It’s been a while since we’ve done an MSP in the Spotlight, our series where we speak to an MSP about their journey, challenges, and passions as Managed Service and IT Service Providers. You can find the previous blog posts here: Abussi, Blueram, and MDH-Tech. Turns out, it’s just like riding a bike!
About the MSP
This time, we spoke to Danny Merkenhof, the principal of Apex ICT, a successful MSP located in the Netherlands that primarily, though not exclusively, provides services to the maritime industry in Europe, as well as other seagoing vessels located around Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. This includes all types of business within the sector such as ship managers, shipbuilders as well as the ships themselves.
We spoke to Danny about his journey so far.
Hey! Let’s dive in. How did you get started in the IT business?
I’ve been in IT since 2005, and I started out as a part-time Assistant System Administrator. I worked my way up to System Administrator and then pursued my career by becoming an IT service provider. I really recommend this route, as it gave me the opportunity to get experience in more IT areas. I then transitioned back to becoming a System Administrator for a global company with a dispersed workforce. In various capacities, I was exposed to a range of sectors which each presented its own challenges I worked in finance, construction, shipbuilding, healthcare, you name it.
Ultimately, I knew that I wanted to be independent and so I launched my own MSP business. I had a really clear goal — to provide more personalized and efficient service to customers. It must have worked because nowadays most of my business is generated by word of mouth! Client networks are a really powerful thing.
Tell us some more about your day-to-day working life. Has it changed, post-pandemic?
Currently, the biggest part of my client base is situated in the Maritime business, from ship-builders, to ship management. However, I don’t exclusively focus on maritime. It’s fair to say that the ‘new normal’ of remote working wasn’t that new to me -it didn’t make much of a change! Perhaps there was a bit of a rush on VPNs for those who were working from home, but that’s about it.
What kind of challenges do you face, specifically in the maritime industry?
Seagoing vessels in particular are really dependent on expensive, slow, satellite internet connections for their communications with the mainland. I always look for ways to make this smoother for my customers.
For example, I’ve tried to minimize the dependency on VSAT by deploying a next-gen firewall with 4G failback when in range. Also, there are specific regulations for maritime, some of which are new, such as the Maritime Cyber Risk Management laws that go into effect in 2021. That requires additional work to ensure compliance for my customers, and be prepared for, and anticipate cyber incidents.
What technology do you rely on?
When I was orienting myself in the diverse world of RMM tools the first thing that got my attention was the pay-per-technician model that Atera offers, instead of the pay-per-device. This quickly makes it a very profitable model. When you have an RMM with pay-per-device, the price of monitoring additional devices will stay more or less the same, even as you scale. In contrast, with Atera you basically pay for the first few devices and after that, it doesn’t cost you an extra penny. As a one-man show, this works really well for me.
Thanks! Any other reasons why you chose Atera?
I was very pleasantly surprised about how easy Atera has been to use, and the overall functionality. I really dig the Shared Script Library and the remote PowerShell, CMD, and registry tools. Also, the great and active community is a real winner! In my opinion, Atera really distinguishes itself from other RMM tools in peripheral matters.
What advice would you give to other MSPs who are looking to maximize productivity?
Automating basic tasks is really a huge benefit, and it’s another thing that Atera does really well. You can reduce the lost time that’s spent on the more simple tasks. They may seem simple, but it adds up quickly, and as an MSP, time is precious!
When the need arises to repeat tasks multiple times, I always see if I can automate these with scripts. In multiple cases, I’ve found it’s even possible to combine a threshold with a specific script to leverage auto-healing capabilities for alerts. Many default tasks, like branding endpoints or deploying default software packages like endpoint protection or a PDF reader, are easily automated with IT Automation tasks combined with scripts and the native Chocolatey integration. Have a play, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve, and the time-savings it provides.
We loved talking to Danny, and hearing about his journey. Maritime is a fascinating niche! Share your own on the Facebook group, which has 2k IT professionals and counting!