Episode 280: Where Device Management and MSPs Intersect, with Charles Mangin

We cover a lot of different types of workflows on this podcast. They’re all equally as complicated, and some are very specifically designed for a given industry. In today’s episode we’ll have Charles Mangin from N-Able on to talk about how the Managed Service Provider (MSP) treats Apple devices and how the latest innovations from Apple have helped to shape how MSPs can be more productive.

Hosts:

  • Tom Bridge, Principal Product Manager, JumpCloud – @tbridge777
  • Marcus Ransom, Senior Sales Engineer, Jamf – @marcusransom

Guest

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Click here to read the transcript

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James Smith:
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Tom Bridge:
Hello and welcome to the Mac Admins Podcast. I’m your host, Tom Bridge. And Marcus, it’s great to see you this morning. How are you?

Marcus Ransom:
Caffeinated. So two coffees in might make a little more sense or not, let’s just see how this goes. And how are you going, Tom? Are you back at home yet or are you still on holidays?

Tom Bridge:
I’m on walkabout. So I am out on the West Coast of the United States. I am in the expanded Bay Area, the Central Valley. You can hear by my audio I’m not where my microphone usually is and I’ve totally spaced on bringing it this time, sorry, James. But here we are talking about stuff, I’m enjoying this vacation. We had a great time, barbecue and ribs with my dad today, and that was fantastic. And my sister came in from the Bay Area and brought my nephew, so the kids had a great time. It’s been this last little gasp of summer here before we get back to the kids in school and all of those things and life gets hard again for a couple of months before we get toward the holidays. This is actually my favorite little bit of summer right here. It’s been hot here in the Central Valley. It was I think, 41 degrees Celsius, 105 Fahrenheit yesterday.

Marcus Ransom:
Wow.

Tom Bridge:
And it was only in the upper thirties or the low nineties here today. And so today has felt like heaven in response to some really wicked, hot temperatures. But Tiff and I are headed off to the coast tomorrow where it’ll be 40 degrees cooler. It will be in the upper fifties or the low sixties all day tomorrow and I am psyched for it. Yeah, we didn’t come for Tom’s vacation report. We came to talk with someone awesome. So Charles Mangin welcome to the Mac Admin’s Podcast.

Charles Mangin:
Oh, you said someone awesome, I was waiting for the other intro. Thank you.

Tom Bridge:
No, we mean you.

Charles Mangin:
Oh yes, thank you. And thanks to the other Charles for dropping out and not being able to be here today, so that there’s only the one Charles to confuse things.

Tom Bridge:
Yes. There is only one Charles in this episode, if you came seeking two Charles’ you will get all of your money back for this week’s episode. So be sure to reach out about that. We are operating at a half Charles deficit, but I think that we can make that work. And so you are the head Mac Nerd at N-able, that’s your actual title?

Charles Mangin:
That is my… Yes, I actually have two titles, one of which is just for the HR, it’s on the org chart, so that HR recognizes that I have whatever level of seniority, such that it is. And then the other is Head Mac Nerd or Head Nerd, Mac, whatever it is. But yes, I am the Head Nerd for all things Apple in the Head Nerds team at N-able.

Tom Bridge:
That’s awesome. And so just for a brief synopsis for everybody, we cover a lot of different types of workflows on this podcast and they’re all equally complicated. And some of them are very specifically designed for a given industry today. We’re got Charles on to talk about how the managed service provider or MSP, treats Apple devices and how the latest innovations from Apple have helped shape how MSPs can be more productive. So welcome to the podcast, Charles, we’re thrilled that you could join us this week. When guests join us for the first time, we love to do a little bit of an origin story. So tell us what you do at N-able and tell us how you came to be there.

Charles Mangin:
First of all, thanks for letting me invite myself onto the podcast, I appreciate it. As for my origin story. It all started back when I was bitten by a radioactive 6502 processor. And so now I have the eight bit power… No, my Mac story really starts when I was in college. So up until that point, it was Apple 3 and then a 386 when my dad’s office switched from AppleWorks to I guess, the early version of Excel or whatever it was. So we had a PC in the house for a little while. Then when I went to college, I went there to study graphic design. And the year that I graduated, my graduating class was the first of the classes that was required by the curriculum to actually own your own computer. Up to that point, it was mostly physical processes and occasionally going to the computer lab to do something.

Charles Mangin:
But most of the professors, they really were from the previous generation of designers, so they didn’t really know as much of the software as some of the students did. And really they were learning it probably a week or two before they were teaching it to us. So things were moving really quickly and transitioning from that physical cut and paste to command C, command V sort of stuff. Once I got out of school, I was a graduated with a graphic design degree and went into web design, because again, it was the first generation of the web. And the company that I was working for needed a web designer, because they didn’t have one and they didn’t know what one was. So that was my first time actually working as an admin on Mac’s as well, because the shop that I worked for is a small 10 or 12 person design shop. They had a Mac 2CI running in the back with EIMS, pronounce it or eims.

Tom Bridge:
EIMS, yeah.

Charles Mangin:
The Eudora Mail Server, I think it was either previously or became the Apple Mail Server. I think it started out as Apple and they open sourced it and then Eudora… But anyhow, so EIMS, and so I had to figure out how to get an email address on there for myself when I started, otherwise I was going to have to wait until their Mac consultant came in, every other Friday, and add in an address for me, so I could get email at that address. So that was cool, I was like, “I know what this 2CI is, I can open it up and it’s got the cash card and it’s got, what, four megs of RAM?” And so I learned how to do all that and then put Timbuktu on it, so that I didn’t have to walk back to the closet to unblock somebody’s email that was clogged up with some crazy attachment or whatever.

Charles Mangin:
So yeah, that was my first experience as an admin. And then fast forward and it’s 2006 ish. The company that I started at has grown up and then they’ve been acquired. And I’ve gone from graphic design to more of a web developer. And so I’m doing that and I’m also pulling double duty as an admin on the Mac’s in that group, so probably 40 or so machines, 30 or 40 desktops machines, as well as a couple of servers, one Mac and one Linux doing tape backups, doing remote access, that kind of stuff, all within this cobbled together, mostly PCs still. But I was the one that was in charge of anything with an Apple logo on it.

Charles Mangin:
Because the full-time admin that was handling all the PCs just threw up her hands and didn’t know, like, “Oh, it’s a Mac, I’m going to have Charles do it.” So that was me. So I was pretty happy with that, with the work, but not necessarily the people that I was doing it for. So I struck out on my own, doing basically the same thing, splitting my time between web development, HGM, LCSS, PHP, WordPress, and all that kind of stuff. And then also Mac consulting as what I might call now, a one man MSP, but I didn’t really do much in the way of what an MSP would do now. And it’s not even an acronym that I knew what it was at that point.

Marcus Ransom:
It was a much simpler time in those days, wasn’t it?

Charles Mangin:
Yes, yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
You could just show up with a zip drive with some stuff on it and have at it.

Charles Mangin:
Yeah, I had my binder full of floppy discs and a hard drive that I could plug in with FireWire. Or I had another one that was a SCSI connector and just go… The wandering Mac consultant, that was pretty much my job. So at that point I was either going to start hiring more people and go full on MSP, expanding, hiring people, getting an actual office space or not. And it got to the point where now I’ve got two kids and a wife and the dog and the house. And so that uncertainty, that instability swung me back into the other direction, looking for more of a regular, a nine to five, a 4O1K, that sort of thing. Lucky in the fact that my wife had a great job, great benefits, and I didn’t have to worry about looking for my own health insurance and all that as a consultant, so that took a big weight off. But still, my income would fluctuate a lot from month to month.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah, I remember those days at Technolutionary, because for probably the first five or six years, it was very much you eat what you kill.

Charles Mangin:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
And that gets to be its own difficult adventure, because you got to make sure that revenue’s coming in. You got to make sure that you’ve got enough that you can pay the rent. And then also have to wait for those bills to get paid, because they don’t get paid right away. If you were ever looking at the glamorous life of an independent Mac consultant, may I strongly suggest getting paid in advance? And when you can’t figure that out, at least have a net 15 instead of a net 30, which will turn into net 47 to 60 to 93. And just be aware that some of that money isn’t coming your way as quickly as you think it will.

Charles Mangin:
Oh, absolutely, yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
And especially the old, the net 15 turns very quickly into the, we’ll pay you for the last job you did if you come back and fix whatever’s broken now, as well.

Tom Bridge:
Oh yes.

Charles Mangin:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
Oh yeah, man, the number of times that’s happened. We start started to mark those files. “Yeah, we’ve got a check for you.” That’s a great… Because that’s never true, I mean, or it’s true, but a little bit and it’s not the right amount.

Marcus Ransom:
“Don’t bank it until Thursday.”

Charles Mangin:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah, right.

Charles Mangin:
Yeah. Well, I got the check, but it’s not signed, so I can’t… Oh, now I need to come back and get you to sign it, okay.

Marcus Ransom:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
Yep. I was going to say we can go through the litany of…

Charles Mangin:
So obviously, one of the main driving forces of going back to a more corporate job was that stability. But also like I said, two kids, no more doing customer calls at nights and on weekends when things blew up. I needed to be able to have an actual schedule. So I went and found a job at a local software company that had about 400 people between the main office in North Carolina and then a couple of other offices, different time zones around the world. And I was the only onsite IT, so again, there were some Windows of [inaudible 00:12:41]. There were plenty of servers and things that were all managed by a team of people that knew a lot more about the big iron and all that and they had a data center that handled all that, but onsite, it was mostly Macs. And so again, I was the one onsite IT guy. That company was acquired by NetSuite and then NetSuite was acquired by Oracle.

Charles Mangin:
And then it’s 2020 and the world is on fire, so I was looking to get out of that. Again, I was happy with what I was doing and the people that I was working with, but I wanted to do more and Oracle was really not the place to do it. I was a cog in the wheel or a cog in the, whatever the term is.Fast forward to now and now I’m on the Head Nerds team at N-able, I like to call us the Nerd Core. And to explain what that is, our mission statement as the Nerds team, is basically just to add value for our partners. So as a quick sidebar, we don’t call the MSPs that use N-able software customers, because they have their own customers or clients.

Charles Mangin:
We call them our partners, because we’re facilitating them, serving the end user, the end customer. And it all sounds very much like a Warren Buffet business seminar, but that’s how it works. And it also keeps the confusion level down, because the customer is the one using the computer and they’re having a problem. And then our partners are the ones that are helping them with that problem. And we are the ones helping our partners with their problems that are helping the… Yeah, so it’s a whole thing.

Tom Bridge:
It turtles all the way down.

Charles Mangin:
Exactly, yes. So I like to think of it as the old BASF tagline, we don’t make the products you love, but we make the products you love better. So we add value wherever we see an opportunity. Or for a slightly different reference, we have people skills, we’re good at dealing with people.

Tom Bridge:
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Tom Bridge:
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Tom Bridge:
So it’s been a minute, but we had Brian Best on the podcast before. And while we miss Brian on the pod and we’d love to get him back at some point in the future. But help us remember, because while nobody loves listening to commercials and we’re not going to talk about that, you do work at a vendor and it’s one that makes products that some of our listeners use. Do you mind connecting the dots between maybe Gruntwork, SolarWinds and N-able?

Charles Mangin:
Yes, so when this role came up in my search for jobs, when I was looking, SolarWinds was in the process of splitting out their MSP division, that part of the giant corporate structure that was focused on the small enterprise, the small medium business, SMB SME, whatever it is. And they were splitting that off as N-able, so when I interviewed that’s where it was in the process of things. I had a couple of chats with the hiring manager and the team, and then had a screening call, a tech call with Brian and it was scheduled for 30 minutes.

Charles Mangin:
The thing is, that we went on talking for an hour, hour or 15 minutes, just trading stories of back in the day. He was doing the same sort of thing that I was, but when he hit that fork in the road, he went big and I went home. That’s part of how I came to be where I am, is with interviewing with Brian. And he’s awesome and he says, “Hello.” And he would love to come back on whenever there’s something that you’d like to talk about with him, probably barbecue or the Kansas City Chiefs.

Tom Bridge:
Correct. Or barbecuing the Kansas City Chiefs, but that’s a whole different kind of podcast.

Charles Mangin:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
And a different kind of explicit label.

Charles Mangin:
So to get back to your actual question, connecting the dots, he helped me build a timeline, so I’m referring to my notes here. In 2010, Brian built Gruntwork as a software product. And that was when his company Best Macs pivoted to be more of an MSP model instead of a consultant model. Around that time, the original N-able company was acquired by SolarWinds around 2013. Brian started up MacMSP as a software vendor for Mac focused MSPs in 2014 and they had Gruntwork and BlueSky as their main products. In 2016, MacMSP was acquired by LOGICnow, which was formerly the combination of two companies, hounddog and GFI. So we’re building the family tree here. Later that year Gruntwork was integrated into the LOGICnow RMM, which was called MAX RMM. LOGICnow is then acquired by SolarWinds in 2016. 2018, And Gruntwork was finally assimilated into the SolarWinds MSP product called RMM.

Charles Mangin:
And as far as functionality, it was automated tasks and patching and under the hood kind of stuff. There’s no real separate Gruntwork agent or dashboard anymore. It’s all been absorbed into the RMM product. And then in 2018 they open sourced BlueSky as a remote desktop product, because it wasn’t anything that would fit into their current portfolio. So that is out there as an open source product that you can dig into if you’re in need of it. But yeah, so that was made open source in 2018 and [inaudible 00:19:53]. The Solarwinds MSP division at that point, spins out to become N-able, the company where I work now in 2021. And then I joined the company in July of 2021, so that’s all the dots connected as best I can.

Tom Bridge:
That’s fantastic.

Marcus Ransom:
So we’ve got a new operating system around the corner and I’m guessing the Mac developers over there at N-able are hard at work making sure everything works. Do you want to talk to us about how N-able has changed over the past couple of years? Because Apple has very much moved the goal posts from the way we used to manage Macs, going right back to the binder full of floppies that we all used to carry around. So how have you managed to roll with the changes at N-able?

Charles Mangin:
So N-able as the company itself, like I just said, well, the current incarnation didn’t exist until about this time last year. And I only joined at about that time, so I can’t really speak on how the company has changed culturally other than in the time that I’ve been here.

Charles Mangin:
And now it’s 2021 and things are a lot more streamlined, because between that process and this, when you’re packing up to move, you leave a lot of stuff behind that you don’t need anymore, right? So I haven’t opened this box in 10 years and I’ve been in this house 10 years. So a lot of it’s much more streamlined and we have the momentum again for doing more on the Mac side of things. It’s not quite zero to a hundred, but the wheel was spinning and it’s gathering speed. And so at this point, we’re on a fairly quick cadence with new features, new bug fixes. The focus on MSPs means that the Mac is more of a relevant topic as opposed to in the giant enterprise. So managing iPhones, managing iPads, Apple TVs in conference rooms and things like that. It’s a much more relevant priority, so it’s not top priority obviously, but it’s no longer just we check the box that it runs on the Mac.

Charles Mangin:
Ventura is still a moving target, there’s a lot of questions there, but Apple could still throw a showstopper in at the last minute with some tweak to the security posture. But the way it’s looking now, is the RMM team and the dev team in the N-able product, they had the RMM agent ready for Monterey on day one. And it looks like Ventura’s going to be the same thing. So that is a big change from just a couple of years ago, where again, it was a checkbox, but then it was almost like a checkbox with an asterisks next to it. It might break with the next release, but now it’s much more up to date and more on the same cadence with Apple and their updates.

Tom Bridge:
So one of the things that I’m always interested in, that we’re interested in as a profession, right? Is how to make human beings more productive? How much of the development in your team is thinking of ways for MSPs to be more productive and how much is taking a request from MSPs?

Charles Mangin:
I can only speak for myself in this regard, as far as the balance between what we’re coming up with internally versus requests from MSPs. So I’m on the Mac Admin Slack, I’m reading this scripting OS10, Eclectic Light Company, a bunch of other Mac-centric sites. And I see this stuff come in my RSS feed, I actually still use RSS. I see things that maybe our typical MSP partner isn’t necessarily tuned into being more Windows admins, more Windows first or Windows primarily. So those kinds of things that I see, Apple’s changed this, or there’s a new way to get a piece of information out of some API. Or someone posts an example of this, that or the other in Bash. And it’s like, “Oh, well, that kind of stuff goes into the scripts that I write.” The stuff that goes into what we call our automation cookbook for the partners in the community to share, as far as scripts and automation and things, that don’t go directly into the product itself, they’re scripts. You can download them, add them to your library, that sort of thing.

Charles Mangin:
But those same things that are coming up in the community also go into the weekly, all things Mac OS conversations that I have with Brian and the product team and the Mac focused folks that are on the support team, PSMs and all that. We get together and if you’re Mac focused while on this chat and Brian’s coordinating, so we’re talking about, “Well, we read about this thing, the security update for all the Macs this week, that was a couple of in the wild updates.” We talked about that, those conversations happen and we talk about the stuff that we’re seeing out in the world. But as far as my part of it, the Nerds team, and I see it a lot, we’re a sounding board for whatever our partners are running into. So we get questions, we get requests directly like, “How do I talk to this kind of server? How do I get this information from this API?”

Charles Mangin:
We get things directly coming to us, because our contact information’s out there in the world. Or we get stuff from the support channel, the pre-sales folks and the success teams, where they have a partner that’s asked a question, “How do I do this on the Mac?” And they’re like, “Well, let’s ask a Mac Nerd.” So that’s me. I get questions about, “We’ve got a new client that’s coming in with 50 or a hundred or 300 Macs and how do we handle that?” And a couple of years ago, they would’ve just told those customers to go somewhere else, “Because we don’t support the Macs, we’ll support the PCs, you have to hire someone else.” But that’s certainly not viable anymore, because every customer now has some Macs and if you’re leaving them unmanaged, it’s a security threat, it’s another attack surface.

Tom Bridge:
So that brings about a really interesting question for me, because this was always something that we ran into. I was at a very Apple focused MSP and obviously the traditional N-able customers or the traditional N-able MSPs are much more Windows focused.

Charles Mangin:
Yes.

Tom Bridge:
How hard is it to get them to care about what’s happening on their Macs?

Charles Mangin:
I think it’s gotten a lot easier and it’s not because of anything that I’ve done or that we’ve done at N-able, so much as the customers are coming to them with… They have a prospect and it’s like, “Oh, we have 500 endpoints that we need you to manage. And it’s going to be this much a month as we’ve got people working at home and about half of them are Macs.” And then usually, it’s like, that’s the record scratch sound. James, can you put a record scratch sound in there? And so if they have any experience with working with Macs, then it’s okay, that’s great. We’ll just expand into… We’ll take all those on, it’s great. But if they were solely focused on Windows or solely focused on anything not a Mac, then they’re losing customers. They’re losing money, they’re leaving money on the table or whatever you want to call it.

Charles Mangin:
And so when I make the point of you’ve got Macs in enterprise, you’ve got Macs in small enterprise, you’ve got Macs at home. They’re scattered around the place in every company. And if you leave them unmanaged, you’re not managing them, because you don’t know what to do with the Macs or you don’t have the right tools to deal with the Macs or you don’t have a tech that knows anything about how to get those tools working on the Macs, well, then that’s one thing that’s however much a month per machine that you’re not charging. So you’re losing money there, because you got… Even if it’s 10 machines, that’s, whatever it is, 10 bucks a month, if it’s a dollar a machine or whatever. But also those users are not getting patches or they’re getting patches, but only because they’re doing it themselves and they could be doing it wrong. They’re connecting to the same shares as the Windows folks are.

Charles Mangin:
Which is just from a security standpoint, if you’ve got a bunch of unpatched machines and you’ve got the designers and the creative group, and they’re all focused on making sure that Adobe runs, they’re not focused on the latest security update from Apple, they’re not as worried about making sure that they’re not putting some thumb drive into their computer that has some ransomware Trojan on it, because they want to make sure that Adobe’s working or they’re trying to get 60 frames per second out of this render farm. They’re not as focused on that. That’s your job as the MSP, to manage their endpoints. And so that gets a lot of people to come around to it as, “Oh, not only are they unmanaged, they’re not patched, they’re not up to date. They might be any number of problems just from a security standpoint.” And then the money thing comes in too, you’ve got unmanaged machines, you should be charging for them, right?

Marcus Ransom:
It’s also a challenge for MSPs as well, where if you’re trying to retain customers and you don’t offer any services for that section of the business, if a competitor comes along and says, “Oh yeah, that’s not a problem. That’s part of our service offering.” Then it’s really hard to try and convince those customers to stay. So a lot of MSPs who weren’t looking after Macs are finding they really need to offer that service now. It’s not the outlying companies now, that have a couple of Macs or a reasonably large quantity of Macs, most companies now are acknowledging what those shiny, silver machines over in the corner that we’ve ignored up until now, actually are.

Charles Mangin:
Yeah, I think there’s a statistic from, it might have been 2019 or sometime a few years ago. But the survey was done basically, all the different size enterprises, all the different size companies, do you allow your users to choose a Mac? And that was well over half, I think it was like 55, 56 % of companies allow folks to use a Mac as their daily driver. And a similar number of companies said, that they had Macs installed and in their network. So if you’re looking at roughly half of the potential customers out there, they have at least some Macs in their network and you say, “I can’t do anything with those.” Well, that’s half of your market, basically, you’re saying no to. So again, just on the numbers and looking at the bottom line, the idea is if you want your business to grow, one of the easiest things you can do, is grow into that unserved space with the Macs.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
And also the companies who don’t allow users the opportunity to choose a Mac, will find that many of them have gone and done that anyway. They’ve gone and found a middle manager who has a credit card, or they’ve just gone and found one somewhere. The number of organizations that are adamantly anti-Mac and discover that there’s maybe a few more there than they thought about, which from a security point of view is really concerning. And so being able to help solve them with that problem as well and say, “Yeah, that’s fine. That’s not scary for us, we know how to do that.” Is a real benefit for MSPs.

Tom Bridge:
Well, and I think that there’s a corollary to that. And it’s something that I’ve been learning a lot about over in the product side of the house, is that when you’re looking at your business as a whole, the best way to do it, to grow your pie is to do more things. And this is called changing your product market fit. And so if you’re an MSP that’s out there, that’s been Windows focused or that’s been entirely Apple focused, you need to be understand that for every group of Macs that’s in your business, there’s that guy in accounting who still swears that Excel for Windows does more, better, faster, stronger, harder with their spreadsheets. And they won’t ever switch, over their dead body. And so you need a way to support those environments.

Tom Bridge:
And so this is where I think that MSPs have a fantastic advantage over a lot of other IT operations, which is to say most of them are platform based businesses, where there’s a platform to handle their management tasks. Whether that’s an RMM or whether that’s remote support or whether that’s mobile device management and machine configuration management, and sometimes all three of those different things. And this is a place where MSPs have to have a proven, trusted solution internally, or they’re not going to be able to serve the marketplace that they need to be able to serve.

Charles Mangin:
I’m going to need a transcript of this after we’re done, so that I can take all that and put it into a blog post and claim that I wrote it.

Tom Bridge:
Okay. Excellent. Well, the wonderful folks at meter.com are paying for transcripts of our podcast now. And so if you’re listening to this at home and you were like, “That Tom guy, he actually said something smart for once.” And you wanted to copy and paste those words someplace else, you can go and pick up the episode at podcast.macadmins.org. There’s a new transcript block in the blog post that are wonderful, folks. And we’re getting those done as… We started with AI transcripts and it turns out AI transcripts they’re only okay. This one will actually be human rated, so this one will actually be right for most of the time. And any typos that they make are totally my fault, because I clearly said it wrong in the microphone. So thank you to our friends at meter.com for helping us add transcripts to the podcast.

Charles Mangin:
And you’re welcome for that segue way. I totally…

Tom Bridge:
Yes.

Charles Mangin:
I didn’t intend that to turn into a sponsor message, but excellent point.

Tom Bridge:
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Tom Bridge:
So what are the top issues you see that MSPs have to struggle with, with regard to getting machines in the hands of people or keeping them up to date or increasing customer happiness while reducing their costs to deliver?

Charles Mangin:
I think you just said it. I mean, it’s getting the people, their machines, especially when you’re talking about a remote workforce, primarily either working from home or just the work from anywhere paradigm, keeping those machines patched, keeping them secured, keeping the end users happy. Maybe not necessarily priority in that order. But reducing costs is obviously, always on everyone’s mind, whether you’re in a recession or not, the mantra is do more with less. I’m always beating the automation drum, I say, “Now, if you do it more than twice, automate it.” You spend less time per ticket that you get in, if you click a button to do the automated task, that fixes the thing, as opposed to spending five minutes to do the same thing that you just did half an hour ago and you spent five minutes then. But ultimately, you get fewer tickets in, because you can get the Mac to heal itself or do the needful or whatever without being told.

Charles Mangin:
Okay, so the trigger is the hard drive is 80% full and it just does its thing and clears things out or runs the maintenance script that you’ve written that comes with your products. And that as a force multiplier of automation is really the big thing, that a lot of people are coming to us with requests, they’re coming and saying, “How do I do more with less or with the same number of people?” And that way they can get more devices in, more monthly revenue and so on. And so the economic side of it obviously, works out with the idea of automating and bringing a lot of that stuff into a scripting or into an automated task function, as opposed to having a person do all of that stuff by hand.

Charles Mangin:
As far as struggling with things, again, a lot of the MSPs that I talk with, they’re learning to deal with Macs for the first time or they’re coming to them from the idea of, it was just the one in the design department or the one that was hooked up to the printer. And now everybody’s got an iPad or now we’re bringing in MacBook Pros that they have at home and they’re using those BYOD devices and things like that. So it’s the first time using Macs at any scale, other than just the one or two that are in the back room, like I said. Their customers are coming in with iPads to manage, and they’re all using them for point of sale device or what have you, or they’re expanding their stuff. All the acronyms, you’ve got iOS and you got MDM and you’ve got TCC and you’ve got all the acronyms and, “I need to learn how to do this. Please help me sort out what Apple wants us to do. The official word from Apple is X, Y, Z. Okay, what does the X stand for? How do I even get there?”

Charles Mangin:
And then another struggle if you’re already managing Macs, is keeping up with Apple. Every major release, you get another layer of the onion for the security and the restrictions. You’re building up that posture, that model that is keeping all the bad guys out. But it also has a tendency to keep the good guys out from being able to manage those machines. So you’re trying to keep it straight with old versions and new versions. And you’ve got Intel machines sitting next to architecture machines and they’re mixing up with, “Okay. So is this one running Monterey?” It’s the whole idea of just keeping up with what Apple is doing, and they’re just driving along on a hundred miles an hour and you got to be able to keep up with them. And that’s hard if you didn’t start out running.

Marcus Ransom:
So MSPs are a really unique and special part of the IT market now. As someone who’s worked both as in house IT and as a consultant and now in the MSP space, how is that different to being in-house IT, both from the engineer or technicians point of view, but also the customer’s point of view? So how is it better or worse? What are the differences you found between the two different models?

Charles Mangin:
I have to say, that I looked at my origin story and I looked at it as, okay, I started out as graphic designer, web developer. So I was using the computer for doing my work and occasionally I would run into problems. And so I learned how to fix them. And then I was fixing them for the other designers and developers that I knew, so I was moved up the stack once. And then as I’m making my progress and learning how to do administering various things, then I moved up and did that as my sole function, as a one man MSP or whatever. And now I’m working for a company that makes the software, that the MSP is used, to manage those machines that the users use. So I’ve moved further and further up the stack and further and further away from the end users. I think the main difference that I see having seen where various pieces of the puzzle fit for those different layers.

Charles Mangin:
The MSP model versus the in-house IT model, obviously the MSPs can be much more flexible. I think they don’t have as much, maybe the wrong term, but the technical debt, I guess, of an in-house IT group, where their having to do all of their work with the tools that they have. And if they’re getting training or getting updates or new certifications or even new hardware in, it’s at the behest of someone who’s writing the budget every year. The MSPs on the other hand, they’re learning and growing and expanding, because of the people coming to them and writing them checks. So if you’re being asked by customers left and right, to suddenly manage mobile devices, whereas it wasn’t even on your radar before, they’re coming to you and saying, “I will pay you, I give you money every month to manage all of our mobile devices.” Well, then that’s a thing that you have to learn how to do, or you get left behind.

Charles Mangin:
But also it’s a thing that you get to do. And so next year, when you’re looking at your bottom line and you’re thinking, “Okay, well, all of these customers came to us, because we learned how to do the MDM side of things.” Or, “All of these customers that are now paying us twice what they used to, because suddenly we’re managing both their Macs and their PCs.” And then the insight of the internal IT group is only pushing outward when they can, especially in bigger companies where the big ships are hard to steer. It’s like, “Okay, we need to be able to adopt this device or this software or this new security model or what have you.” And the pressure is from them outward, as opposed to, like I said, with the MSPs where people are coming to them and saying, “Please do this for us.”

Marcus Ransom:
One of the other things I saw going from in-house internal IT to being a consultant was depth versus breadth. So when your internal IT, you know how your firewall works or doesn’t work and all of the idiosyncrasies, the team who manage it, the technical debt that’s in there, you know where the bodies are buried, you know how to get around things. But then you also have the tech stack that you work with, so you may be an organization that’s using Google for identity and Google for your productivity apps, and you’re using 8021X user auth for your wifi, so you understand how all of that works. And then I know I’d see all of these amazing tools that were being used elsewhere and going, “Oh, that looks interesting, but can’t use that here, because of the way we do things.” And then move across to being a consultant and working in managed services, all of a sudden you’ve got customers who are on as Azure, you’ve got customers who are on JumpCloud. You’ve got customers who are on Google. You’ve got customers who are still clinging onto Novell eDirectory and all sorts of other things.

Marcus Ransom:
So you all of a sudden get to play around with all of these interesting tools that are out there, as you mentioned before, because that’s going to earn you money. So there’s an expectation that you can roll with the punches and say, “Oh yeah, yep, yep. We can do that.” So you get the opportunity to go out and get certifications to learn all of these different things, because that equates money. And from an engineering perspective, some people just want to learn how to do a particular thing and go down the rabbit hole, grok that until there’s no more to be learnt, of which there’s never no more to be learnt. And then other sorts of engineers just like doing something new every day and being able to walk away from that particular proxy that’s always causing problems at 4:00 PM on a Thursday and know that it’s maybe a couple of months before you have to go back and wrestle with that one again.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah, there are moments that I miss my MSP life, right? And the ability to just turn on a dime, walk into someone’s office for the very first time, discover their technology stack and dive in and figure out what the guy did or what the previous consultants did or what their in-house people had cooked together. Or any number of ways to explore those kind of environments. That was the ultimate in challenge, right? There’s a good feeling, it’s part Indiana Jones, part guy with a pocket protector. But you’re unearthing the solutions that were built and figuring out, all right, this is how it works together and this is how it goes. That’s a really great feeling. And if you’re working in-house IT, where you’re thinking, “Oh, wow, this sounds awesome. This sounds great.” Let me disabuse you of that notion also, because the chances are, is that it’s just as likely as when you have wrapped the bow on that project, or probably two weeks before that you will have been deluged with other calls.

Tom Bridge:
And so I always joke that working in an MSP was great for my ADHD, because I never knew what I was going to do in a given day. And it was also hell on planning, because I never knew what I was going to be doing that day, because which of the fires am I going to have to put out today? And that fire that I put out yesterday, did someone come back behind me with a can of kerosene and a flame thrower and just make it worse? Because I mean, that’s the other piece, as an in-house IT practitioner, God willing, and the Creek don’t rise, you have a team that you can trust and work with together. And that’s true at the MSP, but the problem is, there’s a little bit of a different relationship at that. So it’s an adventure, there’s ups and downs.

Charles Mangin:
Yeah. As long as, I mean, if the company that you’re working for in-house as their IT staff, if it’s stable and it’s a good place to work and everything, it has job security, that’s great. You’re always going to come into work, you’re always going to be onboarding new people and fixing and learning and doing stuff. Job security there, is coming from the stability of the company that you’re working for. As an MSP or as a consultant, job security comes from things constantly breaking, because you’re getting paid by the hour, right? So I put out this fire and you just came and poured kerosene on it. Well, I’ll just have to charge you for the next 12 hours for fixing it a second time. And I might charge you my expanded rate, because now it’s a night or it’s a weekend or it’s a holiday or whatever. So yeah, I definitely see the advantages to both.

Charles Mangin:
But I think the flexibility and like you said, not knowing what you’re going to do the next day is a little bit exciting. It’s nice to have a different thing to do each day, as opposed to going in and working on the same product. And you’re in the same stack constantly and looking over, the grass is greener always. “But there’s probably a better way to do this, but we’re stuck with this, because we’ve signed a 10 year contract for it.” Or, “We’ve paid a gajillion dollars for this tech stack and we’re going to stick with it until something twice as good at half the price comes along. But I have a job here, so I’m going to stay and I’m going to do this and it’s going to be great.” So it depends on your personality, I guess.

Marcus Ransom:
The other difference I’ve seen with the MSP model from the vendor side of things as well, which you raised a little earlier as well, where the customers are the MSPs customers, not the platforms customers. And I think that’s something where people who are starting out down the MSP path… As engineers, we get very excited about the platforms in the technology, but the whole point of outsourcing to an MSP is to not have to worry about that. And the MSPs get an opportunity to not just pick a platform and pick a platform that helps them to do what they need to do, but then actually build all of this stuff around that platform, because that’s their relationship with the customer is, it’s about making the problems go away rather than how they’re actually going to solve them. And being able to combine multiple platforms together, communicate that in a different way.

Tom Bridge:
So all three of us have worked att or run MSPs and Charles Edge who sadly, is not with us this week, also the same way. One thing we feel like we’ve noticed it, is that good MSP businesses seem to do as good if not better during recessions. More outsourcing is good for outsourcing businesses, right? So do you feel like a quick back to back hiring challenge followed by a spike in business, means MSPs need to accelerate, hiring and onboarding?

Charles Mangin:
Either that or like we’ve all said, do more with what you already have, do more with less. If there’s a silver lining to all of these layoffs in tech that I’ve seen lately in IT and these big organizations basically laying off people left and right, is that there’s going to be a lot of really talented people that are looking for jobs, that just got outsourced. And those same people could very well end up doing the job that was outsourced at an MSP or as a consultant instead of being in-house. Hiring, the whole hiring atmosphere right now is crazy. You talk to some companies, the ones that haven’t already slashed their head count, and they’re saying, “We’re starving for people. We can’t hire enough people fast enough. We can’t find good enough people to fill all the seats.” And especially in the tech roles that are niche kind of things. And then on the other side, you talk to actual people that are looking for tech jobs and it’s a totally different story.

Charles Mangin:
It’s like the hiring process goes on for months and then eventually you get ghosted by the recruiters and the hiring managers don’t call you back. Or you finally get to sit down with them and they start talking about salary and the benefits and it’s like, “You’re joking, right? Or are you using a different currency scale or something? Because that doesn’t jibe with what the actual requirements of this job had to say.” So it’s a cyclical things, ebbs and flows and whatever with the way hiring and talent go. But I think the real takeaway with anything that results in both the hiring challenge and the financial squeeze that everyone’s in, is really just do more with what you’ve got already.

Charles Mangin:
So find the tools that you are already using and use them instead of just using the low hanging fruit of what you can do with that. Dig into the APIs, dig into what that software can do if you just unlock the advanced level. And go into the training and the courses and, “Oh, we can write scripts in this or we can add this plugin for real cheap that suddenly expands what we already have.” And turn that extra tool, that extra ability that’s layered on top of something that you already have into a force multiplier. And do you know the work of many people with fewer people.

Tom Bridge:
Here at the Mac Admins Podcast, we want to say a special thank you to all of our Patreon backers. The following people are to be recognized for their incredible generosity. Stu Bacca, thank you. Adam Selby, thank you. Nate Walk, thank you. Michael Sigh, thank you. Rick Goody, thank you. Mike Boylan, you know it, thank you. Melvin Vivez, thank you. Bill Stites, thank you. Anousch Storeville, thank you. Jeffrey Compton, M. Marsh, Stu McDonald, Hamlin Crusin, Adam Burg, thank you. AJ Petrepka, thank you. James Stracy, Tim Perfitt of Twocanoes, thank you. Nate Sinal, Will O’Neill, Seb Nash, the folks at Command Control Power, Stephen Weinstein, Chad Swarthout, Daniel McLoughlin, Justin Holt, Bill Smith and Welden Dodd. Thank you all so much. And remember that you can back us if you just saw head out to patreon.com/macadmpodcast. Thanks everybody.

Tom Bridge:
Well, here on the podcast, we have a tradition. The tradition is the bonus question. And one of the things that we always love to ask people is about something that’s a little bit off topic. And over the shoulder there, I see you’ve got a beautiful MAME arcade cabinet there. And so I’m going to ask you the hard question, best classic arcade video game?

Charles Mangin:
Oh, I would go back and forth with my pocket full of quarters or tokens between Galaga and Centipede or Millipede. It depends on what year it is, whether Millipede was out or not. Centipede, mainly because the track ball, it’s like, “How do you do this? Oh, it’s a track ball. Ooh, cool.” But those were my two that I would spend all of my quarters on. Galaga, because the mechanic of getting the extra ship and suddenly you’ve got two ships side by side and earning extra lives and things. But then Centipede, because of that track ball and the was super fast and then the lights and the changing colors, those were two. I’d have to go back and forth between the two of those.

Tom Bridge:
All right. That’s a pretty solid set of pulls, Marcus.

Marcus Ransom:
You’ve already said GalagA for me. That was the one I remember. As soon as you mentioned that I could smell the pizza at the Gaslight Bistro in Coffs Harbour, where we used to go. And out the back there near the bar, next to the kitchens was one of the little sit down Galaga units. And that was almost my special treat when we’d go there to get a pizza as a family, and I could go and have a game of Galaga. So now I need pizza. How about you, Tom?

Tom Bridge:
Yeah, I was going to say Galaga, obvious classic, superlative gameplay, so much going on in that game that it’s just spectacular. Not to mention the mechanic of getting that second player, because that was when you felt invincible. If you pulled that off, it was just like, “I don’t care what else happened today, I did that. That was amazing.” But I also think about a couple of other games that maybe don’t get the same highlight time and that’s Defender, which was a classic, because it was a side scroller obviously, left and right. But there was a lot more going on with that game, that made it a lot of fun. And of course, I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t played a lot of Tempest growing up with the jog wheel and the ray trace graphics and all of those things, there was a lot going on in that game. That game was fun as hell.

Tom Bridge:
I just want to give a shout out to the best named arcade in the United States, which was the arcade next to the pizza joint downtown in Davis, called The Library, because you could tell your mom that you were going to The Library after school and not be telling a lie. Once they figure… You only get one of those though, if you screw that up, it’s all over but the crying. But yeah, I was going to say, I played a fair amount of video games and that one played a fair amount at the Galaga machine in the Dairy Queen in the town where I grew up. Not to mention a bunch of What Zach’s On and Dig Dug in the Duluth Minnesota Airport, waiting for flights in the summertime coming home to California. So I think a little bit about all of those places, because that was the nice thing about those video games, right? This was not a video game you had in your home, this was something you had to go to a place for. There was that place element that was-

Marcus Ransom:
And you had to pay money to play it as well.

Tom Bridge:
[inaudible 01:03:41] as well. Oh yeah and a quarter back then was a lot.

Marcus Ransom:
Yeah.

Charles Mangin:
Yeah. Interesting that you mentioned the Duluth airport. I think you’re probably one of two other people that I know that has also been through the Duluth airport in the last 20 years. There’s probably about three or four people out there that have been through the Duluth airport in the last 20 years. I’ll have to go looking for that Dig Dug machine the next time I go through there, yeah.

Tom Bridge:
Mr. Do! Was the other one that was always there.

Charles Mangin:
Mr. Do! Yeah, I don’t know if it was a regional thing or not, but there are arcade games that I saw at every arcade where I was, and I grew up outside of Atlanta in the Metro area of Atlanta. And then I’ll see articles or I’ll listen to a podcast or something about arcade games and they’ll talk about Mr. Do! Or some something else, was it Ladybugs or something like that? And it’s like, “I never saw those.” I saw the same. I saw the same ones, maybe it was whoever was the retailer for Atari or for Midway or whatever, they were really good at selling Galaga or they were really good at selling Mr. Do!, but not on the East Coast for some reason.

Tom Bridge:
Right.

Charles Mangin:
It’s a weird thing. Like, “Oh, I missed that.” I missed those I things just, because of where I lived.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah. I was going to say the regionality of a bunch of those, not to mention the place making that came with all of those things. It was one of those things that I thought a couple of the eighties nostalgia shows have gotten really right, was the placeness of the arcade. And yeah, I was going to say, there’s a bunch of places now we’re trying to cash in on this. And it’s definitely not the same now that it’s a prox card that you used to give credits, and that’s not the same as going through your spare change cup, looking for that one last quarter. And it wasn’t going to cut it if it was two dimes in a nickel, you had to have the quarter that was required. So yeah, I was going to say, and I feel like we could go on and on about this all the day, but we should probably wrap up instead. Charles, thank you so much for joining us. If folks want to find you on the online, where should they go look?

Charles Mangin:
You can find me on Twitter and all of the stuff is going to be in the show notes, I presume?

Tom Bridge:
In the show notes. Yeah. Yes, show notes will be there.

Charles Mangin:
So if I’m on Twitter, I’m Mac_management_nerd, because Mac_nerd was already taken or something like that. Or you can find me on the N-able website. My blog is there and I have a bunch of links from that to scripts that I’ve written and all that kind of stuff. So between the blog and Twitter, those are the two places to find me. And I will say that when you do get around to the 1984 show, when you’re talking about arcade games and text adventures and Apple 2’s and things like that, please bring me back, because I mean you guys can see in the background the [inaudible 01:06:51].

Tom Bridge:
Yeah.

Marcus Ransom:
We can talk Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the best text adventure ever.

Charles Mangin:
Yep.

Tom Bridge:
Oh. Second best text adventure ever, absolutely. Now I’m going to start a fight with Marcus here at the end of the podcast.

Charles Mangin:
Okay.

Tom Bridge:
Because Planet Fall was totally my jam.

Charles Mangin:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
Yeah. But getting the dame Babel fish was the hardest thing in the world.

Marcus Ransom:
Yeah.

Tom Bridge:
So I was going to say that remains one of [inaudible 01:07:14].

Marcus Ransom:
Bugblatter Beast from Traal was always trouble.

Tom Bridge:
Fact. Char. So big shout out to Charles. Your blog has been awesome. I have really been enjoying reading the posts that are on there, because I feel like it’s written for an audience that isn’t well served usually by Mac specific content. So thank you so much, those posts are awesome. Keep them coming.

Charles Mangin:
Well, thank you. I like to hear that it’s actually reaching anybody for one thing. But yeah, I try to balance it between super technical and really more non-technical whatever the opposite of technical is.

Tom Bridge:
Yep.

Charles Mangin:
And I try to tow that line, so I’m glad to hear that it’s making connections.

Tom Bridge:
It absolutely is. So thank you so much. And thanks so much to our awesome sponsors this week. That is the wonderful folks at Congee, our fine friends at Black Glove and the extra special folks at Mosyle. Not to mention as we gave them a shout out earlier, our new accessibility and transcript sponsor and that’s the folks at meter.com. So for more information, please check us out at podcast.macadmins.org. Thanks of course, to all of our wonderful Patreon backers. And you can find more about us on the Patreon website as well. And of course, feel free to drop into the Mac Admin Slack and drop into the Mac ADM podcast channel. If there’s a topic you want to tell us about, if you want to answer the bonus question, if you want to tell me why I’m wrong, that Planet Fall is the best text adventure game, please by all means, come and tell me. And then we will talk all about the FROTS enablement engine that is in the show notes this week too. Thank you so much Charles, for putting that there and thanks everybody, we’ll see you next time.

Marcus Ransom:
See you later.

Tom Bridge:
The Mac Admins Podcast is a production of Mac Admin’s Podcast, LLC. Our producer is Tom Bridge. Our sound editor and mixing engineer is James Smith. Our theme music was produced by Adam Kudega, the first time he opened Garage Band. Sponsorship for the Mac Admins Podcast is provided by the macadmins.org slack, where you can join thousands of Mac Admins in a free slack instance, visit macadmins.org. And also by Technolotionary LLC. Technically, we can help. For more information about this podcast and other broadcasts like it, please visit podcast.macadmins.org. Since we’ve converted this podcast to APFS, the funny metadata joke is at the end.

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