The Ultimate Guide to MSP Software

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According to a Trends Report by Jumpcloud, almost 87.5% of the small and medium-sized businesses surveyed said they use Managed IT Service Providers or plan to adopt MSPs into their operations. 

Although this translates to great news for MSP businesses, you still have to think deeply about challenges around customer satisfaction and employee productivity.  For perspective, a whopping 80% of enterprises say they are looking to replace their current MSP, while employees are getting overwhelmed with increased multi-cloud requirements. 

To battle these challenges, forward looking Managed Service Providers are accelerating the use of advanced and specialized software programs for their operations. The best MSP software makes workflows more efficient as they introduce automation and improve visibility into client and partner systems. 

The baseline here is that your MSP inadvertently needs MSP software to operate effectively today. This guide dives deep into everything you need to know about MSP software.  

Meanwhile if you are new to the MSP business, we recommend you spare a moment and learn how to start an MSP business

What is MSP software and why does your MSP need one?

Do you help other businesses manage a part of or their entire IT infrastructure, whether it be their supply chain systems, security, network, capital business assets, or just their product inventory? 

MSP software is the set of tools that IT service providers use to support their work and optimize results for clients. This type of software is specialized for MSP services. It enables the automation, execution, monitoring, and optimization of services to ensure clients are served to satisfaction. 

Benefits of Managed Service Provider Software

Having to take care of businesses with multiple cases and requirements puts so much pressure on your MSP personnel. 

Here, we are referring to the typical pressures such as IT monitoring, scalability, support, troubleshooting, reporting, and resource management for all clients. 

It isn’t hard to see how vast workflows can become impractical in the absence of specialized tools. 

In this light, MSP software can deliver the following benefits:

1. MSP software improves deployment and management

On-premise IT deployments typically come with extreme difficulties for MSPs. They require physical presence, which you can’t simultaneously assure for all your clients. 

This then trickles down to increasing costs from transportation/logistics, limiting the scalability of operations, and elongating response times during incidents. Tools like remote monitoring and management (RMM) software allow MSPs to scale these challenges easily. You maintain centralized control over all clients from one remote location. 

2. MSP software enhances visibility

MSP software improves visibility into the clients’ IT systems. They come with ML-powered analytics through which you carefully monitor your supply chain, partners, SLA performance, and compliance levels. 

For any MSP, this level of visibility will simplify decision-making and make it easy to intuitively watch over diverse client environments.  

3. MSP software enhances security

On the security side, 39% of ransomware attacks target MSP businesses like yours, causing huge losses to finances, reputation, and customer trust. The right software can help you get rid of these problems while saving time for other business-critical operations. They come with automation and scripts that deploy immediately after issues arise. These ensure you have complete coverage over your clients’ IT environments, even outside business hours.

Overall, MSP software allows you to operate faster and more effectively through automation, data visualization, and centralization. What’s more, these software tools come with features tailored to specific use cases and needs. 

Of course, the benefits you will ultimately enjoy depend on what exactly you intend to use the software for. Nonetheless, the benefits we have highlighted here are general conveniences that all MSPs stand to gain from using the right software to support their workflows. They all add to increasing client trust and satisfaction.

How MSP Software works

Today, most MSP software tools work through cloud-powered deployments — just like any other SaaS software you find in the market. They essentially serve as centralized platforms for managing your clients’ IT environments remotely. 

Certain MSP software, like ITSM software, comes with comprehensive features covering wide areas of MSP operations. Some of the areas they cover include system design, client IT integration, customer support, and IT security. 

However, just like there are pure-play MSPs, there are also specialized MSP software with specific features for specific parts of an MSP business. For example, there is MSP software for customer support, MSP software for security modeling, and MSP software for disaster recovery, among many others. 

For purposes of this resource, we have carefully selected the major types of MSP software in the market today.  

The most important MSP software

It’s important to note that the program you need for your operations depends on your MSP business needs and the type of third-party service you offer. 

1. Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) Software

Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) software is a full-stack program that enables MSPs to perform virtually all IT-related MSP services in one place. 

This MSP software integrates the core principles of DevOps to deliver services and ITIL-focused practices to design and support these services. For MSPs, ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) management primarily aligns a company’s IT management with their specific business goals.  

The core features of ITSM software are equipped to enable MSPs to perform the following ITSM processes.

  • Service request management
  • IT asset management
  • Threat management
  • Incident management
  • Change management

Alongside these core processes, ITSM software also comes with features for comprehensive service catalog and project management. These two help you manage lead conversion for clients and separate the management of each customer’s IT environment..

2. Remote Monitoring & Management (RMM) Software

Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) software is important for all types of managed service providers. Essentially, these programs grant MSPs real-time access to and remote control over their client’s IT infrastructure. 

RMM software comes with features that let MSPs perform the following activities: 

  • Schedule tasks
  • Remotely deploy and manage devices
  • Set asset controls and permissions
  • Create and optimize networks
  • Monitor and gauge the performance of IT assets in real-time
  • Deploy security configurations remotely
  • Identify threats and deliver alerts immediately
  • Generate reports for relating to each client 

The best RMM tools in the market help you automate IT monitoring, threat response, and report generation. With this, you maintain 24/7 remote control over all client infrastructure. They also come with ML-powered features to ensure IT management is free of as many inaccuracies and faults as possible — with minimal human intervention. 

If you prefer open source, please check our comprehensive analysis of the best open source RMM software

3. Patch Management Software

Patch Management tools enable the automation of updates across different software, devices and firmware. The goal is normally to fix vulnerabilities or bugs. This is an important task that many MSPs are constantly undertaking on behalf of clients.

If one of your MSPs services is patch management, then you are certainly going to require this type of MSP software.

A typical MSP patch management software will automatically track and update all programs that need to be patched. This way, you will always ensure that your clients' systems and devices are secure.

These are the critical features of a great patch management software:

  • Customization: You should be able to customize the software to serve the needs of different clients
  • Reboot options: The software should have reboot features that support the requirements of the programs being patched. For example if a device requires a forced reboot, the software should be able to trigger this.
  • Automation: The software should support the setup of automatic scanning and patch deployment
  • Operating system: The MSP patch management software should be flexible enough to support the operating systems that your clients use in their devices.
  • Reporting: The MSP patch management software you choose should have reporting features that give insights to help you monitor the effectiveness of the patching process.

For more on patch management, please read our resources on patch management policy and patch management lifecycle.

4. Penetration Testing software

As a serious MSP, you may have probably discovered that penetration testing is inevitable as one of the activities that contribute to secure networks for your clients.

To perform effective pen tests in the modern ecosystem, you will need the help of penetration testing software. This software is designed to automate some of the tasks involved in penetration testing operations.

When you automate all tasks that can be possibly automated during pen testing, the testing efficiency improves considerably and this makes it easy to find issues that would have been difficult to unearth if the tasks were to be performed manually.

The pentesting tool you choose should be affordable & customizable, easy to implement, manage and scale.

5. Help Desk & Service Desk software

Help Desk and Service Desk software is all about user support. These tools make it easy for MSPs to attend to customer complaints fast (help desk) and respond to strategic service and information requests (service desk). 

Here are some of the core features of a Help Desk and Service Desk software. 

  • Centralize a client’s messages spread across all platforms
  • Create, update, and track tickets on customer complaints, feedback, and tech support
  • Keep a history of client messages
  • Manage customer support representatives and their workflows
  • Gauge client satisfaction. 

Help Desk and Service Desk software also allows you to manage a self-service knowledge base, manage community forums for user-generated help, and automate IT reporting.

Dig deeper into the differences between helpdesk and service desk

6. IT Infrastructure Monitoring Software

Your clients' IT infrastructure is a beehive of activity. All the components in there work together in harmony to power the organization's business operations.

So, if part of your role as an MSP is to monitor the health of the infrastructure of some of your clients, you will definitely need to use Infrastructure Monitoring Tools.

This is the software you rely on to gain visibility into how the IT resources (both virtual and physical) are being used, as well as the status of each component in terms of performance and security. It doesn't matter where a component is located. It could be on premise, in the cloud, at the edge, anywhere. What you need is to be able to monitor each and every component in the entire infrastructure.

From servers to containers and databases plus every infrastructural item in-between, the best IT infrastructure monitoring software should give you a centralized view from where you can effectively monitor and analyze the company-wide infrastructure.

7. SOAR Tools

SOAR is an acronym that stands for Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response. The aim of SOAR is to streamline (orchestrate) and  automate responses to security events.

Therefore, MSP SOAR software enables you to automate responses to security events around your clients' systems. All the alerts from a client's security stack are combined into a single platform where most of the responses are automated.

SOAR tools are capable of identifying the most dangerous threats. This is in addition to deriving meaningful insights from huge amounts of data. Based on these data-driven insights, you can design playbooks that guide the automated responses.

Check our expert analysis and listing of the best SOAR solutions in the market today. 

8. Shadow IT Prevention Tools

In an era characterized by an abundance of software tools and devices as we are experiencing today, employees eager to lay their hands on what they perceive to be the best tools for their jobs will go to any extent to use them. They will use them even when they have not been sanctioned by the IT department.

When employees use tools that have not been formally approved by the company, this phenomenon is known as Shadow IT.

So if your MSP is responsible for managing the various tools that your clients' employees use on a daily basis, you must bear in mind that some of those tools could fall under Shadow IT.

Because Shadow IT can bring all manner of risks to the company including exposure to dreadful cyber threats, you will need the right software to spot these tools and prevent their usage or have the healthy ones used under a strict Shadow IT policy. This is where shadow IT software comes in.

The right Shadow IT software will help you identify all shadow tools (both software and hardware devices) that are being used within a client's infrastructure. The software contains reporting features that go deeper to illustrate aspects like where the tools are being used, the people using them and what time these tools are used the most. Armed with these insights, you can advise the client on which tools they can allow as well as those that should be removed.

9. SIEM software 

SIEM is an acronym that in full stands for Security Information and Event Management. As the name suggests, it's all about managing the information and events related to the security of the IT infrastructure.

Another way to understand this concept is by asking a simple question: How do you organize all that security information that comes from the various security tools deployed in a client's IT environment? How do you sieve through the many security events that are knocking on different parts of the business? In a nutshell, this is what SIEM is about.

Back to MSP SIEM software. You need this software so that you are able to better manage and make sense of that huge inflow of your clients' information and events around security.

SIEM software will collect data pertaining to logs and events. This data comes from the client's systems, devices, etc. Once collected, the data is compiled into a central platform where it's analyzed to spot potential danger zones. The software then provides alerts, based on which the identified threats are investigated and stopped from causing harm.

A critical feature of a proper SIEM software is the ability to compare the data being received against past patterns and certain rules that are specific to the organization. This correlation is fundamental because you are then able to distinguish false threats from the truly dangerous ones. This way, you are able to save time by focusing only on those threats that can harm the organization if not contained. It's never wise to focus on every threat as this can get overwhelming with potential to waste resources.

Through Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, SIEM tools can be trained and fine-tuned so that they become better in analysis over time. At this point, the alerts will become much more precise thus reducing false positives and false negatives. False positives are harmless threats that are presented as harmful whereas false negatives refers to harmful threats that are overlooked.

10. Professional Services Automation (PSA) software

Professional Services Automation (PSA) software focuses on project management and invoicing. This is the go to software when you want to separately track each client’s IT project completion, monitor costs, and optimize resource allocation. 

Some of the most important features to look out for in PSA software include:

  • Time tracking
  • Accounting and expense tracking
  • Resource planning, allocation, utilization, and optimization management
  • Automated billing and invoicing
  • Client relationship management
  • Team collaboration management

PSA software is one of the few on our list that offers features for managed services outside the IT industry. They give MSPs visibility into time, resource, and cost-related data, allowing you to control how you meet each client’s SLA requirements. 

11. Incident Response software

Incident response is a key aspect of managed service provision. It basically dictates how proactive you are in dealing with your clients’ data privacy and general cybersecurity issues. 

Incident Response software comes with features that enable MSPs to save time that they would have spent on prioritizing, mitigating, and remediating threats. 

Some of these features include:

  • Incident planning
  • Client and threat categorization
  • Threat triaging/prioritization based on impact 
  • Automated alerts
  • ML-powered responsibility assignment
  • Automated incident remediation workflows for proactive and reactive protection
  • Incident documentation and reporting

Overall, incident response software comes with features that help MSPs prepare for, detect, analyze, contain, and eliminate threats. They also help remediate any damages, improve security setups, and record events for future reference. 

12. Cloud Migration software

Cloud migration software refers to the tools that are used to aid the movement of a clients’ applications, systems, or data from an on-premise or cloud location to another cloud location. 

Not only does cloud migration software permit flexibility in data management, but it also helps MSPs to improve the scalability of IT. 

Consider these top features when looking for cloud migration software.

  • Pre-migration assessment and planning
  • Data encryption for storage and transfers
  • Support for multiple migration techniques, such as lift-and-shift, refactoring, rehosting, and repurchasing, among others 
  • Compatibility with multiple storage platforms and cloud environments, particularly the ones you and your clients prefer
  • Visualized insights for performance monitoring and optimization

Many of the top cloud migration software for MSPs also come with cost monitoring and optimization features to control the cost of each client’s cloud movement. They also offer compliance features that help MSPs to meet the standards of many regulatory bodies today. 

See what experts consider to be the most critical benefits of cloud migration

13. Backup & Recovery software

Backup and Recovery (BDR) tools are critical in disaster recovery workflows. These are also the tools you use to duplicate data, deduplicate data, snapshot system configurations, and restore IT status to operable states — especially after an attack. 

The most important backup and recovery features you should look out for include: 

  • Support for local and cloud-based backups
  • End-to-end encryption on transfers and storage
  • Centralized data management
  • Granular data backup and restoration
  • Backup and restore testing 
  • Support for fast data and system restoration workflows, especially through automated failover and failback

Just like with cloud migration software, BDR software should also offer support for multiple compliance standards and multiple cloud destinations. 

Check more related tools, specifically software dedicated for disaster recovery. If you are new to the area of disaster recovery, it would be helpful to start by understanding what is disaster recovery, the best practices for disaster recovery testing, and how to choose the best disaster recovery tool in the modern business landscape.  

14. Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software

Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software refers to the tools you use to ensure that your MSP’s partnerships are high-performing and mutually beneficial. 

You use these tools to manage status with your sales channel partners, such as your resellers, distributors, and dealers. They are also important when it comes to managing supply chain partners, including the MSPs you use to support your own MSP business. 

These are the most important features of PRM software: 

  • Partner recruitment, onboarding, and deal Registration
  • Collaborative business planning
  • Partner training, certification, and enablement
  • Lead distribution
  • Contract management
  • Partner performance monitoring

In general, PRM software should offer collaborative features that simplify the management of communications and shared opportunities with partners. Opting for top software like SalesForce PRM and PartnerStack gives you access to partner portals to monitor leads, marketing, and sales performance.  

15. Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) software

If your MSP provides some security services as part of your larger offering, you always want to apply the best security practices available. One way to do this is to outsource your own IT security workflows, and this is where Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) software comes in.  

MSSP software allows you to delegate your security functions to an MSP specialized in cybersecurity offerings. This effectively frees up time for you to perform other core MSP functions. 

What are the crucial MSSP software features to look out for?  

  • Network security with firewalls, intrusion protection, and VPNs
  • Cloud access control
  • Data masking and encryption
  • Identity and Access Management (IAM) with multifactor authentication, activity monitoring, and access lifecycle management
  • Risk and vulnerability management, with AI/ML-powered detection, response, and remediation workflows

Many MSSPs offer these features separately — i.e., some can specialize only in offering network security or IAM management, for example. Nonetheless, comprehensive Infrastructure Security tools exist, and they can help you centralize all features in one provider. 

We have this exhaustive resource where we discuss the key differences between MSPs and  MSSPs in detail. Please check it out. 

16. Invoicing and Billing software 

As the name implies, invoicing and billing software is used to automatically track employee and customer time, generate bills and invoices, and analyze common billing issues. 

This MSP software will save you from manual, time-consuming processes and ensure all invoices and bills remain accurate. 

Crucial features to consider in these tools include: 

  • Centralized timesheets and purchase orders
  • Time-tracking templates
  • Automated timesheet population and invoice building
  • Auto reminders
  • SLA tracking
  • Pricing customization with support for tiers, dynamic pricing, and multiple currencies
  • Ability to deploy client self-service portals

Employing the best invoicing and billing software ensures profits never leak out and reduces billing issues that may slow down your MSP business. 

How to choose the right MSP software

As we see from above, there are so many types of MSP software in the market, and choosing one can be daunting especially if you are undertaking this exercise for the first time. 

The best advice you should heed is to first determine your internal MSP needs. 

Use this criteria: 

  • Comprehensively understand your service offering
  • Identify your service level objectives
  • Determine the current and projected size of your client base
  • Identify compliance requirements 
  • Identify current collaborative workflows and practices
  • Come up with a budget

Next, look for MSP software that satisfies these needs. Typically, the software you choose should accomplish the following: 

  • Accommodate your current client base and future projections
  • Support remote access and control
  • Easily integrate with current hardware and software deployments 
  • Offer demos and free trials to test features, compatibility, and productivity 
  • Automate repetitive workflows to increase MSP efficiency
  • Support security and compliance coverage over HIPAA, SOC2, or GDPR standards, depending on what applies to your industry. 
  • Offer pricing that fits into your budget and protects profitability. 

Once more, the best MSP software should offer features that comprehensively cover what your MSP needs. For instance, the data recovery software you choose should be compatible with your preferred enterprise storage platform. If your MSP serves clients in Europe, the software should come with security compliance that meets GDPR standards, as this is compulsory in this region.  

Bracing your MSP for the future!

Thanks to the benefits we highlighted,  the MSP market is growing fast and by 2030, MSPs will be staring at over USD 618 billion worth of opportunity. This growth will be powered by automation and AI capabilities. 

IoT and Blockchain-powered technologies will also feature prominently in MSP software. These two will bring improvements in the fields of data collection. They will also perfect contextual risk analysis, and tighten the security of communications between clients and internal MSP IT deployments. 

It is therefore important to keep these scenarios in mind when choosing an MSP software. Go for an MSP software that is not only great at present but one that is well positioned to evolve and incorporate emerging technology. 

If you are at the state where you are searching for the best MSP software that is suited for your clients’ needs, we have the expertise that will readily help you sieve through the multitude of options, make use of our vast network and we will work with you to identify the right software fast.

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