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Today, the abundance of open source code makes it possible for anyone to build a software stack from scratch.

Your job as an MSP involves helping people understand why they shouldn't do this, and should hire you instead.

Let me explain.

Twenty-five years ago, before open source became widespread, it was not possible for most organizations to use in-house resources to create the services that they needed to operate.

If you needed to provision a server, you couldn't write the OS yourself.

Instead, you bought Windows and paid Microsoft to support it.

If you needed a database, you didn't have the resources to implement one from scratch.

You turned to a company like Oracle.

Under these conditions, companies got used to purchasing commercial products – and the service plans that accompanied them – in order to meet their needs.

The DIY temptation and the challenge for MSPs

Today, however, the availability of open source code has made it much easier for organizations to set up their own software solutions.

If they need an OS, they can grab a Linux distribution, tweak it according to their needs, and be done.

For data storage, they can choose an open source database like MySQL or MongoDB.

Open source monitoring tools, schedulers, security tools, data analytics platforms and development frameworks round out the list of resources businesses can use to self-service when it comes to creating software stacks.

This creates a challenge for MSPs.

If people build their own stacks from the ground up using open source components, then they don't need you, the MSP, to set up and manage the stacks for them.

That's a danger to your business.

Emphasizing the value of MSPs

That's why it's important for MSPs to be prepared to help potential customers understand why managed-service solutions are often better than self-servicing using open source components.

It's helpful to point out the following:

·       Open source tools tend to be developed by developers, for developers. If you're not a developer – or if you don't already have deep expertise with the platform you want to use – it will be hard to work with it on your own.

·       A business owner or manager's time is best spent doing what only they can do: run the business. If they devote time to setting up and maintaining software, they lose valuable time that they could spend in other, better ways.

·       Even if you can set up a software stack effectively, you probably don't have the expertise to handle security issues, monitor the environment and so on. In other words, installing software is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using software effectively.

·       The software world is full of different options. Unless you're a software expert, you probably are not qualified to know which platform is the best fit for a given organization. For that reason, businesses should trust experienced MSPs to make the choice, rather than making it themselves.

This isn't to say that the DIY approach to software setup and maintenance is never appropriate.

It might work, for example, for small startups full of technically inclined people.

But for most businesses, adopting managed services rather than trying to self-service is a better strategy for obtaining software.

It's a more efficient use of time, money and expertise.