Why River Valley IT Switched from SolarWinds N-Central to NinjaOne
With Chris Sawtelle, Chief Problem Solver, River Valley IT
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Chris Sawtelle, President and Chief Problem Solver at River Valley IT Consultants, has over ten years of experience with SolarWinds N-central. His first exposure to the tool was earlier in his career as a technician, when it was called N-able (prior to that company being acquired by Solarwinds). Later, when Chris set out to build his own MSP, he saw that familiarity as a necessary shortcut. “I needed to focus on building a business, not learning a new tool, ” Chris explains. “So I stuck with N-central.”
However, knowing the tool meant he also knew the tool’s limitations. During his time with N-central, Chris had seen the product’s development stall out leading up to and directly following the SolarWinds acquisition.
SolarWinds’ neglect of the core N-central product became even more noticeable over time. With only a single UI overhaul during his ten years using the product, navigation became a major issue. “Clients would be sitting on the phone with us waiting, just listening to us breathe, while a technician took minutes just to bring up their device,” Chris says. “Actually solving a problem took way longer than it needed to because of the interface.”
Usability didn’t just keep clients waiting, it was costing River Valley IT money, too.
“Even if they had used another RMM, I had to dedicate 1-2 months to training new technicians because the tool was so unintuitive. Training someone new drained so much of my time we were getting almost no value out of N-central.”
With Chris Sawtelle, Chief Problem Solver
According to Chris, a major selling point for any RMM is how well it helps him solve client issues by giving him the data he needs, the tools to help him support clients, and automation to resolve issues quickly. Unfortunately, towards the end of his time with SolarWinds, the product started to deteriorate faster and failing to deliver on each of those fronts. “Scripting didn’t work. Windows patching didn’t work. Automation required a PhD to understand and still didn’t work right most of the time,” Chris says.
In the end, it was the lack of a true partnership with SolarWinds that finally pushed Chris to look elsewhere. “Our rep just disappeared one day for three months,” Chris says. “There was no out-of-office reply; we weren’t reassigned to another account manager; just silence. I found myself wondering if I was too small for SolarWinds to care about.” Even after he cancelled, River Valley IT was billed for months before Chris could resolve the issue.
Chris set out to try all the other RMMs available in the space, and found many of the same challenges across vendors: pushy salespeople, clunky UIs, and unfair pricing. The pay-per-technician pricing model really caught Chris’s eye, but he found those products missed too many key features.
“When looking for a new RMM, I had three criteria in mind,” Chris explains. “First, I needed support I could work with and trust; second, I didn’t want my technicians to need a degree to use the tool; and third, I wanted an RMM I could implement quickly.”
When it came time to try NinjaOne, Chris was surprised and impressed. For starters, he says it was the first time he had a support team that not only responds but seems like they really want to help. Ninja’s support agents never offer canned responses and know the product well. On top of that, the product was incredibly straightforward and easy to use. “While I know I’m not their biggest customer, Ninja makes me feel like I’m a top 10 partner,” he says.
“When I first saw Ninja, I was shocked by how simple it was,” Chris says. “I was worried it might not be powerful enough until I started using it myself.” Chris liked how NinjaOne’s red / yellow / green alert system makes it clear where the problems are, and how the one-click remediation options make fixing issues quick and easy. “Everything is right where it needs to be and just works,” he says.
Still, even though he was impressed with the tool, the cost of implementing a new solution was Chris’s biggest worry about switching.
“I had to stop and think about how many hours it would take to implement a new RMM and how much that would cost my business. I wasn’t going to pass on the cost to clients, and during the transition I’d have to pay for multiple RMMs and lose a technician for the entire implementation period. I couldn’t even come up with a realistic plan, so I just blocked out 6 months.”
Chris Sawtelle, Chief Problem Solver, River Valley IT
“In the end, I had fully implemented NinjaOne in just three days.” Chris was able to leverage the NinjaOne community and knowledge base to deploy NinjaOne via scripts to all his endpoints much more quickly than he could ever have anticipated. The NinjaOne agent was downloaded and silently installed simply with no end-user interaction and came online within minutes.
Once River Valley IT had fully implemented NinjaOne, the stark differences from their experiences with N-central really stood out. “From day one, we knew what was and wasn’t working because of NinjaOne,” Chris says. “We identified so many problems that N-central never told us about. We didn’t realize how badly broken our old RMM was until we switched.”
In addition to the immediate benefit to service and visibility, Chris has also already seen a positive impact on his team’s productivity and his hiring ability. Thanks to NinjaOne’s ease of use, it no longer takes months to get a new hire onboarded and generating revenue for River Valley IT, he says. It’s one of several additional benefits that he wasn’t necessarily expecting.
Here’s another: During the coronavirus pandemic, Chris and his team faced a major challenge — how could they offer a remote work solution that was cost effective, reliable, and easy to use? He’d done it before for clients, but found that most solutions weren’t intuitive for the end-user, were difficult to manage, and were costly. He decided to reach out to his account manager for some guidance, and was advised about NinjaOne’s remote access tool for end-users built directly into the platform.
“I thought he had misunderstood me until he showed me the feature. When I asked what it would cost he laughed and said it was included. Being able to offer my clients a secure, reliable, easy-to-use remote work tool during the pandemic was a game changer.”
Chris Sawtelle, Chief Problem Solver, River Valley IT
So far, Chris’s experience has been opposite of the experience that drove him away from SolarWinds.