The days of traditional resellers are over, and MSPs need to go learn and mean to survive, says ASD
Value Added Distributor Africa Solution Distributor (ASD) has been growing networks of Value Added Resellers and – more recently – Managed Service Providers across the African continent for 15 years. Much has changed in that time, and the 2020s are set to put a great deal more pressure on VARs and MSPs, says ASD MD Hennie Moolman.
“With a background on the reseller side, we launched as a master distributor in 2005, helping resellers to grow. Initially, we had a team of five or six staff focused on supporting resellers in the Pretoria area. But we evolved with changes in the market, and now we have a resellers across 23 countries in Africa,” he says.
The company evolved its solutions suite too – starting with traditional mainframes, then moving to Windows solutions, and now distributes a portfolio of solutions including network and infrastructure monitoring, remote management, asset inventory management, automation and backup and recovery tools.
“One of the key things we do now is to help evolve resellers into MSPs,” says Moolman. “There is just no place in the market anymore for a traditional ‘break and fix’ reseller who starts every month on zero revenue.”
Times have changed, he notes, and only VARs and MSPs who can assure recurring, compound revenue will be able to thrive in future. “The market is competitive, and end customers are very demanding about getting more comprehensive SLAs for the lowest possible price. You might only have a customer for a year or two, and if you can’t keep bringing in new customers, and delivering service excellence at a very competitive price, you won’t be able to survive.”
Becoming an MSP demands significant changes within a reseller, he notes. Not only must sales, finance and marketing models change, but the entire internal operational structure has to change to support more efficient customer support.
Getting lean and mean
“MSPs have to become lean and mean – improving efficiencies and getting a better understanding of the true value of each customer,” Moolman says. This can be challenging for many MSPs, which have grown from traditional reseller roots and may have retained their traditional systems for customer management, support and billing.
“This is one of the biggest issues for many MSPs – they may have multiple solutions and applications for managing the same customers, so internally, they are not all on the same page and they cannot assess the operational costs for servicing the customer, or the value of the customer. They can take weeks to consolidate everything every month for billing purposes; and they may in fact be allocating too many resources to service a customer.”
“Very few MSPs know what the true value of customers is. They get invoices from a range of different suppliers, then they have to try to consolidate this data and determine how much it costs to service customers in order to invoice them. You have to be extremely well organised internally, with everything in one place, to determine your operational costs very accurately, right down to the cost per user.”
Moolman says this lack of transparency is a major stumbling block in a highly competitive environment. “Elsewhere in the world, there is a growing trend to vet customers to see if they are actually worth retaining, but in South Africa and across Africa, we tend to onboard all the customers we can, without proper oversight of the cost of servicing them.”
In addition, MSPs have to cut their operational costs to deliver on demands for more services at a lower cost. Consolidation and advanced automation are key to managing services with fewer resources, Moolman says.
Growing into the 2020s
ASD focuses heavily on supporting evolution among resellers, VARs and MSPs, and offers training on challenges they typically face, from how to price and sell managed services through to building a resilient business and training sales staff on solution selling.
Business resilience in this market depends on careful focus on viable markets, and highly efficient operations. “If you have SLAs to manage the customer’s key infrastructure and network, it’s a lot harder for the customer to replace you than if you’re just dropping boxes,” Moolman notes. Using automation to improve efficiency helps reduce the costs of delivering services, and thanks to cloudbased platforms, expertise can now be pulled in from anywhere in the world, and manage customer infrastructure remotely, Moolman adds.
On top of improved operational models, sales and marketing are key to success: “To become a successful MSP, you have to take on the role of trusted advisor. It’s not so much about what technology you’re offering, but whether you can provide the right solution to a pain point, at the right price,” says Moolman. “And your sales teams have to support this by moving from selling products to selling solutions.”
ASD sees scope for ongoing growth across Africa into the2020s, on the back of evolved MSPs with improved operational models. “I don’t think there’s a major growth in the number of end users, so MSPs seriously need go leaner and broaden their services and solutions. And ASD is enabling that,” he says.
Top features network monitoring solution should deliver
South African organisations are set to embrace hyper-scale cloud benefits and roll-out a fast-growing fleet of IOT devices next year, as cloud and IOT make their mainstream appearance in workplaces. While a proliferation of smarter, more connected technologies could make life easier for workforces, they could also complicate matters for network administrators.
IOT devices, becoming increasingly affordable and compelling in their functionality, present a plethora of new cyber vulnerabilities.
Even if the devices have been specifically deployed by a company’s IT department, traditional corporate security measures such as firewalls do not work because these devices operate within their own closed systems. But there are ‘radiation effects’ that can be identified when IOT devices are compromised. Because an IOT device usually becomes part of the network, a good network monitoring tool can recognise when an unusually high amount of data traffic occurs on a specific port. It can also be detected via pattern recognition if unusual traffic takes place in the network, for example, if two devices suddenly communicate with each other. A warning would then be sent to the sysadmin and the discovery of the device in question should proceed quite quickly.
The cloud is going mainstream in South Africa, usually in a hybrid model. This too raises network and security challenges: some services and data may in the public cloud, other services and data in private clouds, and orchestration tools connect the environment. As cloud service providers change existing functionality or introduce new services, enterprises will need to revise their own architecture and infrastructure to keep up to date with the changes. These new complexities impact security, management and service provision: now network monitoring has to become more agile to indicate where problems occur across disparate technologies and multiple clouds.
To address these new complexities in a changing environment, the ideal network monitoring solution, such as PRTG Network Monitor by Paessler, should offer:
In South Africa, the high cost of bandwidth, coupled with challenges such as limited capacity and speed in certain areas, means bandwidth optimisation is crucial to ensure costs are controlled and applications perform as expected. The ideal network monitoring solution, such as PRTG, ensures that what you pay the ISP for is actually what you get.
All business-critical applications such as SQL to exchange right down to custom in-house applications need to be monitored continually, to ensure all applications perform as expected. PRTG delivers a concise overview on individual dashboards as well as detailed statistics about every application running in the network, with options to set alerts whenever PRTG discovers a defined status (eg, application doesn’t respond or Web server is offline).
Virtual environment monitoring
Monitor your virtual environment from a host and/or virtual clients. Monitoring your host will give the ability to determine if it is over-used or if you need to add virtual machines to a host. PRTG’s portfolio of cloud monitoring features reduce the complexity of managing multiple virtual environments.
Branch office monitoring
With PRTG you are able to monitor multiple locations (offices) with one licence, which eliminates the extra costs of a licence for each location.
Data flow monitoring
Monitor where your traffic is flowing to within your network to determine who or what is causing the most traffic.
Easily be able to determine where bottlenecks occur, be it an over-utilised access point or backups uploading to the cloud at a certain time of day.
Hardware utilisation monitoring
As technology is evolving at lightning speed, it is important that hardware also keeps up with the times and is constantly monitored to ensure all users and servers are not taking strain. With effective solutions such as PRTG by Paessler, administrators can easily identify problem areas and determine if it is time to replace or add on.
Alerts (notification triggers)
Time is of the essence when network problems occur. With PRTG, administrators are able to receive notifications in a number of ways – from the normal e-mail and SMS, right down to PUSH to your free PRTG app.
Mobile app (Android and iOS )
Mobile management is crucial for the modern 24/7 organisation. Included in the cost of PRTG is a free mobile app for Android as well as iOS, which will enable you to monitor your network when on the move, as no one is at the office 24/7.
Hidden costs catching network administrators by surprise
Network monitoring and management is the single most important task the IT department has, with no leeway for downtime in the modern enterprise. But IT administrators across South Africa and pan-Africa are increasingly challenged by growing network complexity and the cost surprises hidden within many network monitoring solutions.
“A lot of people get caught out by the unexpectedly high costs of adding features or endpoints to existing monitoring tools, or by high licence renewal costs,” says Hennie Moolman, CEO of IT network solutions distributor Africa Solution Distributor (ASD).
“In our region, confronted with slow economic growth, IT departments have to deliver excellent customer service within increasingly complex network environments, but they have to achieve this without adding to costs or bringing in additional skills resources. As a result, we are getting around 120 calls a week from resellers and customers enquiring about Paessler’s PRTG network monitoring solution.”
ASD has been the sole African distributor of Paessler PRTG since 2018 and is seeing record uptake across the continent.
“It is a market-leading solution, and the fact that it simplifies and automates network monitoring, and is priced in rands, makes it a compelling solution for IT administrators in our region,” says Moolman. “They want a solution that is easy to deploy, easy to use and highly robust and effective, with no cost surprises. They want to automate IT support and solve issues proactively – without having to bring in more technical staff.”
Paessler PRTG is a highly powerful network monitoring software solution that monitors the whole IT infrastructure, proactively alerting the IT team to any problems before users even notice a problem, and maintaining business uptime for companies of all sizes.
According to Gartner: “IT infrastructure monitoring tools capture the availability of the IT infrastructure components that reside in a data centre or are hosted in the cloud as infrastructure as a service (IaaS). These tools monitor and collate the availability and resource utilisation metrics of servers, networks, database instances, hypervisors and storage. Notably, these tools collect metrics in real-time and perform historical data analysis or trending of the elements they monitor.”
Paessler PRTG is up and running within minutes, delivering a smart and simple solution for viewing the entire network, and all systems and applications with a single installation. Featuring auto-discovery and mapping, predefined checks for most common problems, flexible and reliable alerts and custom dashboards in a full featured Web interface and apps for iOS and Android for a high-level overview, PRTG can also be customised to meet the enterprise’s individual requirements. Enterprises can create dashboards with the PRTG Map Designer and integrate all network components with over 300 different map objects.
PRTG is sensor-based, which means the enterprise is in complete control of what it wants to monitor, with over 250 predefined sensors out of the box and the ability to create custom sensors to suit all monitoring needs. PRTG is an agentless unified monitoring solution. On the one hand, each device or service that has an IP address, or is reachable over IP and talks a protocol (SNMP, HTTP, WMI, xFlow, etc), can be monitored by PRTG probes. On the other hand, there is no need to install agents on monitored devices. With no add-ons, PRTG includes all features in each licence, and keeps its licence renewal costs down to a bare minimum.
“The PRTG list price is the price you pay, as all PRTG versions are full featured with no need for plug-ins. It is one of the lowest cost of ownership monitoring tools on the market,” Moolman says.
For more insights on the future of network monitoring, see:
In 1997, Paessler revolutionised IT monitoring with the introduction of PRTG Network Monitor. Today over 200 000 IT administrators, in more than 170 countries, rely on PRTG to monitor their business-critical systems, devices and network infrastructures. PRTG monitors the entire IT infrastructure, 24/7, and helps IT professionals to seamlessly solve problems before they impact users.
Our mission is to empower technical teams to manage their infrastructure, ensuring maximum productivity. We build lasting partnerships and integrative, holistic solutions to achieve this. Thinking beyond IT networks, Paessler is actively developing solutions to support digital transformation strategies and the Internet of things.
Africa Solution Distributor is a value-added distributor of best-of-breed, best-in-class IT solutions used by managed service providers and value-added resellers. The solutions it offers range from products used by IT companies to consolidate their in-house systems and billing, to front-office solutions to manage ASD’s customers easier and faster, and to provide better support.