My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

What about the GOP?

The GOP is, without doubt, the party in power.  They control just about everything.  Both houses of Congress, President and shortly the Supreme Court.  They're in control of some amazing percentage of state houses.  It really is almost without precedent.  

However, all of that kind of belies the fact that there are really no fewer than 3 republican parties.  There remains the old, social conservative republican party – but mainly at the state level.  You can see that on full display in Richmond with bathroom bills, pornography proclamations, abortion, gay marriage and other legislation crucial to controlling our private lives.  Actual governance kind of happens by accident and it's normally driven by the budget.  The stuff that gets considered in Richmond is just as crazy as anything you'd see further south.  That's the social conservative wing. 

Next you have the fiscal conservatives.  They are sometimes wrapped up with the social conservatives but not always.  The TEA party is pretty representative of this wing of the party.  These guys really do not care about anything but the bottom line.  I got no fight with that but this world view makes the allergic to planning because that commits them to spending money at some point in the future….even if they agree with those expenditures.  

Then you have the Trumpers.  They believe in Trump and his ability to singularly influence the outcomes on no fewer than a dozen policy fronts.  The Trump phenomenon is a populist one: he and he alone can deliver what everyone else needs.  Need a job? not a problem.  Fixing health care?  pish.  Rebuilding infrastructure?  easy.  Foreign relations and treaty issues?  We just need better deals.  The Trumper wing of the party is interesting because it contains a core of true believers for whom anything but good news is fake news.  However, the increment that put Trump over the top in the general election are folks from the middle and social conservatives who cautiously invested in the Trump phenomenon.

Interestingly, those three wings don't include guys like me.  Center-Right "Businessman Conservatives".  You know, the guys who have historically been responsible for cautious spending with a willingness to invest.  Think about guys from both sides of the aisle that everyone holds near and dear: Harry Parrish and Chuck Colgan come to mind.  We will occasionally invest in the fiscal conservative movement but they tend to extremism and we don't like that.  We aren't, after all, politicians really.  And don't start in with "RINO" and all that BS.  Those same businessmen conservatives balance the books in every municipality every year and the current brand of "republicanism" we see doesn't make much sense although I'm open to the argument that this is mainly due to the current messenger.

I don't know what the future holds for the GOP.  Along party membership lines, I think the group of people who identify themselves as "Independents" continues to grow as the parties become more extreme.  From a here and now perspective, my guess is that Trump continues to bumble.  At some point, it will occur to the GOP in Congress that they are going to have to run for office again so they'll crank up their legislative processes and start putting legislation on the Presidents desk whether he wants it or not.  Hopefully healthcare gets fixed in a useful way and we'll do some tax reform.

I don't remember much from the Nixon administration so the "Saturday night massacre" is really history to me.  I cannot imagine, mainly due to the massive changes in media, that interest in politics could be any higher than it is right now.  As I write this, we're about a month into a new administration, the national security advisor has already resigned and it's clear the Trump administration is headed towards some sort of reboot.  I welcome that.  Many of the centrists cautiously invested in the Trump administration and I, along with them, do hope that the President gets his act together.  I do think the President, along with a GOP majority in Congress, has a historic opportunity to get some big things done but the self-inflicted wounds are piling up.

Connect wise / Labtech implementation

So, you're thinking about migrating to Connectwise and/or Labtech.  First of all, if you aren't already using a ticketing system, you need to get started if you want your business to grow and be able to deliver reliable service to your customers.  Autotask, Connectwise, whatever.  

Autotask and Connectwise are the big boys in the "Professional Services Automation" (PSA) space.  My business has used them both.  We started with an internal program called "tick-tock" that was a web-based app that we wrote in-house.  As we grew we needed ever more features in tick-tock and it took an increasing amount of time to write those features.  At some point I decided we weren't in the software business and we ditched tick-tock in favor of Autotask.

Autotask was great for where we were at that point.  That was probably 4 years ago.  It's a capable platform that integrates with Quickbooks.  I'm sure that it has continued to evolve over the years but 4 years ago we were in a place where we needed help with the business process side of our IT consulting practice.  You know, "how does everyone else do this"?  My business might be unique but I ain't the only person doing this kind questions.  I went to NYC for an Autotask "bootcamp" that I was told would help.  It didn't, it was focused on how to use Autotask….which I already knew.  The AT people at that conference indicated that if I needed process help, I would have to pay their consulting people.  I was hugely frustrated.  I knew there was no need to reinvent the wheel….and that was when I ended up at Chartec.  Chartec is a story in and of itself but suffice to say that they use Connectwise which I had not heard of other than it was horrificly complicated.  Watching them work at Chartec I knew that I needed to at least investigate Connectwise.  Connectwise has documentation and templates for every part of your business.  It's all figured out.  I was sold.

So, going from AT to CW isn't hard on the ticketing side.  They'll help you get setup with departments and service boards.  In that respect it isn't bad.  The billing side – that's a challenge.  CW has something called "agreements" that you, as a business owner or exec, need to stop and get your head around.  They're complicated and integral to billing.  CW also has a larger ecosystem than AT does.  So much stuff integrates with it that you can do almost anything.  Many applications integrate at such a level that they can even update billing information in CW.

Labtech…if CW is a bit of a heavy lift LT is moving mountains.  We migrated from GFI / Maxfocus after their merger with Solarwinds.  There are several reasons for this but chief among them was my belief that Solarwinds was going to merge their two RMM products and it would be a mess.  We were also progressively unhappy with Maxfocus as it seemed that the more they updated the product the more things were broken at one point or another.  We waited years for a MDM solution from them that was never completely baked.  Support was horrid.  Normally the best place to get help was on their Linkedin page – of all places.  Labtech….everything you've heard is true.  Yes, it does nearly anything.  It is amazing.  Yes, you will need a nearly or completely full-time person to make it work.  

Out of the box, labtech doesn't do much.  You have to use the "Ignite" template if you want it to do anything by default.  What does that mean?  Well, if you're familiar at all with Maxfocus, when you install the agent it will, by default, scan the system and decide which checks it will automatically setup.  If it sees a backup configured, it'll monitor it.  By default, Labtech doesn't seem to do that but if you are using Ignite, it will….or that's the way I understand it anyway…and if you modify the Ignite template, you better document it because when you update the Ignite template it will overwrite your changes!  You'll need to get all of your engineers to do the online training.  Unlike GFI/max you can't just login and start.  I don't think we ever trained our engineers on GFImax – you really don' t need to but with LT, it's essential.  You'll end up wasting a lot of time and money if you don't.  I threw a cocktail party for the staff and the price of admission was their labtech certification.  

At this point, we've been on LT for about 7 months and I'll tell you that it will make your MSP much more effective and "sticky".  Yes, it is tough to get your head around and it is expensive but it's worth it.  Dealing with Connectwise can be a bit of a bear.  You should negotiate any quote they send you.  I made LT match my Maxfocus cost for the first couple of years.  They'll want to sell you Webroot as well and Webroot is just "ok".  Lots of false positives and the product doesn't seem well-tested.  Be warned that LT WILL NOT support Webroot.  We had an issue with Webroot crashing a handful of servers – on the same day – (which was a lot of fun) and LT's response was to send me a document on how to call Webroot for support.  They do not stand behind what they sell at all.  In fact, support is the achillies heel in the whole thing.  If AT ever wants to start picking up CW customers, they should amp up their support and advertise it.  

They do have chat support for both CW and LT and, even though the wait times have continued to increase, it isn't bad.  However, if you cannot resolve your case via chat, you might as well forget it.  It'll be days before you get a call back and many times the person on the phone seems like they might have just finished a shift at the local gas station.  Your Account Manager is generally non-responsive but your salesman will be so if you need anything you need to loop him in on any email.  Yes, their support sucks that bad.  Better off getting on the labtechgeek slack channel.

In closing I would say that if you are self-reliant and can use alternative resources to support yourself, LT & CW are the way to go.  Honestly, CW doesn't require much in the way of support.  Once you get past the agreements and some of the integration, it just works.  LT can be a bit dicier but it is the best RMM out there.  If you're a small shop, I'd forget it and go with something else.  If you're north of 5 people and your business is growing, it's what I would recommend.


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