Wednesday, September 05, 2007

We Get Email

[ KP Note: The entire "Managed Services in a Month" series has been collected, collated, and indexed. Still free. You may access it now at ]

We Get Email

Michael asks two questions by email. NOTE: I mentioned that you need to carry a pad of paper and a pencil with you while you go through this. Add these thoughts to that tablet and see how it fits with your organization.

    Question 1. In part two you want us to compile a list of all the services we provide. Are you meaning to list only the services that would be part of managed services?

    Which then begs the question what items should be part of the managed services? . . . But surely there are some things that would be excluded? . . . What happens when a disaster recovery is needed, is this included?

Well, primarily, you need to list all the services you would be providing under an MSA (managed service agreement). But, as you suggest, how do you know what that is until you've made the list?

I would start by listing everything you do on a regular basis. You can make three lists: Definitely on MSA, definitely not on MSA, and maybe on MSA. If you do a special kind of security audit that costs a lot of money, for example, put that on the definitely not list. But if you also have the ability to run a quick checkup that costs you little or nothing and provides some value to the client, you might throw that in once a year.

The important part is to list anything of value to the client. Don't throw in lots of stuff they don't care about. You're primarily looking at

- Maintenance
- Patch management
- Monitoring
- Fixing software when it breaks

Think about the 90% of what you do every day for 90% of your clients. That probably does include setting up a new outlook signature, but probably doesn't include installing a new network printer for everyone in the office.

Remember: you want to keep this to a one-page table.

And you generally want to throw in as much value as possible.

Important safety tip: If there's something you can throw in that costs you little or nothing, makes the overall maintenance easier, and provides value to the client -- do it. For example, our Platinum clients can have Exchange Defender if they want it. Cheap to us, provides spam filtering and caching of email when the ISP goes offline.

As for Disaster Recovery:

It's all up to you. Hardware failures are not included. If we're maintaining a system, and a disaster occurs, the part that's related to getting the software and operating system back in business is covered. So, for example, replacing a drive controller is not covered. But all work 8AM - 5PM to restore data and even reinstall the operating system is covered. If the client says to work all night, that's all at the after hours rate. For people who can wait an extra day to get back in business, the incident could be mostly covered. If they're in a hurry, it could be very expensive.

Also: Only Platinum Plan includes onsite labor. Silver and Gold are remote only. So disaster recovery onsite is all billable.

Your mileage may vary.


    Question 2. How do you position the changes to clients who are already on a semi-managed service package? i.e: How do I tell them that they now need to pay $1000/mo, when they are paying $500/mo for exactly the same thing?

A future topic will deal with your Client "Sit-Downs." But here are some thoughts for now.

We actually had a situation similar to what you are talking about. We started doing flat-fee services many years ago by offering remote monitoring for $125/month per server. We have also done a monthly maintenance for clients for more than ten years. So that's one to two hours per month per server ($135-270 for clients under service agreement).

So the average small client is paying about $300/month for monitoring and monthly maintenance.

Our silver plan is $500/month and is our entry level plan. It includes daily monitoring, monthly maintenance, and two hours of remote labor. So the sell is pretty easy.

I suspect your $1,000/month client will be at a level other than Silver. OR your rates are higher than mine.

In Part Five we'll talk about putting clients into the right plans and how you organize your pitch.

But also consider what your business looks like and what you're leaving behind. It is very likely that you have a different agreement (written or not) with each client. Some get one set of services and some get another. Some are at one rate, some at another. Even your "semi-managed services" are probably different for each.

Life will be much easier for you when there are three boxes and everyone fits in a box. It will be easier to explain to clients, technicians, and sales people. Even if it's just you right now, being able to have three nice categories will make growth that much easier.

Hope that helps!


  1. Anonymous10:35 AM

    Thanks Karl! This article came at a perferct time... Now I just your future article on where to put each customer.

    I can't thank you enough for all you've given this community.

  2. Anonymous5:49 PM

    Eriq Neale's book, Small Business Server 2003 Unleashed, page 219 and chapter 19 has some great content on what to monitor/check!

    Brian Williams
    Advantech NW, Inc.


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