How a Master MSP Avoids Downtime, No Matter What

Mar 14, 2017

How a Master MSP Avoids Downtime, No Matter What

BY Chris Brunau

BCDR

In this week's Datto Partner Podcast, Rob Rae is joined by Hannah Erb, Strategic Investment Advisor at Collabrance LLC, a Master MSP located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Rob and Hannah discuss Datto, BDR and how a Collabrance client avoided downtime during a recent hurricane in Louisiana.

Transcript

Rob Rae:
Hey everybody. Welcome to this week's Partner Podcast. This is Rob Rae, Vice President of Business Development with Datto. Today we've got a fascinating podcast. We have spent the last couple of years talking about all the disasters that can happen to all the small businesses out there. What we've been doing is we've been encouraging our partners to get away from talking about physical disasters. Acts of God, fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and typhoons and all those things that can go wrong with all these different environments. From an end-user perspective, unless those tragedies happen, they tend to think of a backup solution or even a continuity solution as part of your managed services offering, more like insurance than an actual sale. We've been encouraging everybody to talk about where 97% of the restores have been happening, which is the people that are involved in these environments. We've spent a lot of time talking about ransomware, and even an investment in our actual product to get it moving towards helping you identify those particular situations. Well, today we're going to talk about something a bit different. We're going to go back, and we're going to talk about physical disasters. We're going to specifically talk about what happened in Louisiana in August, where we dealt with some significant flooding that was going on from some prolonged rainfall. They estimate somewhere around $15 billion of damage was done in Louisiana. There were 13 people, unfortunately, that lost their lives. Not the same type of storm we saw with Hurricane Katrina, but this is still something that needs to be thought about, something like flooding and being able to manage all this stuff. Whether it happens in Louisiana or your backyard, physical disasters can still happen. I'm being joined today by Hannah Erb. Hannah works for a master MSP partner of Datto's by the name of Collabrance. Hannah, thank you very much for joining us today.

Hannah Erb:
Yes, thanks so much for having me, Rob.

Rob Rae: Maybe if you could do our audience here a quick favor. Let's do a quick introduction. If you could tell everybody who you are, who Collabrance is and how you guys work with Datto today.

Hannah Erb:
Yeah. My name is Hannah Erb, and I am a strategic investment advisor for Collabrance. I'll give you a little bit of a background on Collabrance. We are a fully owned subsidiary of Great America Financing, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We are a master MSP that began in 2009, really as a need of our current finance partners. They wanted to continue to grow their businesses beyond the financing piece and continue to support their customers as well and take that competitive advantage in their industry. Our goal is to free up our partners' time and allow their business to scale while continuing to maintain a quality of service that they're proud to put their names to. We free up our partners’ time by remediating 93 plus percent of issues remotely. We're proud to say that we have a 4.8 out of a 5 point customer satisfaction survey results month after month. My role is in Collabrance as a strategic business advisor. My responsibilities are real to help our partners become successful in selling managed services. I share best practice and coach and train our partners to help them achieve the managed IT success and at a faster rate.

Rob Rae:
Obviously, you're working with Datto, working with Datto solutions along with some other vendors. How does the Datto solution fit in? Are you seeing the same thing we're seeing when we're talking to MSPs in regards to positioning? How this all works, what is the best way to position continuity versus backup, versus disasters, versus ransomware? Those kinds of ideas?

Hannah Erb:
Yeah. One of the biggest selling points I would say out of our offering is the backup disaster recovery plan. So many of our partners run into environments where they're still doing old-school tape backups. That requires not only somebody to take those and make sure that they're managing it, but there's a lot of risks involved. Our partners do a great job during the discovery process understanding what pain points our customers have regarding backup and what information is critical to them. Then also identifying how much time are they investing in managing this, especially if somebody internally is doing that work for them. From there, bringing a solution that not only takes that work off their shoulders, but gives them peace of mind and a proven process in place that, in the event of a disaster, or in the event that their entire facility is compromised, they have a plan in place that they can have confidence in.

Rob Rae:
That's awesome. Let's talk specifically about the situation, the Louisiana flooding back in August. Obviously, these things do happen. They do happen, rarely in comparison to most what we call disasters when it comes to being in recovery which is, as I mentioned off the top. A lot of times it's more employee-driven or ransomware or virus-driven, those kinds of things. Obviously, loss of life happened here, but the loss of data happens. Unfortunately, as much as people may be safe and living, at the end of the day if they lose their data, there's a chance that their businesses could go under. There's lots of information that comes out from FEMA about downtime and the cost of downtime and the impact that it has on your business. Which impacts your employees and their families. This never ending cycle of badness goes on whenever disasters happen. In this particular scenario, and as we continue to see everybody evolving away from the traditional backup and the idea of backup and into the idea of the virtualization and business continuity and keeping the business up and going and eliminating downtime and data loss. It's becoming more critical, especially in situations like this. You have a customer, an MSP based out of Louisiana, that contacted you during this last flood. They knew this was going to happen and were very proactive. Walk us through what that sounded like.

Hannah Erb:
Yeah Rob. I have a good relationship with our partner down in Baton Rouge. I received a text message from them late at night in August. He was notifying me that the rain was starting, it was getting heavy, and he was nervous that the flooding was going to begin. First thing in the morning, when we walked into the office, I already had the IT folks on our end coming to me and explaining to me, "Hey, here's the situation. We came in this morning, and we noticed that the server's down. There's no connectivity. We've already been engaged with AOS and are working with them and communicating with them to make sure that we're on the same page with next step." At that point, Collabrance began working with Datto support teams and confirming we were able to successfully perform the recent backups before the flood. At that point we were staying communication with our partner, as well as the customer to let them know that we had the information, everything was retrieved and can get back up and running.

Rob Rae:
A lot of this has to go along with the kind of peace of mind. They know this disaster's happening. They know there's a chance that their business may flood. They may lose data; they may lose their server. Being proactive here, that peace of mind is almost as worth as the value of any managed services offering, wouldn't you suggest?

Hannah Erb:
That was one thing is we let the customer, as well as AOS, know that we're ready to begin a virtualization of the server in the event the data device is impacted. Luckily, that didn't happen. Just the communication and being proactive, as well as the peace of mind, really made our partner and the customer feel good about the situation.

Rob Rae:
Yeah absolutely. I think that's part of and maybe something that's undersold when MSPs are talking about the managed services offering is the fact that they have the ability and, this is the value out of having the local MSP, is the value add of saying, "Hey, I'm here. I understand what's going on. We are taking backups, and we are here to answer that call if things go sideways here," and offer that peace of mind to say, "if things go bad, we've got your back. We are here, and we'll make sure that we get you back up and going as quickly as possible." Continuity is one piece of it, but using technology like ours does help that end user potentially sleep better at night.

Hannah Erb:
Yeah. It's a great feeling to be able to sell something to a customer and have that plan in place and the event that something happens, being able to prove to them that this does work and the solution that we sold you can do exactly what we told them it would.

Rob Rae: Yeah. This one, we didn't talk about the end user was. My understanding is it's a pediatric clinic?

Hannah Erb: Yes.

Rob Rae:
Even more important. One of those pediatric clinics, one of those services, because, of course, they are going to have customers that need their services during this time. The desire's going to want to be that they're going to be needed and they're going to have to stay online and be able to help their customers during that time. This site, if I got the story correct, was fortunate enough not to experience any downtime, but still, that peace of mind was well worth it.

Hannah Erb:
Yes, you're exactly right Rob. In fact, just one day after the flooding began, the clinic was able to work and access their information from remote locations. Also, they were able to serve an influx of patients that had health needs during the flooding by continuing to write the prescription and access the medical records. Overall, it was just a great experience that they didn't have to have any downtime and they were able to still serve those customers, in particular with the influx during the event of the flood.

Rob Rae:
Then, of course, afterward, after the dust had settled, the flooding has gone by. The business is still up and going and doing what it's supposed to do. That ability to make the MSP look like the hero, look like the one that is ... Understand what they're paying for when they're paying that monthly subscription for managed services. Those are the times when it all makes sense, it all comes together and fortunately, in this scenario, worked out well for everybody. Specifically, the end user.

Hannah Erb:
Yes, exactly. Collabrance is completely white labeled, so we provide all the background, help desk and NOC [inaudible services, but to the customer's eyes, yes, the partner is the savior. He saved the day. The don't even necessarily know about Collabrance. Definitely a great opportunity to shine for them.

Rob Rae:
Let's talk more about Collabrance and the services you offer. Maybe you can go into a little bit more depth around how you would help a typical MSP, maybe with their go to market, with their product offerings. There are a lot of vendors out there. There are a lot of ways to go to market with recurring revenues. There are a lot of different pricing models. How does Collabrance step in and assist the MSP throughout this process?

Hannah Erb:
One thing that we initially did when we built Collabrance back in 2009 was determine what are the needs of a small to medium sized business. We vetted out a complete technology staff which includes the [inaudible 00:12:26] solution in there. How we look at that is we want to make sure that we're not just selling them a product or selling them one piece of service and not supporting all their needs or taking care of all those needs. Taking the time to not only determine from a technical standpoint what their needs are but also from a business standpoint. One big part that I play in that role is helping hold the partner’s hand through the upfront sales process so that they're having those business conversations. Not only with one employee, but all key employees in that organization to determine how they work with technology and how we can make you more productive in your role? Through that, we get together with our team and our partners to put together a solution based on both the business conversations in findings, as well as the technical findings. Technology's not always black and white. We find at times they don't necessarily need a complete solution, but most of the time, these small to midsize businesses have very similar pain points. They need that off their shoulders and on to somebody else's to support them. With our partner in Louisiana, that's exactly what they did. Instead of the doctor having to run around at the pediatric clinic worrying about where this information was, he knew that it was completely in the hands of our partner. That's really what our end goal is for all of our customers that we support.

Rob Rae:
Hannah, how long have you been working with MSPs in this particular role?

Hannah Erb:
Me specifically, I've been in this role for four years now.

Rob Rae:
Nice. You've worked with some MSPs and because the managed services model is still fairly new on the life cycle of what a solution provider looks like, moving from that reseller to VAR to MSP. You've been at it for four years which I would classify as a veteran in our industry.

Hannah Erb:
Yeah, I guess you could say that.

Rob Rae:
Yeah, absolutely. I'm going to throw a hard question at you. You ready?

Hannah Erb:
I'm ready.

Rob Rae:
In 2015, DattoCon was in New Orleans. We held it in; it would have been in June of 2015, in right downtown New Orleans, okay??

Hannah Erb:
Okay.

Rob Rae:
One of our keynote speakers was a gentleman by the name of Jared Grow. He's a former reporter for, he did some work with CBS and stuff like that. Local guy, and recognized about ten years before Katrina that there was going to be a problem the next time there was a significant storm. Of course, Katrina comes through, devastates the city, devastates the state and the other states around it as people are being evacuated. I had family down there and just destroyed their lives, to the point where they had to start over. Well, he predicted it. He went to the governor. He talked about it nonstop in all the speeches and any public soapbox that he possibly could. Then it happened. People lost their lives, and it's one of the worst disasters to happen in American history, at least in recent American history. Fast forward a year later, and this is from Jared Grow's line, what happened was that he said, "Now, all right, I [inaudible 00:15:52] so this is going to happen. This happened. Now we need to fix this problem." At which point, the response was, "Well, it happened once. It's not going to happen again." It was devastating for him at that particular point where it's like, you cannot assume that this isn't going to happen again. This is part of the problem when MSPs are talking about disasters. Even if you go through a disaster, and we see this all the time with Floridians. Floridians get those hurricanes coming off the coast. Maybe you haven't had one in a couple of years. Therefore, people are like, "Well, I'll deal with it when it comes. I don't need to worry about it right now. I don't need to plan for it right now." That is probably the most difficult objection, other than potential price, to overcome when an end user is saying, "It will not happen to me again," even for those that are sitting in tornado alley or hurricane alley or below sea level in Louisiana. What would tell an MSP to say to an end user on how to convince those customers that, yeah, it may not happen again, but you need to be ready?

Hannah Erb: Great question Rob. One thing that I preach is that it's not about if, but when. If you're familiar with Alex Rogers from CharTec, he will tell you that hope is not a strategy. I truly believe that. What I coach my partners on is they have to find this information out up front, before they even get to selling a solution to the customer. A lot of the time, they're going to say, "We don't need this. It happened once; it's not going to happen again." If you're able to gather enough information about their current state and show them what the risks are and the implications of the state that they're in and then justify that and quantify it to the customer, it's not going to make that monthly cost look near as large as it is if you're just looking at the hard costs they're paying today. It's not even about having to justify one single solution, but the total solution and doing so by putting together a cost justification that you can prove to them that you're going to make them more profitable and efficient by going to a solution that supports all of your technology needs and proactively in the event of a disaster.

Rob Rae:
That's awesome, Hannah. Thank you very much for that. You obviously have a wealth of information here. If anybody's looking for information, wants to ask you any questions, either about this particular scenario or Collabrance specifically, how would somebody get ahold of you?

Hannah Erb:
The best way to get ahold of us would be our 800 number which is (877)715-8485. For more information, as well as further contact, you can go to our website which is www.Collabrance.com. There you can also subscribe to our blog which will give you more information on our best practices and keep you in the loop on Collabrance communication.

Rob Rae: Hannah Erb. Thank you very much, Hannah. That was fantastic. Appreciate you joining us today and sharing all that information with our partners here.

Hannah Erb: Yes, definitely. Thank you Rob.

Rob Rae:
That's Hannah Erb, Strategic Business Advisor at Collabrance. I want to thank you guys for joining us for this week's Datto Partner Podcast. Obviously, lots of good information in here. We're constantly looking at how we can add to it. If you guys have any stories out there you want to share, any ideas, anything you'd like to hear about, any particular partner you want to hear from. Any scenario you want to hear, any objection you're having a hard time overcoming. Any vendor that you're interested in talking to reach out to me. I would love to get some feedback. I love seeing those emails come through. You can reach us at podcast@datto.com for all of your ideas and suggestions. If you wish to participate, we'd love to have you do that as well. We are going to be coming to towns close to you all over the world. Take a look at our events schedule. Find the road show that's going to be closest to you. We're doing about 35 throughout Canada and the United States. We're going to be another dozen or so in Australia and Southeast Asia and then another dozen or so out in Europe. Be sure to go on there, take a look, see the closest city to you. We've got some wonderful content. We'll take good care of you. The road shows are no entry cost at all, but we will provide phenomenal content and would love to see you guys live there. Go to DattoCon.com to register for DattoCon in Denver in June of 2017 or go to Datto.com and see our road show schedule and be sure to sign up for one of those soon. That is the end of today's podcast. I want to thank Hanna Erb again for joining us. I want to thank Collabrance for joining us and sharing all that information, sharing their stories, objections, overcoming objections. I also want to thank you for tuning in. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast. Would love to get any feedback from you guys on how we can continue to make this better. Podcast@datto.com. Otherwise, I'm Rob Rae, and you can reach me at Rob@datto.com and tune in again next week.

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