Using managed antivirus solutions in your MSP

Paul Mogford

A commonly held belief on growing a successful IT Managed Service Provider (MSP) business is to transition from the “big bang” model to instead seeking out opportunities to generate recurring revenue.

Recurring revenue enables your IT business to build a predictable stream of income, making your life as a business owner much easier, and your business more valuable.

One opportunity to generate recurring revenue is through antivirus products.

Traditionally, IT companies and antivirus vendors have promoted annual renewals for antivirus products. Many forward-thinking IT providers now look at this model as a chore to deal with. The administrative overhead of managing a fluctuating antivirus license, adding or subtracting licenses as the client's business demands, is a pain. Sending multiple invoices to the client throughout the year – perhaps with pro-rata costs for new licenses – might be difficult, but it can become a nightmare if your antivirus vendor doesn’t allow part-annual licenses, and instead insists on a new license for each additional workstation or server. This can put you in a situationwhere some licenses expire at different points in the year.

The pain of the annual antivirus contract

Clients can find annual antivirus renewals inflexible. During the last recession, some MSP clients were reluctant to authorise antivirus renewals because they knew they’d be laying staff off in the next few months and they didn’t want to commit to being over-licensed.

Add in the fact that traditionally many antivirus vendors offer keen incentives to new subscribers to lure them away from competing products, and you’re left with a challenge persuading your client why they should stick with your preferred product when a competing product is half the price.

You might rapidly come to the conclusion then, that annual antivirus contracts are a pain for both MSP and client.

From an MSP’s perspective, it’s important to choose an antivirus product that is MSP friendly. As you add increasing amounts of antivirus clients across different sites, having to log in to multiple interfaces to administer multiple systems across multiple clients is a nightmare in logistics.

Finding the right solution

The solution is to find an antivirus product that is fully multi-tenanted. You and your engineers should be free to manage multiple clients, across multiple sites from a single interface.

Many MSPs have moved to a monthly recurring antivirus subscription model using an MSP-aware antivirus vendor – as a result they have reported significant time savings from both a technical and financial administrative perspective.

What’s more, many MSPs have come to realise that the more services – such as managed antivirus – that they offer to their client base, the more “sticky” they become with that client.

The ins and outs of managed antivirus

So how does managed antivirus work? Put simply, you deploy antivirus products to all your clients' workstations, servers and even remote PCs (think the MD’s home PC, or the FD’s netbook). You bill the client on a monthly basis, 30-days in advance, adjusting your invoice each month depending on whether any licenses have been added or removed. Then, at the end of each month you report back to the antivirus vendor on how many antivirus licenses you’ve used, and the antivirus vendor bills you.

The client is happy, because they aren’t paying for anything more than they need and they no longer have to pay the “big bang” of annual antivirus renewals. The MSP is happy because they’ve billed the client up front. The antivirus Vendor is happy because the MSP is selling more licenses.

In conclusion, if you’re an MSP or IT Support company using a variety of antivirus tools across multiple client sites, typically of an annual renewal model – then it’s worth taking a look at managed antivirus. There’s no doubting it makes life a lot easier all round.