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The CRN Test Center takes a look under the hood of some popular vendor platforms.
The MSP craze of 2006 was spearheaded by midmarket solution providers catering to SMBs with mostly Windows-based networks.
This is why CRN Test Center engineers were surprised to discover that in a Windows-dominated world, a popular sampling of MSP platform products revealed a lack of integration with certain critical Windows technologies.
Test Center engineers popped the hood on an expensive MSP platform from SilverBack Technologies, medium-priced products from vendors LPI Level Platforms and N-Able Technologies, and a low-cost product from vendor AdventNet.
We searched for integration with key Microsoft monitoring technologies that capture performance, execute security auditing and provide automatic links to Windows' auto-update system. But engineers discovered that these various MSP platforms were not fully integrated with certain vital Windows technologies. What's more, as new technology looms—such as Vista's programmatic event tracers and Intel's VPro auto-discovery—MSP vendors are still in the planning stages when it comes to preparing their products.
Because it is a Windows-dominated world, the Test Center invited Microsoft's System Center Essentials platform to participate. Many MSPs said Microsoft might own the MSP platform market with System Center Essentials, but the software giant declined to take part.
Because a successful MSP business is a proactive one, the Test Center determined that a well-structured resource workflow is a prerequisite to a quality MSP platform. Many MSP vendors, however, have architected their products to be reactive, and these types of products, which lack high-level workflow support sequences, can easily overwhelm small service providers with limited resources.
Equally important to success is quick access to support. Tracing faults should be direct and simple. When an alert has been identified, service providers should be able to know how to solve it right on the screen.
Linking a knowledge base to alert types is also a must-have feature. Moreover, service providers should be able to click on alert links that send them directly to a device interface at a customer site. Most MSP vendors in the review lacked this feature. But most demonstrated key strengths such as automated report generation.
The following pages reveal the details on each platform.
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