If you’re serious about delivering managed IT services to your customers, you’re going to need assistance from automation tools. The first investment you should make is a PSA (professional services automation) platform. The PSA tool, used correctly, will enable you to manage your customers better, maximize efficiency, and increase profits.
This tool will quickly become the backbone of your entire operation as it’s a central resource that provides functionality such as CRM, invoicing, ticketing, reporting, time tracking, and more.
With so much upside to a PSA, you’d think that adopting one would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, VARs making the transition to services-oriented businesses often balk at the added monthly expense. Rather than accept the expense of a PSA as the new cost to doing business, many try to argue that they already have a CRM platform, they use something else for invoicing, and that Excel works fine for tracking time. You might have these same thoughts going through your head as you read this.
The benefits of a unified PSA platform cannot be overstated. If you think you can make a go of managed services without a PSA tool, think again. We’ve never met a successful managed services provider who didn’t use a PSA tool. It’s something you can’t do without.
We won’t spend time here trying to convince you that you need a PSA tool (we’ve done that in another article, “Why the Expense of a PSA Tool is Worth It”). Rather, let’s assume that you already accept that your business can’t operate without one.
The number of different platforms available in the market can feel overwhelming. To make it easier for you to evaluate platforms, we collected product details from six PSA providers and analyzed the differences. Whether this is your first look at PSA tools or you’re re-evaluating your current platform, this article will help guide you.
The companies and products compared are:
- Atera PSA—SaaS
- ConnectWise Manage—SaaS or On-Prem
- Datto Autotask PSA—SaaS
- Kaseya BMS—SaaS
- Tigerpaw One—SaaS
As with our other comparisons, we won’t be selecting a “best” product or “editor’s choice.” There’s no way we could select one product that would fit the needs of all our readers. Rather, we’ve broken the data down by key attributes to make it easier for you to compare and contrast the features and aspects most important to your business. Additionally, we have made a spreadsheet available that contains more details and information than would fit in this already lengthy article.
One critical factor in selecting a PSA tool is its compatibility with the other automation tools (e.g., remote monitoring and management [RMM], quoting, backup and disaster recovery) you use or will be using. Within the field of products that we compared, you should know that a handful of vendors offer a PSA along with other tools. In fact, Atera is both a PSA and RMM rolled into one. The software was built that way from the ground up. ServiceTree is primarily a PSA, although it also contains remote access/remote control functionality and will soon (Q1 2019) include some native RMM functionality. ConnectWise, Datto, and Kaseya offer a suite of business automation tools.
While you can certainly enjoy one-stop shopping with these providers, the MSP software market is mature and long ago realized the importance of interoperability. Therefore, it’s also possible to piece together your own collection of tools.
For example, Connect Manage has RMM integrations with ConnectWise Automate, Continuum, SolarWinds N-able, NinjaRMM, Liongard, AVG Managed Workplace, GFI Max, Kaseya, MSP Assist, Naverisk, NetEnrich, Nimsoft, and Servoyant.
Datto’s RMM integrations include Addigy, Auvik, AVG, ConnectWise Automate, Continuum, egInnovtions, Kaseya, SolarWinds N-able, SolarWinds MSP, Naverisk, NinjaRMM, Panorama, Pulseway, Servereye, Repairtech, and Unigma.
Kaseya’s RMM integration options include its RMM platform VSA and Continuum.
ServiceTree shared that RMM integrations currently in development (Q1 19 release) are Datto, ConnectWise, and NinjaRMM. Others in the pipeline include Continuum and Auvik.
Finally, Tigerpaw’s RMM integrations include Continuum, Kaseya, Servoyant, and Solarwinds.
Of course, there are other tools beyond RMM that you’ll want to ensure interoperability. For a more thorough list of compatible software and other key integrations, check on the comparison spreadsheet linked above.
We asked each company to share information on their pricing model. Most PSA platforms charge you for each technician you’ll have using the software. Indeed, this is the case with Atera. What makes Atera unique is that their per technician pricing model extends to the RMM pieces of the product as well. Most RMM platforms charge by the number of devices being monitored—the number of agents being used. So, while Atera’s per technician model looks similar to the other PSA tools, if you’re using the platform for RMM, your total cost may be considerably different. Atera costs $79 per month, per technician for RMM, PSA, and remote access. There are no minimums and no contracts.
ConnectWise shared that it has a new pricing model as of January 1, 2019, offering three different packages with different features. With the Basic package, you will receive all of the standard features like service tickets, company and contact management, and time management. As you move into the Standard package and beyond, there are more features available that include things like Procurement and Inventory and additional dashboards/reporting. ConnectWise’s minimum commitment is 2 users and 12 months.
Kaseya shared that BMS is offered at a per-user price that is typically one-third the price of its competition. Unfortunately, until you speak with them about your exact needs, you won’t be able to validate that claim. There are no additional subscription fees for included integrations such as QuickBooks or Xero. The minimum term for a BMS subscription is one year.
ServiceTree, like Atera, handles pricing differently. The company has foregone traditional per-user pricing and charges by the number of devices you’ll be managing. ServiceTree has a minimum commitment of 12 months and 500 devices. The company’s website states that pricing starts at $0.99 per device.
Tigerpaw costs $65 per user per month. There is a $99 per user one-time set-up fee and a 12-month commitment.
Datto didn’t share details on its pricing.
Ultimately, these tools are only as good as the features they include. Until you demo each one, you won’t know how well it fits your needs. Still, to provide a bit of a head start for your comparison, we asked each vendor to share details for how their product excelled when it comes to certain features. Below is an overview of what they shared.
Atera: “Integration of technical and networking information within the CRM.”
ConnectWise Manage: “One of the most valuable features of our CRM is a single pane of glass view for each customer. Because everything is entered and tracked throughout the lifecycle within ConnectWise Manage, you get a full view of everything that you have worked on in the past with the company as well as any current records (tickets, projects, invoices, etc.).”
Datto Autotask: “Our configurable Dashboards allow MSPs and techs to track sales and pipeline metrics in real time and analyze new opportunities and sales performance.”
Kaseya BMS: “BMS’ CRM enables users to maximize their relationships with customers and prospects by keeping track of current accounts, new revenue possibilities, and all past communications in one, simple-to-use system. The CRM provides a seamless flow from activities, opportunities, and quotes including a quick and easy way to convert quotes into a project, contract and sales order. Compared to other solutions, the streamlined user experience in BMS offers the fastest transition from prospect to paying customer. CRM becomes even more powerful when it is integrated with QuoteWerks or SocketApp.”
ServiceTree: “It provides full visibility from the first ticket to every invoice. You can see what each customer costs you (labor), and even see the profitability on a per invoice level. All the smartness is put in the system so that the team doesn’t need to focus on the SLAs and contractual requirements.”
Tigerpaw One: “Our CRM is powered by a robust matrix system which allows the user to dissect data to a granular level.”
Atera: “Our ticketing is automated, fully integrated, and easy to use. We also leverage big data and have IT processes in place to ensure accurate billing/invoicing.”
ConnectWise Manage: “Automation within the system is designed to help save time by doing processes for you, but also creates accountability loops within the system to ensure everything progresses along appropriately. This includes things like reminder emails, not only internally but also for clients, as well as defining certain actions to take place when specified criteria are met. Additional customization allows ticket views and custom fields created based upon what fits for the partner.”
Datto Autotask: “Our configurable ticket user interface allows MSPs to figure different ticket categories which can show different fields and have different layouts. The ticket user interface allows for effortless workflow prioritization and is fully configurable to fit unique business needs.”
Kaseya BMS: “The powerful integration of BMS and VSA enables businesses to optimize their daily operations with 30% fewer tickets that are resolved 40% faster — saving you critical time and money in a way no other combined solution can. Automated workflow capabilities are powerful yet are amazingly easy to configure. BMS’ modern next-gen platform provides a service desk user experience that is efficient, easy to learn, and easy to use.”
ServiceTree: “Using our 18 years and more than 300,000 tickets of experience as an MSP, we have built the Open Next technology (patent pending) that allows ServiceTree to give the ‘right ticket to the right tech at the right time.’ No need for a dispatcher, work is automatically given to the team on the fly when they press the “Open Next” button, meaning they can focus on being the tech that fixes the customer’s issue, rather than focusing on prioritizing tickets and managing their day. This increases utilization and profitability, and it reduces wasted time and eliminates the team cherry picking which tickets they want to work on. This ensures our partners can meet their SLAs to their customers.”
Tigerpaw One: “Service tickets are automatically created from customer emails. Workflow automation ensures those involved are notified properly and quickly. Optional codification allows ticketing to be analyzed and helps identify service trends for troubleshooting.”
Atera does not include project management functionality.
ConnectWise Manage: “Project templates: This feature is a huge time saver and allows you to create standardized projects for services more easily. It makes it easier to communicate your progress, see your milestones along the way and identify where you’re getting stuck during a project. With pre-built reports, it makes it easy to keep your team, management, and clients up to date. Automation (workflow rules, status notifications): Make sure your project is moving along as expected by leveraging the automation in the system. This allows you to keep your project team and clients up to date and to hold everyone accountable for the deadlines set.”
Datto Autotask: “Just like the Ticket UI, we completely overhauled our Task entity (Tasks are the entity within the project management module). The new Task user interface completely overhauls the project management experience with new task categories, task timelines, checklists, and task insight widgets.”
Kaseya BMS: “Effectively staff projects and get real-time project status reports, while also improving forecasting through comprehensive project management. BMS makes it easy to configure projects with milestones and dependencies that are seamlessly integrated to the finance module for an efficient project billing process.”
ServiceTree: “We have taken the function that is normally done in big businesses and simplified it so that MSPs and their techs can easily build and run projects. Doing this while following Project Management best practices, providing Kanban boards to give high-level visibility of one or many projects. Allowing the partner’s customers to see the Gantt chart of their projects, and how the project is tracking means that everyone is clear as to the status of the project throughout its lifecycle. All the while, your techs can work on the project in the same interface as working on an incident or problem ticket.”
Tigerpaw One: “Our profitability and KPI reporting is extremely powerful. Knowing where you stand in your budget and labor, cost, and timeframes is a huge benefit.”
Atera: “We offer intuitive reporting that enables our customers to use our product efficiently. We offer custom reporting and we are always upgrading/refining our technology to best meet the needs of our partners.”
ConnectWise Manage: “ConnectWise Manage comes with 144 pre-built reports along with best practices on who should be running these reports and how often. Report Writer is another feature that is available that gives you the ability to build your own custom reports. Using the report designer you can build using the available data sources. Report Writer is a part of our Standard package. We will assist in building custom reports (if needed) for a fee.”
Datto Autotask: “Our Business Intelligence Engine provides unmatched insight—enabling MSPs to view their business from every angle: issues, assets, and opportunities. Autotask’s dashboards and widgets are completely customizable and actionable. Not only does it graphically represent what’s happening in your business in real time, you can also click in to get more underlying information. This provides more context and meaning to the reporting and your day to day metrics. With more granular reporting capabilities beyond widgets, including Live Reports and Performance Dashboard workbooks, you can measure business performance and track the metrics that matter (e.g., ticket backlog, service level agreement compliance, resource utilization, and client satisfaction).”
Kaseya BMS: “A powerful and comprehensive business intelligence engine is included with BMS at no extra cost. Users can build custom reports through the Ad-Hoc Reports feature, providing a WYSIWYG report builder to develop quick Express reports, Advanced reports, Crosstab reports (pivots), and Dashboards to meet users reporting needs. Reports can be output as PDF, RTF, Excel, and CSV. Reports created by other BMS users can also be downloaded from Kaseya’s community portal—the Kaseya Automation Exchange. There is no requirement for 3rd party tools, everything needed for custom reporting is included with BMS.”
ServiceTree: “With the vast amounts of data we harvest throughout the product, we can provide detailed accurate information about the partner’s team on live dashboards, and report on every aspect of their business. We are able to show the partner exactly what each device is costing them to support—allowing the partner to accurately see which customers are profitable. We also build custom reports for partners as required and offer customizable and live (to the minute) dashboards.”
Tigerpaw One: “Our robust matrix system fuels our reporting. Custom reports can be requested and our team will decide what resources should be dedicated to completing the custom report.”
ConnectWise Manage: “ConnectWise Campaign is a dynamic marketing tool that allows you to track campaign analytics to track overall effectiveness. Some key features include automated activity and opportunity creation to ensure no potential sales are missed; form builder; HTML editor; dashboards; spam scoring; landing page builder; lead and group management; and campaign analytics. Social Media posts can be launched from ConnectWise Campaign, but we do not currently have retargeting capabilities.”
Datto Autotask: N/A
Kaseya BMS: “BMS includes complete REST API allowing integration to the industry’s best marketing applications.”
Tigerpaw One: “Because of the power behind our matrix system, the marketing platform allows for highly targeted and personalized email campaigns.”
In addition to the above information, we asked each vendor to cut through all the details and succinctly share what they felt made their PSA tool better than the others. Here are their responses.
Atera: “Our PSA is connected with RMM in a single code base, enabling a complete service cycle within one platform. It is more intuitive to use and doesn’t require a long and costly onboarding procedure.”
ConnectWise Manage: “The vast automation capabilities. With workflow rules, these can be set up on more than 13 different types of records, including invoices, opportunities, and tickets. For service tickets alone, you have the ability to use any of the 80+ triggers to search for specific tickets and trigger any of the 12 actions to be completed. Ecosystem: Allows you to connect everything—we connect you to the solutions, services, technology, and expertise you need to exceed customer expectations and prepare your business for growth. End to end management: ConnectWise Manage gives technology teams the ability to manage a customer’s lifecycle from beginning to end. By connecting other software into Manage, it gives you one place where your data is stored and provides your team with the information and visibility they need at all times.”
Datto Autotask: “Reliable cloud platform with a track record of 99.99% uptime. Superior user experience with dashboards, actionable widgets, configurable ticket, and task UI. Our unification with Datto RMM—The data from the PSA and the RMM lives in the same database so there is always one version of the truth in a truly single pane of glass.”
Kaseya BMS: “BMS by Kaseya is the most functionally rich PSA solution on the market today that is priced at one-third the cost of competing solutions. This allows MSPs to invest their savings back into their business for further growth and customer retention, rather than overspending on back-office processes. Legacy, first generation PSAs are notoriously complicated to learn and use, which translates directly into increased time and expense for your business. With BMS’ modern user interface, all dashboards, reports, and workflows are intuitively designed — making adoption simple, and keeping day-to-day activities streamlined.”
ServiceTree: “ServiceTree is redefining the PSA, designed without any restrictions or legacy dragging us down. ServiceTree was built to improve and automate every aspect of an MSP. We not only automate the techie part of being an MSP, but we also automate the process of being an MSP — from tickets, to invoices and everything in between. It removes the requirement of a traditional knowledge base that is only looked at by a very few techs and puts that knowledge into the hands of all the techs — and even customers through self-serve. The techs don’t need to do timesheets, as they are all automatically done, and invoices are generated, sent to the customer and synced (bi-directional) with accounting platforms.”
Tigerpaw One: “Our robust matrix system surpasses our competition and the fact that all of our functionality is included in one platform for one price.”
Resources for New and Aspiring MSPs
If you haven’t discovered it for yourself already, PSA tools are complex pieces of software that can do a lot. Years of refinement means these systems are bursting with features. When you’re just getting started in services, you’ll have a lot on your plate, including learning how to best use the PSA. Luckily, most vendors understand your pains and have created resources to help you not only more fully utilize their software, but also to optimize your business.
For instance, Atera offers free live webinars and maintains an extensive knowledgebase for customers to use.
ConnectWise offers a variety of resources depending on your needs. The company provides various consulting packages that can be purchased for initial implementation. On-going consulting can also be purchased for a fee. The company also offers ongoing virtual training for a fee. Additionally, ConnectWise University contains a video library of ‘how-to’ videos that demonstrate specific features, plus webinars, educational courses, and archived educational resources. Finally, in-app messaging helps bring attention to new features and highlight capabilities partners may not be leveraging.”
Datto, like ConnectWise, offers various implementation packages as well as online help and extensive product documentation. The company also offers community access, on-going training (both on-demand and live), professional service, and 24/7 support.
Kaseya offers online training videos. The company’s subject matter experts are also available to assist with the often-tricky work of mapping business processes into the solution, ensuring customers gain the most benefit from the platform in the shortest period possible.
Out of the box, ServiceTree is loaded with Question Trees that help MSPs follow best practices (ITIL) without having to learn or be bogged down with it. The company also provides Question Trees of most common issues to help the MSP focus on the rest of their business. The library of Question Trees is constantly growing.
Finally, Tigerpaw offers a dedicated academy web platform with training modules and videos, a daily “Ask the Expert” live webinar for anyone to ask any product questions, and master class training opportunities held once a month.
The best PSA tool is the one that you use. Time and again we hear from established MSPs who tell us their biggest regret/mistake was not fully embracing their PSA tool and using it to its full capability. Regardless of which platform you settle on, approach the implementation with purpose and determination.
In the coming months, we’ll be adding other products that couldn’t make our deadline. If there are aspects of PSA tools you’d like to see included in our comparisons, we welcome your feedback.
[April 25, 2019 update] We reached out to each of the vendors that participated in our original PSA comparison to see if there were any updates on their products since Jan. 3, 2019. ConnectWise shared the following feature updates to its Manage product:
Special Client Notifications — Will create an alert message for specific company/contact types, perfect for VIP clients who need special attention.
Customer Communications — Automatic CC’s on Tickets: Keep your clients in the loop in tickets submitted by their teams by leveraging the ability to have them added as a CC to their tickets as soon as they come in.
Project Status Communication — There are a few new additions with this enhancement:
- Percentage complete calculations: This provides visibility into how far along you are on the project (automatic calculations available)
- Project Status Indicators: easy way to see where things are going well vs where hold ups are
- Project Status Report: Great way to show team members, executives and most importantly, clients where you are at/progress on the specific project