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Top 3 Ways MSPs Can Earn Recurring Revenue from Office 365 Customers

Posted by C Jones on Wed, Oct 24th, 2018

Every business has some kind of productivity suite. Office 365 is the most common one MSPs will find installed on their customer workstations. Since Office 365 is so common, it's beneficial for MSPs to leverage it when they want to maintain recurring monthly retainers. This can mean bundling support with other services or attracting new customers by specifically targeting Office 365 users to offer maintenance and security services specifically for Office 365.

Security and Phishing Education

Attackers specifically target Office 365 businesses because this software is installed on thousands of computers across the globe. Recent attacks bypass Office 365 Safe Links filters and trick users into clicking a hyperlink that takes them to a SharePoint document. The phishing attack tricks users into visiting a spoofed SharePoint login screen where the attacker then steals user OneDrive credentials.

The aforementioned attack is just one in the recent wave of phishing attacks targeting Office 365 businesses. Not every business has the capabilities of defending against these attacks, and this is where an MSP is needed. These businesses need professionals that can secure their email environment and educate users on the importance of recognizing a phishing attack.

Because of the phishing campaigns focused on Office 365 users, MSPs need email server security software that works to detect and block them. Microsoft has Safe Links threat detection features built into Office 365, but the protection is not enough to defend email recipients from more sophisticated attacks. If 91 percent of all data breaches start with the arrival of some sort of phishing email, email security needs to be a top priority for all organizations.  Hackers are continually targeting organizations with new phishing attacks of greater sophistication, and a hacker only has only to get it right once.  At the same time, an organization’s email security system must get it right every time.  While Microsoft does offer advanced security features to complement their basic spam services, these added benefits require expensive enterprise licensing subscriptions that many small businesses cannot benefit from under a complete cost analysis.

In the same way that multi-factor authentication provides a second method of substantiating authorized login access attempts, the addition of a third-party email filtering service provides reserve reinforcement capabilities to help ensure that hackers don’t get it right that one time, potentially crippling operations or stealing data.  What’s more, hackers will not be aware of which third-party platform you are coupling with Office 365.  This is an important fact as hackers are constantly testing the Office 365 Spam policies to find weaknesses in their armor. 

MSPs with the right threat detection software will reduce successful phishing attacks and keep customers from critical data breaches. By charging a monthly fee, MSPs can offer security to fill the Office365 gaps.

Talk to our sales team to learn how your MSP can make money from Office 365 customers.

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Office 365 Customizations and Programming

When people think Office 365, they mainly think of basic spreadsheets and Word documents, but Office 365 has many more advanced features. An MSP with customizations and programming services can turn a basic Office software setup into a statistic and data storage environment for small business revenue analysis, customer retention, and order monitoring.

Most businesses need a database, for example, but having dedicated servers can be too expensive and confusing for a small business. An alternative to these big storage warehouses is an Access database that stores customer and order information. For small businesses, this is sufficient until they expand and need something more advanced. An MSP can offer database programming to help automate processes for these businesses. Another option is Excel programming. Excel spreadsheets can be used to query data from an Access database and provide statistical output, graphs, and charts. These customizations require advanced knowledge of Office 365 that most small business owners are too busy to learn.

After deployment of MSP applications, the business pays a retainer or monthly fee for maintenance, patches, and additional requirements. This can be an excellent way for an MSP to build client applications with recurring revenue.

Offer Training Either Virtually or On-Site

Every business uses Office 365 in its own way, so users must be able to acclimatize to the new environment. This could mean using Excel, PowerPoint, Word or Access in a different way than they're used to. They could be required to work with macros or backend Visual Basic programming. These skill requirements could be an opportunity for an MSP to help organizations train employees.

Office 365 is cloud-based, so even users familiar with older versions of the Microsoft productivity suite might have issues diving into the latest version. It integrates with SharePoint and includes OneDrive access. It also includes InfoPath for creating e-forms. Learning these new tools unassisted might be too time-consuming for people who must be able to work with them for job productivity.

One of the benefits of Office 365 is the continual introduction of new features and tools.  Take Microsoft Teams, for instance, that was launched earlier this year.  This team sharing platform streamlines communication amongst team members, but how many of your clients actually know about it and how to use it?   Becoming the advisor for their Office 365 environment brings value to your clients, and will reduce the number of help desk calls, thus lowering your costs as well.  Office 365 training can also serve as a lead generation for your company, establishing your firm as an expert in the management and deployment of Office 365 services.  Security and awareness training is now becoming a regular practice for security conscious organizations.  Increasing the prowess and aptitude of users to identify and scrutinize suspicious email activity can pay big dividends for both you and your clients.

Teaching doesn't always need to be on-site. An MSP can create videos, webinars, website content, and virtual one-on-one tutoring. This provides a way for MSPs to provide global training to businesses for a monthly fee. Virtual training material can be behind a paywall where the MSP can collect a monthly service fee, and it doesn't require travel or on-site interaction.

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Bundle Office 365 Support

Maintenance, security, customizations, and programming are all options for recurring MSP fees. You can bundle these fees into a package for customers to let them choose the level of support that works for the business. While Office 365 includes basic first level support, that doesn’t mean your clients are happy with it.  Depending on their licensing, that support can come at a pay-per-incident cost which can get expensive or discourage help desk calls.

Furthermore, calling multiple support numbers, one for Microsoft Office 365 and one for the support you (the MSP) offers for their desktops, can be confusing and unproductive.  Have you asked your clients or potential prospects lately if they are happy with their Office 365 support? Like any type of technical support, fast resolution is imperative in order to maintain employee productivity.  Providing Tier 1 and 2 support that can provide timely and dedicated expertise for Office 365 and all their technical issues result in recognizable returns in efficiency and production.

Customers moving from Exchange to Office365

And then there is the dilemma of what to do when your customers want to transition from your own Exchange hosting platform to Office 365, resulting in the loss of a long-time income stream.  Yes, there is a small commission for the initial subscription sell for Microsoft partners. Many MSPs charge a migration fee for each mailbox as well.  But these quick compensation hits are fleeting, and soon you will find yourself having to pursue an income stream replacement.  And then, of course, there are the new clients you bring on board who already have an Office 365 subscription.  With Office 365, it seems that a vacuum is being created for your email services that previously produced high returns.
The fact is that while the email provision model may have changed in the past several years, there still remains two basic truths.  Your customers require peace of mind while you seek perpetual income streams.  You may not be hosting the actual mailboxes for your client’s users, but they still need security and stability around their critical business communications.  A recent study commissioned by Microsoft showed that 89 percent of organizations are willing to pay a premium for cloud implementation and management services.  Your clients’ mailboxes may be located in the Office 365 cloud, but they still need management and added services. 

Next Steps 

As a managed services provider, you undoubtedly sell your customers on the value and ROI of partnering with an MSP versus the incessant process of hiring out break-fix services.  Under a managed services plan, the customer experience is far more predictable and that stable IT environment improves proficiency and productivity.  In return, the MSP receives a reliable income stream that they can rely on.  It’s a prime example of the free enterprise model in which both parties mutually benefit.

As an MSP, you cannot compete with Microsoft directly.  What you can do is provide added services and expertise that complement the basic cloud services that your customers are utilizing.  Hybrid IT and cloud computing architectures are here to stay, and while they have altered the landscape of opportunity for many MSPs, opportunities always abound. 

If managed incorrectly, Office 365 can be a security problem for small businesses. Without the right tools to protect data, MSPs could find themselves supporting a critical data breach instead of protecting the network. Data breaches are expensive to any business, so MSPs must have the right security in place and TitanHQ email security can help. 

Sign up for a FREE Demo of SpamTitan to see how you can grow your MSP business with Office 365 customers.

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