The earliest MSPs began by monitoring customer networks and resolving anomalies before they became outages. Customers truly valued the vigilance the MSP practiced over the systems that their businesses depended upon; those businesses still need and appreciate having someone watching the network while they focus on doing what they do! Here’s how to market to that point!

Howard M. Cohen

AUTHOR: Howard M. Cohen

When you go to purchase a shovel, what you’re really looking to buy is holes. That’s not a new observation, but when it comes to managed IT services, there’s an important and valuable lesson in it.

It’s not about you

When a managed services client engages you it’s not about you. It’s about having someone remaining constantly vigilant, watching their entire network and spotting anomalies before they become outages. In fact, if you’re doing your job well, they may forget you’re even there… and we’ll talk more about that in a moment.

No surprises

The last thing any business operator wants is a surprise. Any surprise. The reports the CEO is waiting for stopped running right in the middle of last night… SURPRISE! The company’s only connection to the internet failed and now hundreds of employees are sitting at their desks twiddling their thumbs… SURPRISE! You get the idea.

When you’re responsible for operations, you want to have early warning of anything that might slow or stop those operations. You have no use for notification that anything is down. That’s like the “idiot” light going on in a car whose motor seized due to an oil leak. There’s a reason they call it that. You feel like an idiot when you see it.

The evolution of the MSP

This is why MSPs have evolved in the way they have.

The earliest MSPs, just before the turn of the century, connected to their customer’s networks and monitored each device’s management information base (MIB) using a simple network management protocol (SNMP). By doing this, they were able to spot anomalies; things that shouldn’t be happening, and perhaps resolved them before they ever became impactful outages.

Prior to this, the only alert they had was a customer screaming on the phone telling them their network stopped working. They promised to be as responsive as possible, getting that problem resolved as quickly as they could.


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From responsive to proactive

Over time, these early MSPs developed techniques for getting in front of many problems and performing preventative maintenance that truly reduced the number of anomalies occurring. In this way, they took proactive steps to reduce downtime for their customers.

Beyond proactive to predictive

Vastly improved technology enables today’s MSP to constantly scan the customer’s network looking for trouble. Not only threat hunting for developing attacks, but also for unusual traffic patterns that suggest device or other failure developing. Today an MSP can predict when something is on the way to failing and prevent it from even coming close.

Today an MSP can predict when something is on the way to failing and prevent it from even coming close.


Vigilance reigns supreme

Despite developments and improvements in technology that brought us all the way from responsive to proactive to predictive, the thing customers still want most is that vigilance. They want to know that someone is “minding the store.” Someone is watching carefully so they know about any potential problem as soon as possible and keep it from ever becoming one.

… the thing customers still want most is that vigilance. They want to know that someone is “minding the store.”

What do you want when you buy networking?

Back to our shovel and hole analogy. When customers invest in networks what are they looking to buy?


They’re looking to get their data from one place to another as quickly and safely as possible. Today that includes not only data, but voice, video, telemetry, and more.

So, here’s where that has a message for you as their MSP.

Remember when we said if the MSP is doing their job well, the customer may forget you’re even there? There’s a warning in that. You may think, great, this happy customer will leave me alone and not bother me. That’s all good, right?


If they forget you’re there they may reach the end of your contract wondering what they got for what they paid you last year. You didn’t do anything, from their perspective. They didn’t see anything you did. While that means they had no network outages, no delay, and no loss of uptime which are all good, it also means you need to make every effort to remain visible.

… you need to make every effort to remain visible.

Since they don’t see what you fixed, what you addressed, and what you did, be sure you tell them at regular review meetings. Don’t let scheduled meetings lapse or pass. Hold every one of them. Report on the anomalies you resolved, and the problems you prevented. Advertise your wins! Blow your own horn! Remind every customer just how glad they should be that they hired you. Much happened, but none of it affected them. Make sure they know that.

Report on the anomalies you resolved, and the problems you prevented. Advertise your wins!

Make sure they know you were there, vigilantly watching over their network at all times to prevent slowdowns and outages completely. Make sure they see your vigilance because that’s what they’re really paying you for.

Tell us your thoughts on proving your value to your clients through vigilance. Your peers would love to hear from you in the Modern MSP Facebook Group.

About the author

Senior Resultant Howard M. Cohen is a 35+ year executive veteran of the Information Technology industry, an authorized CompTIA instructor, and a regular contributor to many IT industry publications. After 35 years as an IT industry executive, Howard has been writing for and about the channel since 2009.

He has served on many vendor advisory panels including the Apple, Compaq, HP, IBM, and NEC Service Advisory Councils. He has also served on the Ingram Micro Service Network board and as a U.S. Board member of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners. 

Howard is a well-known frequent speaker at IT industry events including Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (now Inspire), Citrix Synergy/Summit, ConnectWise IT Nation, ChannelPro Forums, Cloud Partners Summit, MicroCorp One-On-One, and CompTIA ChannelCon. 

Howard refers to himself as a “Senior Resultant” because he has always understood that we are all measured only by our results. Connect with Howard at and review his portfolio at