console polls software providers for updates, letting people decide which patches should be rolled out automatically and which should be managed on demand.

SolarWinds N-Central can integrate with other SolarWinds tools such as the MSP Manager and Help Desk Manager. This integration can enable the automation of tasks such as Help Desk ticket creation and task assignment, for example. If you prefer to use the Help Desk services provided by other vendors, APIs within the product will allow data exchanges with a wide range of commonly-used tools, such as Autotask, Tigerpaw, and ConnectWise, just to name a few.

Just like SolarWinds Remote Monitoring and Management, SolarWinds N-Central is a product from SolarWinds MSP. Pricing for the product is not readily available. You’ll need to Contact SolarWinds MSP for a detailed quote. A free 30-day trial of SolarWinds N-Central can be obtained from SolarWinds MSP, should you want to give the tool a test run.

3- Kaseya VSA

Our next entry is an MSP support platform that excels at task automation called Kaseya VSA. In addition to task automation, the tool also incorporates a remote control module called Live Connect, allowing you to implement bulk updates as well as remotely connect to and administer any end device. Furthermore, the tool provides automated network monitoring and has built-in alerts, patch management, and service auditing, making it a very complete solution for Managed Service Providers.

Kaseya VA - Live Connect Screenshot

Feature-wise, Kaseya VSA has everything you’d expect and then some. It has remote control, patch and vulnerability monitoring, audit and inventory, network monitoring, virus protection, unified backups and compliance management. The tool’s built-in AssetIQ feature is a contextual documentation management system made to ease the task of Managed Service Providers. It can, for example, be structured as a script for Help Desk agents to work through an incident and eventually direct problems to back office staff.

Kaseya VSA will cover most of, if not all, the needs of a typical Managed Service Provider. Pricing for the product can be obtained by directly contacting Kaseya. Both a demo and a 14-day free trial are available so you can see for yourself what this great product has to offer.

4- Pulseway

Pulseway is a cloud-based network management system with a feature set that will most certainly appeal to Managed Service Providers. The tool’s online dashboard lets you perform remote desktop control, patch management, software deployment, update management, and application monitoring. In addition, some of the tools built into the dashboard provide advanced automation, operative monitoring, customer SLA reporting, and custom management information reporting.

Pulseway Screenshot

The system allows for multiple logins and group account, letting you adapt the dashboard to each employee’s role. You can also customize the system’s monitoring alert settings and direct different service alerts to different team members. Automated workflows that get triggered by specific events can also be configured.

Pulseway offers a base subscription package to Managed Service Providers that includes all of the advanced functions that they need to support their clients. In addition to the tool’s base functionality, there is also an extensive array of add-ons available to enhance the system. Additional modules include web server protection, virus protection, cloud data backup service, and even a PSA module.

Pulseway is available in a free version but it is rather useless, only allowing one user account and letting you manage just two endpoints. For the full package, prices are $3.95/month per server and $1.85/month per workstation with a minimum charge of $47/month. Furthermore, a free trial of the product is available.

5- Connectwise Automate

ConnectWise Automate is a network management system with a number of remote administration features that make it suitable for Managed Service Providers. The tools can handle system monitoring and alerting, patch management, remote control, scripting and asset management. Automation, which is a key element of this product, is everywhere and the product can be further enhanced through a scripting module that lets you create your own automated workflows.

ConnectWise Automate

ConnectWise Automate’s remote access module, called Screen Connect, lets service desk attendants remotely access computers to fix problems. The mix of scripting language and manual access offered by Screen Connect covers the whole spectrum of customer support functions. The numerous features of this tool make it suitable for remote services conducted by an individual operator—such as training and one-on-one support—but also suitable for Managed Service Providers with a large number of clients.

This product is available on a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service model, which makes it easy to add technical staff and onboard new clients. The service is highly scalable and therefore suitable in a great variety of situations. Pricing for ConnectWise Automate can be obtained by contacting ConnectWise. A free 14-day trial version of the product is readily available and if you need more time to properly evaluate the product, you can request your trial period to be extended to 30 days.

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