Why Are So Many MSPs Broken?
Businesses fail for all sorts of reasons — some out of the company’s control, but some very much in their control. When it comes to MSPs, for example, certain external factors such as the general economy or the chosen target industry may force an unexpected closure. However, more often than not, there are foreboding signs.
In other words, MSPs come and go as often as ships in a port, but those that fail don’t always “sink” overnight.
Right now, for example, there seems to be something collectively amiss with most MSPs — or at least how they are perceived by many of their clients and fellow professionals. You can blame it largely on the fast-paced and high stress-levels inherent to the IT industry. However, many people consider the issue to be more fundamental, claiming that the vast majority of MSPs are “broken” in some major ways.
In this article, we’ll explore the core reasons MSPs are being labeled as broken. We’ll also hear from some IT professionals on how they feel about the criticisms, plus how they think the industry and companies themselves should be able to improve and adjust over time.
Why Are MSPs So Broken?
A recent thread on Reddit enumerated many of the most pressing issues clients have with MSPs at the current moment. The thread received over 200 comments — many from other clients with similar issues and some from MSP owners and IT specialists in the industry.
Here are the issues highlighted:
1. Clear quotes are hard to come by.
Clients are complaining that VCIOs don’t make the wheels go ‘round when it comes to delivering clear quotes. They’re being asked for simple prices on basic services like turning on MDM of full disk encryption, and the clients are only met with months (or in some cases, years) of red tape — meeting after meeting and nothing to show for it.
2. Proper configuration is missing from the majority of firewalls.
Firewalls, a simple and basic defense that can single-handedly fend off a slew of malicious software, never seem to be configured correctly. Clients claim that security packages are often purchased, but it’s common for them not to be enabled or configured. Frequently, SSL decryption isn’t enabled either.
3. Patching never works to fix vulnerabilities.
Despite patch dashboards often shining brightly in pure green, many clients are frustrated that unpatched vulnerabilities are prevalent.
4. The process of installing software is rife with complications.
It seems another issue a number of MSPs have is having to endlessly “catch machines online” in order to update software. Programs and other software go for months without being installed because of small weaknesses like this.
5. Microsoft Intune never works properly.
Even the simplest elements of the very basic service Microsoft Intune seems to be handled poorly. Clients claim to only want a fundamental setup for things like screen lock times or wiping a stolen or lost device. However, even this seems to be a challenge for many MSPs.
6. Tickets never get answered.
The entire purpose of submitting trouble or support ticket is for it to be answered and addressed promptly. However, one of the most common issues facing clients is their trouble tickets never being answered. They never hear back from their MSP — for months and sometimes even years. Even “escalating” the ticket doesn’t produce results much of the time — leaving clients to wonder why they even have an MSP to solve problems in the first place.
What MSPs and IT Professionals Have to Say in Response
A wide range of responses have come in from MSP owners and IT experts who read the aforementioned Reddit thread. Their views on the matter range from total understanding to total disagreement.
Here’s what they had to say.
#1 – Companies who need to hire MSPs will start only looking for companies that aren’t owned by an “IT guy.”
In other words, word on the street is “IT guys don’t have business skills,” so unless they have someone handling the business end of their company, clients may start looking elsewhere.
Said Ross Siroti of Rekall Technologies, “IT people, in general, are one-trick ponies. Companies don’t know the questions to ask when looking for IT. [The] IT guy [who owns an IT company] will lack business abilities, sales, organization, personnel, and human resources/social skills often. How can one expect the same person to build out a brand-new cluster with an RDS server to manage 40 people, virtualize it, migrate all company data and applications, set up all the email, and also get the billing out, deal with client issues and make sure all clients are taking care of all at the same time?”
Demetrius Cassidy of In The Cloud Technologies agrees: “Since starting their MSP is typically the first experience the founders have starting a business, they tend to learn as they go.”
Unfortunately, this situation occurs far too often. “Lack of organization on the part of an owner or managing partner,” said Siroti, “will cause unresponsive … IT services.”
#2 – Lack of regulation has caused this problem — especially for small MSPs.
Although certain compliance regulations are in place, especially when dealing with government agencies, currently, there are no regulations associated with the IT industry in general. As Blake Schwank, CEO of Colorado Computer Support, put it:
“We obviously need some sort of regulation in IT. Why are plumbers and electricians regulated but not IT?” He went on to explain that much of the issue has to do with smaller IT companies. “As a 20-year-old MSP,” he said, “We still struggle with doing it right. I cannot imagine trying to do it right in 2021 as a 5-person MSP with little depth and experience.”
#3 – False advertising among competing MSPs is what causes a lot of these issues.
While Eric Schuler of HRCT did accept that some of the issues were serious problems, one of the issues, he said, is that “when we run a vulnerability scanner there is a mountain of things that need hours of research to resolve. Including this work in our base plan would require hiring lots of new engineers which will cause our pricing to increase and probably to the point where our competitors would win the business instead of us because everyone advertises that they do these things when in fact they really don’t.”
#4 – Many MSPs deny that these claims are true in the first place.
Finally, Ernie Sherman, President of CISOVISION, denies these claims as being 100% accurate: “If it is true,” he said, “this industry does require a makeover. But, let’s say it is. I can’t speak to poor practices other than no accountability.” Eric Schuler of HRCT also said that “most of these complaints about tickets and quotes should not exist here.”
Whether each of these individual issues is actually true doesn’t really matter. For MSPs to be successful, they must take these claims seriously and attempt to make amends. Being the best-possible IT company on the market means beating out the competition and not having issues with the claims made in the Reddit thread.