When you’re starting a consulting business as a computer consultant who supports small businesses, the utilities that will be most critical for your success will be those that allow you to monitor your client’s systems, and that will allow you to provide instant, remote support for whenever an issue arises.
Fortunately today, the utilities that are available to perform these functions are not only completely reliable and extremely effective, but they’re incredibly affordable… even to the independent computer consultant who is just starting out.
The following are the utilities I use in my own consulting business and the ones I recommend to anyone starting a consulting business of their own.
For monitoring my client’s server(s), I use GFI Max RemoteManagement. Current pricing is about $13/mo per server monitored. You can monitor the workstations as well for as low as an additional $0.10 per workstation per month.
You have the option to completely modify the dashboard and all reporting collateral with your own logo and branding.
If an error occurs on the server or if an alert is generated in the event logs, you can get an instant email alert. You also have the option to have the alerts delivered via SMS. You can also deliver these messages directly to your client, so they can see for themselves the activity and support needs on the server.
GFI Max also gives you a web-based dashboard, where you can easily see any problems on the network (backup failures, low disk space, hack attempts, etc). You can give your client viewable access to this dashboard so that they can see for themselves how healthy you’re keeping their network. If they’re having server problems, it helps you to show them why an on-site (billable) service call might be necessary.
You can use GFI Max to collect a workstation and server inventory in real-time, which you can make accessible to your clients at any time through the GFI Dashboard. Besides helping to justify your monthly fee, this inventory is very useful when regularly reviewed to find anything that might be outdated, which will help to generate additional, billable projects.
You can also generate daily, weekly or monthly health status reports to send to your clients to show them how great of a job you’re doing (or how unhealthy their server might be during their free 30-day trial of your maintenance plan).
GFI Max offers a free 30-day trial. I suggest that if you have even one client with a server and small network, that you tell them that you’re starting to move to a managed service model. Offer to install for them a free, no obligation trial of your monitoring system and let them see for themselves how many problems they may be facing because you’re not currently proactively monitoring their system. Then you can show them how monitoring can increase their productivity and reduce expensive, unexpected downtime.
Even if you’re just starting a consulting business, installing GFI will give your clients the impression that you’re every bit as established and professional as any large MSP.
For logging onto my end-user’s workstations or to quickly check out a possible server problem, I use LogMeIn.
For many years, I used LogMeIn Free. The product is completely free, it supports an unlimited number of workstations, which are easily organized and divided by client.
The LogMeIn client must be installed on each server and workstation you want to access, so you will need to do an initial on-site setup of the application. But once the product is installed, as long as the client computer is on-line, you can quickly log onto it and work as if you were sitting at the desk side-by-side with the end-user.
A few years ago, I upgraded to LogMeIn Central, which is about $300/yr. It works almost exactly like the free product does, with one very useful addition… I can give every end-user their own access code so that they too can access their office computers remotely. (Without LogMeIn Central, if a user wanted to access their computer from home, I would have to remove their workstation from my LogMeIn account and set them up with their own LogMeIn Free account, or I would have to setup an entirely different remote access product for them to use).
Besides LogMeIn Central, I also use LogMeIn Rescue for $129/mo. This product, while a little pricey, has come in handy on many, many occasions. Rescue allows you to access any computer with an Internet connection, without you having to install the client software beforehand. You simply have the end-user go to the website logmein123.com, they enter a six-digit code that you generate for them and you have instant access to the desktop.
On many occasions I’ve had people (non-customers) call me up out of the blue to tell me about a computer problem they’re having and asking if my company can fix it. I’ve said, “Would you mind if I took a look right now, just to get an idea of what’s going on?” and using LogMeIn Rescue, within 30 seconds or so, they were watching the mouse pointer magically float around the screen as I fixed the problem before their eyes.
This little IT Marketing technique landed me new clients on more than one occasion and has easily made back the monthly fee many times over.
Whether you are just starting a consulting business, or you are already an established IT support provider, these two utilities can provide a very effective… and affordable foundation for providing reliable managed services to any small business client base.