Remote possibilities: Does an MSP have to use an RMM tool?

I’ve sat in conference sessions and heard that to be an MSP at a minimum you must subscribe to and install a remote monitoring and management (RMM) agent on every computer. That’s vendor speak for “buy our product.” At its heart, defining yourself as an MSP is just that — a self-defining term used to rank yourself with your partners and peers. It is not a customer-facing designation. (And yes, if you’ve been following my articles here at TechGenix, you know I own an MSP.) How you manage technology for your clients is up to you. The important part is that you do “M” (manage) and “SP” (be a services provider).

My MSP subscribes to tools that allow us to remotely access computers. We also subscribe to tools such as Intune that let us push configuration to computers. But we do not subscribe to a single pane of glass RMM tool. Some of my fellow MSP owners are shocked to learn that a successful MSP would choose not to subscribe to one of the all-in-one monitoring and RMM access tools.

A recent event prompted me to address this topic. Microsoft recalled a patch for Windows 10. This is a rare occurrence. I can’t even recall when it last happened. For things that happen rarely, I invoke a rule. I have a bunch of rules that help me run my business. The rule invoked here is — we don’t make decisions based on an exception. In this case, since it’s a rare thing, we don’t have to change our process to manage it. Typically, if there is a problem with a patch, Microsoft releases a new patch that supersedes the previous one, so you don’t have to go in and remove the first one. It’s a self-healing process. But in the case of KB4524244, we have to actually remove it. So how do we do this?

Involve your clients in their computer health

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These days so much of IT services are done remotely that we have to work at delivering the white glove customer experience that builds a strong relationship. We hold meetings, offer training, schedule onsite visits even if there’s nothing pending to do just to maintain a personal presence and a solid customer relationship. As an MSP focused on small businesses, we know that all business is personal.

In addition, with the types of malware attacks that are common today, we need users to take an active educated stance in protecting themselves because there’s no more magic pill to make yourself safe against all of the malware variants that the bad guys are dreaming up daily. As hard as we focus on security, and we do, we can’t protect them from everything.

So, when this Microsoft update issue occurred, we took it as an opportunity to engage our clients in participating in maintaining the health of their computers. We also offered to do it for them. We gave them the choice.

Empowerment is powerful

To combat today’s threats, we need every computer user to be a smart computer user. We need them to understand how to move around in their computer and how to protect themselves on the Internet and to be skeptical of every email they receive that says, “click this!”

This incident allowed us to see how we are doing with our mission to help our user base become smarter, more savvy, computer users because empowerment is powerful. The more confident our users feel, the smarter they will become and more likely to engage in training and be open to new ways of doing things.

To test this, I sent an email out from our usual blog mailing Mailchimp account. This email explained the situation to them about the bad update, asked them to “click here” to download the instructions and assured them that the uninstallation of the update would take less than one minute to perform and didn’t require a reboot. Then we asked them to make sure that everyone in the company performed this task and, of course, mentioned that they should call us with any questions or let us know if they’d prefer that we schedule this in and do it for them.

Here’s how that went

I hoped to get a lot of emails verifying if the email was legitimate because our consistent messaging has been before you click on anything, verify. The email they got was from me. When they asked the question, they asked it of their tech! This was a huge win! Not only did they verify the legitimacy of the email, but they asked a separate person from the original sender. This was a perfect way to handle it.

A couple of people asked for assistance and we jumped right in.

Others we offered to help when a conversation was initiated by them.

We don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or unsure.

Nearly 100 percent of clients jumped right in and performed the update removal. A couple asked us to verify that it was done next time we’re out, but no one asked us to schedule time to come out and do it for them. They all felt confident enough in their skills to follow our instruction set and spend one minute of their day keeping their computers healthy. I feel really good about that result.

Showing value

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While I want our clients to think of us as critical to their business, I also want them to feel empowered, smart, confident, and tech-savvy. It’s a joy to work with people who get IT and it’s much more gratifying for IT staff to provide real value to the business and make technology work for them than to burn time doing tasks that don’t add to the bottom line of the business.

I have a rule in my business that comes up very often and it is simply this: Do I really need to know that? It’s a filter by which we take our information overload world and narrow it down to the things that matter most. I really don’t need to know if a hard drive is near full because the last time we replaced a hard drive in a computer or one ran out of space was many years ago. If there’s a problem with a drive running out of space, then something is wrong with the computer configuration and a user will tell us faster than any RMM tool would because as they move to the cloud being able to access your data is critical.

Staffing appropriately

As a small MSP, there’s little to no value in having someone sit around and sift through alerts generated by an RMM tool. Nor is there value in having staff constantly run around to clients. But there is a nice balanced modern approach to be had. Some may think that it takes an RMM tool to remove those time-sucking, low-value tasks from your techs’ schedule, but the reality is that if you manage computers in a modern way, letting updates install themselves, taking a moment to configure automatic updating within applications when you install them, configuring normal storage to occur in the cloud, backing everything up, encouraging your clients to stay current with technology, then you can focus on higher-value tasks like security, education, and modernizing business processes. This is why clients hire us. They want a tech leader. If they just want a tech fixer, they could get any one of thousands of would-be mechanics to show up for a fix-it. But simply put, things don’t break when you have good processes in place and educated users. Your focus shifts to more meaningful projects that add to the bottom line of the clients you serve.

Featured image: Shutterstock

Amy Babinchak

I am the owner of three IT related businesses: Harbor Computer Services, Third Tier and Sell My MSP and have been working in small and medium business IT field for more than 20 years. I'm a technical person with advanced skills in networking design, management and implementation. I value technology for what it does for people and the success it brings to business.

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Amy Babinchak

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