Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rethinking Tools - Part 2: Zenith Wins Over Kaseya

As the year winds down, we are re-evaluating what we sell, who we partner with, and which tools we use.

The first post in this series is here.

The second tool set we re-examined is our Managed Service Delivery tool set.

Here's your headline, with details below:

We are fully committed to Zenith Infotech and moving away from Kaseya.


Background

We started, back in the dark ages, looking for a delivery tool. I asked around a lot. At the time, Kaseya was almost the only tool in town. Some others were trying to make a push, but they really weren't ready for prime time. We even bought into one tool and abandoned it because their technical support was so horrible. When we realized that the only way to get support was to call the salesman and beat him up, we also realized that would be far less effective after the sale.

So we asked what successful, larger companies were doing. Kaseya, Kaseya, Kaseya. So we signed up for Kasesya.

We still use it.

Then one fateful day I had dinner with Erick Simpson and Arlin Sorenson. See that story in This Post.

Basically, I decided to try Zenith. We connected a few servers. Then more. Then more.

Two key features caused us to rely more and more on Zenith Infotech:

1) Once we were completely convinced that they never missed a critical issue, we cranked up our reliance on their monitoring system. When a fan goes tick-tick-tick, Zenith opens a ticket. 100%.

We have turned over virtually every step of our monthly maintenance checklist (3-4 pages per server) to Zenith, because their system just works. Period.

2) Over time, we started taking advantage of the back-end labor from Zenith. If it's maintenance related (e.g., analyzing logs, checking hard discs, installing patches) then it's covered. So we started throwing work at them.

As I've mentioned before, you need to manage your back end NOC just like an employee. You need to be clear and specific about what you want. You need to follow up. You need to thank them. You need to treat them like part of the team. Let them know what you're up to. Give them guidance and hold them accountable.

Once we started giving work to Zenith, it dramatically improved our effectiveness. A server reboots for no apparent reason? Have Zenith analyze the memory dump. Driver issue? Have Zenith install the new drivers in the middle of the night (here) so the client is not interrupted.

We have a rule that makes us a bunch of money: If it can be done by Zenith, assign it to Zenith!

Last year at this time I gave an analysis of Zenith vs. Kaseya. At that time, I recommended doing both (as we do). And I said:

"If we absolutely had to do one today? . . . I think the nod would go to Zenith . . .."


Today's Commitment to Zenith

Kaseya is still a great tool.

But Kaseya is no longer the only top-shelf, spectacular tool out there.

We have decided that, going forward, KPEnterprises (Sacramento's Premier Microsoft Small Business Specialist) will use Zenith's monitoring on all servers and all workstations.

We will remove Kaseya from the servers first as we already rely 99% on Zenith for these systems.

We will gradually transition desktops to Zenith monitoring.

In addition to a spectacular tool set, Zenith gives us the ability to rely on their NOC for backend support. That turns our 12 hands into 120 at the click of a button.

Because the monitoring has proven flawless, and the backend has proven to be so successful and profitable, we're committed to moving everything over to Zenith.

We won't be buying any more licenses from Kaseya.


Looking to the Future

Looking forward, we have even bigger things planned for Zenith.

Manuel and I are working feverishly to finish the book on Network Migrations. One piece we decided to NOT include in that book is using a remote NOC to help out.

But as soon as that book is done, we're going to sit down and figure out how much of a 25-user network migration we can turn over to Zenith. If you think about it, it's a perfect next step.

In some sense, this is exactly the mindset that brought us to such a high level of success with Zenith so far: They want to be the outsourced backend for companies like ours, so we'll give them everything we can.

It makes their job more interesting, too. After all, who wants to do the one millionth printer driver update when there's a company like KPEnterprises who is trying to figure out ways to leverage them for an entire network upgrade?

- - - - -

It's easy to talk about a global economy and being connected to resources in other countries.

And, let's face it: Almost every small business owner is a control freak. We put off hiring our first employee for years sometimes because "No one will care as much as me." Eventually we get over that.

Once you have employees, the routine becomes clear: Set precise, specific expectations and follow through. That process works for an employee, a sub-contractor in another state, or an outsourced I.T. department in another country.

We are very excited to step up our relationship with Zenith to the next level. We're really looking forward to a great 2009!

:-)

14 comments:

  1. Karl, good luck with the move. I have to admit that I shocked about the move. You were such a great advocator for Kaseya and now the turn to Zenith.

    Personally I don't trust this whole RMM and MSP tool industry. When you speak with lots of people they have a love/hate relationship with their provider.

    Now the big guns are jumping ship to new providers. You are endorsing Zenith and Amy is tight with itControl Suite.

    Good luck with your decision and I hope it works out for you.

    Stuart Crawford
    Calgary, AB
    http://blog.itsuccessmentor.com

    PS - I guess I can be put in the same book - just bought a MAC

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, as you know, the world keeps changing. And relationships matter.

    I believe, in the 21st Century, you have to have at least one of these tools. We've used Zenith and Kaseya both together for about 18 months now.

    Clint Gatewood from Zenith made an excellent point when I visited their office in Pennsylvania a few months ago: It's not about the tools anymore. Lots of people have good tool sets.

    What more can a company bring to the table in terms of service and relationships?

    My rep at Kaseya is a very nice guy. We talked maybe ten times in four years. But I don't have a relationship with Kaseya: I do business with Kaseya.

    I believe our company has a relationship with Zenith.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting discussion about relationships. We've been using Kaseya for about 1 year, and love it. We talk regularly with our original Kaseya rep. When we started evaluating Zenith (for BDR) I talked to our Kaseya rep about what Zenith can offer and where Kaseya fits. I found that Kaseya has started providing back-end NOC services, which we will evaluate. I've also been troubled with some of the Zenith Bit Defender issues (Not that Kaseya hasn't had their own).

    Bottom line of your decision is maybe the best teaching. There are a number of great tools/solutions out there, but it is best to leverage one, not multiple.

    Maybe the second thing to learn from your process is that change and re-evaluation is critical to a successful business.

    I wish you the best with Zenith, and look forward to hearing your progress.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Karl, Thank you for continued support of Kaseya these past few years. I looked up your account and saw that you became a Kaseya client on October 17th, 2005. Back in April of this year we launched our NOC Assist program which complements our IT Monitor Assist solution launched in September 2007. I am sorry that you were not made aware of this service at the time of your decision.

    Here is the overview of our NOC Assist solution:

    "Kaseya NOC Assist gives managed service providers (MSPs) the ability to extend their staff by bundling private labeled NOC services for basic remediation, routine preventive maintenance and pro-active monitoring of servers. These services are provided transparently by Kaseya so that the MSP is able to maintain complete control over usage, data collection and all end user interaction."

    If you are not aware of the NOC Assist service from Kaseya, please feel free to contact me directly (twitter or email) and I will put you touch with the right person.

    All the best to you Karl,
    Chad Gniffke, Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Kaseya

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks, Chad.

    (Side note: I'd rather not have our account information published on the internet without prior permission.)

    We did know about the NOC from Kaseya. But we'd been using Zenith's NOC for a year before you announced yours.

    In this case, they had a track record and you did not.

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  6. Hi Karl,

    I'm Zenith customer as well. You mention you have a 3-4 page checklist for servers. Two questions (ok, 3!): Any good checklists out there (I'm never sure mine is complete) and How did you coordinate with Zenith to do the tasks for you? How much extra are they charging you? Just curious as they keep shrinking the number of "included" tasks in their service offerings (in 2008 anyway).

    Thanks! Best of luck to you in 09!

    -m

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good questions.

    1. Checklist. Our old checklist, used as a basic starting place for all monthly maintenance checklists, is available on an autoresponder. Just send an email to checklist@kpenterprises.com.

    3. They are not charging any extra.

    2. Coordination. There are two types of tasks. 90% of them are really taken care of with monitoring. We used to check disc space and error logs once a month. Now they're being done all day, every day, in real time.

    The other 10% of tasks involves having a Zenith technician do something. We create service requests and assign them to Zenith.

    Two keys to success here: 1) If it's legitimate maintenance, they'll do it.

    2) You should coordinate this with your technical contact. We literally compiled the big universal checklist, emailed it to Raymond, and then had lengthy conversations about how we wanted to implement it.

    It's awesome.
    :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. This post finally got me to put your blog in my RSS reader. I've always come back to catch up, but I definitely want to follow what happens between you and Zenith. (And, yes, I know I'll learn more on the journey!)

    We've been with them for about 2 months now and it seems that each day they're willing to do less and less for us. We push something their way, they push it back as being out of scope.

    As soon as everyone gets back in the new year, I'm going to sit down with the techs directly involved with Zenith and analyze what they've been passing back to us to figure out why. Then we'll lean on Zenith to find out what they'll truly provide for us as a service. We definitely want to take advantage of them, but haven't had the same luck you've experienced to this point.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I speculate that with your wide audience/influence that Zenith might be giving you preferential treatment.

    I have found them to be ranging from highly competent to destructively inept.

    They can be a bit like a futuristic robot with plenty of core intelligence but little or no ability to catch important things that fly by.

    As for treating them as employees I agree with that the only problem is that I would fire them without hesitation.

    I am re-evaluating and considering a change.
    Good luck with them.
    Brad

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have to agree with some of the later posts. I was brought into a smaller consulting company that is ramping up to use Zenith for Managed Services (MS). I had only a small amount of experience in MS as my old consulting company just started to roll out an in-house developed system when I left them about 4-5 years ago.

    The idea of Zenith sounded great, but I was wary they would live up to their expectations.

    I have not been the point person so far, but from what I am hearing from my subordinates is that many thing are being missed or not being done and we are getting the feeling that all the things we were under the impression would be handled are now as others have said "out of scope."

    One of my guys had to contact Zenith to let them know that our BDR box from them wasn't backing up the server for days. You would think that they would be monitoring that? Plus there have been tons of errors in the server event logs (mostly minor things, although red...like sharepoint indexing, DNS credentials) that they haven't notified us on.

    I also just realized that WSUS was still installed even though they claimed they were going to install their own patching system and not only was it installed but it had crashed and restarted over 550 times in the event viewer and not a peep.

    It hasn't been a good pilot and after a team meeting next week I am going to urge a strong re-evaluation of Zenith if we can't get them to coordinate their act and up their SLA's.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm on the verge of implementing either Zenith, Kaseya, or BigFix Enterprise.

    It seems to be an even tie between Zenith and Kaseya in terms of reviews and chatter about the products.

    BigFix is a relative unknown, I stumbled on it after reading a review in a MSP blog - and I must say it looks like it can do nearly anything - without the remote NOC.


    I hope this doesn't seem like cheap advertising, but I'll be blogging about the eval process of all three of these apps here ( http://christopher-technicalmusings.blogspot.com/ )
    Hopefully someone else will find my experience useful.

    Thanks for the great info!

    ReplyDelete
  12. You use the term "cheap advertising" as if it's a bad thing.

    Now if you're the sneaky salesman for this product, that's a different thing.

    Thanks for the info.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Well this is a pretty hot topic indeed for those of us evaluating the options... pretty interesting to hear pros and cons coming from experience.

    I'd like to hear more about this BigFix or Level Platforms (someone I'd been receiving marketing emails from for months without even realizing they're an MSP back-end). I also haven't heard much about Dell's offering (Silverbacktech.com), but I know they cost a lot more to get into.

    The comment about maybe showing some preferential treatment was interesting. What do you think, Karl, is that possible? It would be kind of nice for us guys without much notoriety to get a feel ahead of time.

    The other reason I'm leaning toward Zenith is the service desk and BDR that rounds out the solution. I don't want that to make the choice for me though if the core offering isn't quite up to snuff. Of course the agentless design of the competition is super-attractive as well, but I can't help feeling that Zenith would be doing that as well if it didn't mean you'd be sacrificing something (I guess I just haven't figured out what that is yet, unless maybe it's the security software that comes with it...?).

    Does anyone else have the MSP, the service desk AND the agentless architecture, even if not also the BDR?

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  14. Two thoughts, Andrew.

    First, on Agentless Nirvana: The fundamental problem we had with the agentless tool we tried is that machines must be connected to a domain and must be able to see the master machine that coordinates service.

    With an agent, I can deploy to anything I can find on the network. And if someone calls me from another country and wants me to deploy a new laptop they bought, I can do that. And when they get back to the office, it just continues to work.

    Second, on preferential treatment: We may be getting it. But I'll tell you this: You will be hard pressed to find a partner that has put more pressure on Zenith to do things our way.

    We went through a period of having conference calls with the support team at Zenith, laying out our expectations, and agreeing on how to proceed.

    I've said over and over: You need to treat your back end NOC like an employee. That takes time and effort. You need to be explicit about what you want and how you want them to do things.

    We lay out step by step procedures in our service requests. We hold them accountable.

    We also treat them like a valuable part of our team. After all, I can either pay a technician to stay up all night nursing a sick SQL server back to health, or I can pay Zenith. In either case, I need to know that it was done right and that I got complete and accurate information about the process.

    I've blogged many times about how we work with Zenith.

    I'll bet that anyone who puts as much effort into any partner relationship as we put into Zenith will also get preferential treatment.

    ReplyDelete

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