Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Karl's 14th Annual State of the Nation Address for SMB IT - January 11th

Mark your calendar now and don't miss this once-a-year webinar. This will be my 14th Annual "State of the Nation" address for small business technology providers.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

9:00 AM Pacific / 12 Noon Eastern


Don't worry - No Politics Here! Also, no selling.

No cost. Just register and tune in.

Paste that date into your calendar so you don't forget!

My 14th Annual State of the Nation Address for SMB IT is scheduled for January 11th!

What a year - the one ahead and the one behind!

Please share the registration link with your friends on social media! 

I'll give a quick report on 2022 and some predictions for 2023. Then I'll introduce my company theme for the year - and how it fits in with helping YOU to be more successful in the year ahead.

I'll give you a hint: I think 2023 will be a great year for IT consultants. And I'll tell you why. Sign up now and join me January 11th.

Topics Include:

  • Highlights and low-lights from 2022
  • Technology Updates 2022 . . . and what's next
  • The Economy
  • Speculations about 2023
  • How to Guarantee Future Success

2022 was another strange year, but but getting back to normal and pretty good for many IT providers. 2023 looks good as well, although with a bit of inflation. As always, I'm going to spend the year committed to helping IT service providers build successful businesses that look to the future of technology and guarantee their success moving forward.

Tune in to learn more!

The world of technology always brings change. In 2022, it brought more regulation and more skyrocketing insurance rates. The NSITSP is maturing nicely. 

On the downside, China is about to go through what the rest of the world went through with Covid. There's no way that won't affect us. I have some speculation.

I believe 2023 will be a year of great opportunities and change. 

Karl's 13th Annual State of the Nation Address for SMB IT

January 11th

9:00 AM Pacific

Register Now - https://bit.ly/son2023

This webinar will be recorded and you'll be able to view at MSPWebinar.com.

- - - - -

This is always a very popular webinar - but don't worry. I have 500 seats available and and will buy more if we need them. One of the things I've learned is that there's about a 50% drop-off rate when things are free. If registration reaches 1,000, I'll buy the extra seats.

Plan to log in early, though, to guarantee your seat.

See you then.


Monday, December 19, 2022

Do You Still Need an RMM?

We get mail . . .

Daniel writes: 

Hi Karl,

I’m taking your MS in a Month course on demand, and I have some questions around RMMs. 

Given the recent (or not so recent?) and significant breaches caused by RMMs like Kaseya and SolarWinds, do you still advocate for using an RMM?

Why or why not?

If yes, What do you do/advise to protect yourself and your clients?

If no, What do you propose as an alternative?

-- -- -- 

Great question, Daniel.

Personally, I’m still a huge fan of RMMs. 

Let me take a step back in the evolution of Managed Services for me. For me, the evolution looked like this:

1) Develop a service based on regular monthly maintenance. Standardize this pricing.

2) Move these clients to a flat fee service based on regular monthly maintenance. 

3) Add tools to increase the number of devices that can be managed. This allowed me to increase profit dramatically because I collected the same amount per device (servers and workstations), but did not expend the same amount of labor per device.

This "roll your own" service included RDP to servers, VNC, alerts from Servers Alive, and built-in alerting from Small Business Server, backup software, and other installed software.

4) RMM tools/services then allowed me to bundle all those functions into one tool - and automate the deployment and management of anti-virus.

So, the evolution of managed services, for me, was a matter of relying on fewer tools over time while dramatically reducing the amount of labor it takes to manage users. At each stage, I managed more and more endpoints with less and less labor. The result was more and more profit.

The current fad of pretending not to use RMM tools is really just a reliance on Microsoft's RMM, plus various tools built into various services and software. Microsoft's RMM is either Endpoint Manager or Intune, depending on which day of the week it is. If you Google either one, you'll find it. I'll use the term Intune, although Endpoint Manager is more descriptive.

In some sense, this feels like a step backward, but it's not. Intune is extremely powerful. It requires a good deal of work to set up and deploy properly, but it's very well supported by Microsoft and is basically their "default" RMM product. 

This is a bit like stage three (roll your own) described above - but with fifteen years of evolution in products, services, security, consolidation, and ease of use. The biggest benefit of this approach is that Microsoft owns all the code and manages its evolution and support. You might also consider that its biggest weakness.

Personally, I like to use non-Microsoft tools to monitor Microsoft's security for the same reason that I want a non-Boeing employee to certify the safety of Boeing airplanes. (I love Boeing. I love Microsoft. That's not the question.)

There are three major points to consider when choosing an RMM

1. Where do you fall on the spectrum from 90% manual to 90% automated? Neither extreme may be possible, so there's no "100%" on either end. As with all technology automation, you are trading your labor for automation, and trading control at the same time. 

2. You still have to do a lot of work!!! This is actually where some MSPs are finding themselves on the wrong end of regulators: They sign contracts, deploy agents, and do nothing to monitor and verify that the agents are doing what they promised.

The goal here is to spend a small amount of labor to provide a large amount of value. (You are pricing on value.) The goal is not to spend zero labor and assume that the tools will take care of themselves.

The average good, brand-name RMM will give you lots of value and automation. But you still need to create processes and procedures to make sure it's installed properly, configured properly, updated regularly, secured, and working as reported. That's true of Intune or any other RMM.

3. The well-known attacks need to be kept in perspective. I believe the only people affected by the Kaseya attack were those with Kaseya servers onsite instead of using the cloud product. In fact, Kaseya knew about the vulnerability months in advance and plugged their cloud servers. The Solarwinds attack was actually on a very high-end product that is not used in the SMB market. It was not the Solarwinds RMM that you would ever deploy.

Also, consider the larger business context. My personal data has been compromised by every credit I've owned in the last ten years, my ex-wife's employer (many times), Target, Best Buy, Verizon, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn, Marriott, MySpace, Twitter, Experian, Adobe, Equifax, eBay, Capitol One, DropBox, Tumblr, Uber, MGM, Zoom, my electrical utility, almost all online dating sites, and many others I'm not aware of.

The point is: We have to do the best we can, and we cannot stop using services because they might get compromised. Instead, we have to do serious due diligence to pick partners carefully. We need to thoroughly understand their services. We need to work to set them up properly, monitor them properly, and keep them updated. 

-- -- --

Bottom Line: I love a good RMM. It is the very basis of providing managed services because it allows you to provide the same value as doing everything manually without spending the labor to do everything manually.

In fact, I would go so far as to add a fourth point:

4. In the 2020's, you cannot provide appropriate monitoring, remote access, and patch management without an RMM. You can use Intune and say you're not using an RMM, but that's just legerdemain. 

The manual "roll your own" approach that I used in 1998-2003 is summarized in my famous 68-point checklist (Free here: https://store.smallbizthoughts.com/product/karls-famous-68-point-checklist-version-3-0/). But that checklist was once a month. Verify the security logs, disc space, and processor usage once a month. With any decent RMM, you can monitor these once every sixty seconds.

 More importantly, the world was a simpler place in 2000. Security was a concern, but malware consisted of frustrating and annoying behavior - not the actual loss of data and access to an entire network and all devices on it, or the payment of ransom. 

In my opinion, you have to have an RMM in the modern era. Just be sure to do your due diligence in picking a good one and using it properly.

Comments welcome.


Wednesday, December 07, 2022

ASCII Edge MSP Event Series Announced – Fresh Business Content for Growing MSPs

Press release from my friends at ASCII . . .


Bethesda, Maryland – December 7, 2022 – The ASCII Group, a membership-based community of independent North American MSPs, MSSPs and Solution Providers, today announced the keynote speakers and locations for its 2023 multi-city events, now called ASCII Edge.

ASCII Edge is an evolution of the company’s flagship conferences, formerly called ASCII Success Summits. The re-imagined events will have an enhanced focus on business education through best practices, networking opportunities, and collaboration in an effort to provide a competitive edge for MSPs in attendance. New and exclusive sessions will highlight supporting MSPs in growing their business practices. 

In addition to the general sessions, ASCII Edge 2023 content will feature a variety of industry experts and MSPs that are shaping the future of the channel, including:

Keynote Speaker – Blake Lemoine, "How AI is Disrupting Industries and How It Will Change the MSP Industry"

Making national news, ex-Google engineer Blake Lemoine saw first-hand the cutting edge of Artificial Intelligence and where it will lead. Lemoine will separate fact from fiction, highlighting the incredibly impressive advances being made in some areas as well as the areas in which the promises of automation are likely to be underwhelming. Armed with a little understanding of how to leverage these technologies, they will provide many opportunities for growth and prosperity – including in the MSP landscape.

Keynote Speaker - Brittany Hodak, "Creating Superfans: How to Turn Your Customers Into Lifelong Advocates”

Entrepreneur and fan-engagement guru Brittany Hodak shares the proprietary five-step SUPER Fan System she developed running successful campaigns and products for globally known brands including Walmart, Disney, the Boston Red Sox, and more. With her mix of humor and sharp business insights, she combines entertaining stories from her years of working with major stars with case studies of familiar brands to illustrate the effective and easy-to-master system for transforming customers into passionate advocates of your brand.

MSP Speakers:

“A Hacker’s Perspective: Is Your MSP Ready for Me?” Ken Wong, Founder & CEO, DragonTek International

“Growth Through Process – Fundamental Building Blocks MSPs Need to Achieve Repeatable Growth YoY," Brian Johnson, CEO, AVC Technology

“A Blueprint to Solve Talent & Hiring Challenges at 25% of the Salaries Your Competitors are Paying,” David Stinner, Founder & President, US itek

“We look forward to presenting ASCII Edge to the MSP community in 2023 as it is an enhanced educational event,” said Jerry Koutavas, President, The ASCII Group. “With topics ranging from operations to sales and marketing, each presentation will offer direct guidance and actionable take-aways. Our exposition space will allow attendees to see partner solutions in action and additional networking time will give attendees an opportunity to collaborate across boundaries.”

Thousands of ASCII members, technology vendor partners and business leaders will gather for these in-person events focused on industry best practices, enlightening keynotes, and education on channel solutions and services. Taking place over a two-day format, ASCII Edge is designed for MSPs focused on revenue growth and expanding their current business model.


ASCII Edge 2023 

Newport Beach, CA February 22 & 23            

Atlanta, GA March 22 & 23  

Dallas, TX April 19 & 20    

Newark, NJ May 24 & 25

Tampa, FL June 21 & 22

Columbus, OH July 12 & 13

Toronto, Canada August 30 & 31     

Chicago, IL September 20 & 21

Washington, D.C. October 18 & 19   

To learn more about ASCII Edge and to register for an event, visit https://events.ascii.com/.

About The ASCII Group, Inc:

The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, MSSPs and Solution Providers. The Group has members located throughout the U.S. and Canada, and membership encompasses everyone from credentialed MSPs serving the SMB community to multi-location solution providers with a national and international reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, extensive peer interaction and more. ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of leading and major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support the mission of helping MSPs to grow their businesses. For more information, please visit www.ascii.com


Sunday, December 04, 2022

Webinar this week: Strategies for Finding and Keeping Great Employees in 2023

Do Not Miss This!

We are at a critical moment for the SMB IT industry. And it's not going to stop soon. Finding and Keeping Great Employees is one of the great challenges for IT service providers.

So, I'm putting on a two-part webinar series to address this topic and propose some strategies for you to think about for the next few years. The first webinar is this Wednesday.

Register once for both webinars - https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QaMrDgbSQMymmLvnqd0G1w

Finding and Keeping Great Employees in 2023 is part webinar and part conversation about the realities of our current employment environment, with some thoughts about long-term and short-term strategies. With a bit of employment philosophy thrown in.

I will share some strategies for finding those great employees that are in short supply - and will be in shorter supply in the years ahead.

This webinar is open to all, and all related handouts and materials will be shared with all attendees. It will also be posted at MSPWebinar.com for viewing after the event. Register now so you don't forget.

I'm planning to leave time within the 60 minute slot to answer questions. But I'm also planning to go to 90 minutes if the questions keep coming. Some folks will drop after 60 minutes to get to their next meeting, but I'll stay as needed.

Webinar info is:

Dec 7, 2022 09:00 AM Pacific Time


Dec 14, 2022 09:00 AM Pacific Time 

Topic: Finding and Keeping Great Employees in 2023

One registration for both webinars:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Thank you all for your assistance with the survey. Please spread the word.