Most MSPs have a lot on their plates. Not only are there customer needs and demands to be taken care of, but there is staff to train, people to hire, inventory to manage, and sales and marketing work to be done. However, I often find that one VERY important area gets pushed under the rug, and that is documentation. Proper documentation is not just about keeping records; it’s a critical tool for efficiency, scalability, and customer satisfaction. In this article, we’ll explore the top tools that help manage this vital aspect, ensuring your business stays on top of its game.

Why Is Managing Customer Documentation Important?

I find that documentation is often a last priority for many MSPs, which I’ve always found to be quite perplexing because without it:
  • You can’t service your customers as well due to poor documentation
  • You have no record of service for your customers
  • You’re possibly losing customer passwords
  • Licensing tracking isn’t being done properly
  • Inventory is becoming out of date
  • Defined processes aren’t being followed
  • Change Control is not being followed
This is just to name a few! I could likely go on for at least 3 times the list above, but you get the picture. The fact is that without proper documentation, you don’t run as efficiently as you can. Some would argue that documentation takes too much time, to which I would respond, how much time is lost if you don’t have the correct password when you need it? How much time is lost when you don’t have the IP address to the switch in the warehouse corner, and you need to make a change? How much time is lost when you need to re-install and re-license that manufacturing application that went out of support 3 years ago, but you don’t have the license anywhere? These are just a few examples, but the time lost really adds up. So, with that in mind, I’d like to focus this article on some tools that can be used to help you keep track of documentation, and help you avoid some of the pitfalls listed above. Let’s take a look.

Interested in Other MSP Tools?

While this article focuses on documentation tools, you can see a broader list of tools by looking at our infographic on MSP Tools here!

1. Ticketing Software

This may seem like a given, but I’m often surprised at how many small MSPs are still working off of the “pen and paper” system. Proper incident tracking is your first line of defense when issues crop up. When a new issue comes to your MSP, your first-line tech should be looking to answer the question, “Has this happened before? If so, what was the resolution? Who fixed the issue?“ If it’s not a repeat issue, it can be documented in a new ticket, so those questions can be answered at a later date when the issue shows up again. This is a basic example, but you can do more here. There is much valuable information to glean from ticketing software, even outside of a single incident. As the IT expert for your customer, you should be looking at incident trends. For example, maybe ABC Company has started having many printing issues over the last month. Your technicians in the trenches may not see that as they are trained to handle calls as they come in, but if you look at a customer’s issues over a larger time span, you can start to see trends. Once you notice there have been many printer related issues, now you can start to figure out the root cause. Maybe it’s a printer that is EOL, maybe it’s a copy center with a failing network card in it. Whatever the reason, you can do some long-term analysis and fix the issue at its source instead of continuing to deal with the issues as they come in. Software Options: Connectwise Manage, Kaseya BMS, Tigerpaw

2. RMM Tools with Inventory Management

This item really goes hand-in-hand with ticket software these days. In fact, many tools available on the market today either integrate the two or contain both within the same tool. The reason for this is simple. In order to properly support your customers, you need to know what they have. Additionally, you’ll be able to track and associate a particular service issue with a particular piece of equipment, and like the point I made above, you then have the ability to start looking at service trends for a specific asset. The advantages of this pair become VERY apparent once you start using it. Software Options: Connectwise Automate, Continuum, NinjaRMM

3. Password Managers

Nothing is worse than working on a critical customer issue at 2 in the morning and needing a password you don’t know and can’t find. Now you either have to scrap the work or call your customer at 2 AM, and chances are they don’t know the password either. Not to mention, as an IT Service company, not having something as simple as a password makes you look extraordinarily bad. With that said, Passwords are very easy to track but must be done in a way that is functional yet secure. There are two different options, really, online password management trackers and offline. If you use an online password management tool such as LastPass, you’ll want to make sure you turn on 2-factor authentication. For example, if you’re utilizing something local like KeePass, remember that these tools often use a file-based database to store passwords. Such databases are easily copied and moved, so you’ll want to pair this with a specific process or a technical mechanism to track access and activities. Additionally, companies like Thycotic will provide you with enterprise-grade password management and control. They tend to be expensive but can be VERY worth it for larger MSPs. Software Options: LastPass, KeePass, Thycotic

4. Wiki for Customer Information

Customer information comes down to more than just passwords and service issues. Think about all the stuff on your customers’ network. Networking devices, proprietary devices (often seen in manufacturing and healthcare), specific 3rd party applications, and special needs for certain users, just to name a few. While it’s easy to track the items we’ve talked about thus far, some information requires a more long-form format. For example:
  • Installation instructions for a medical application
  • Imaging Instructions for a point-of-sales kiosk
  • Licensing keys and contact information for a manufacturing CNC machine.
  • LAN Diagrams and Documentation
  • Network CIDR blocks and routing information
The amount of information you should have documented for each customer can be staggering, but nothing beats good documentation when you need it. What I’ve found works really well for this is a Wiki. Just a simple webpage that contains a section for each customer and is remotely accessible to your engineering staff. You’ll need to secure it properly to meet your needs, but there are several ways to do so. Sometimes simple is better. Software Options: WordPress, Drupal, Joomla

5. Network Management Tools

Network management tools are more of a niche area regarding documentation, but it is really important. While the above wiki option can be used to track a lot of this, it’s tough to beat a tool designed for network documentation. Tools in this category will track IPs, router configurations, networking performance trends, firewall rules, etc. The main reason why I included this as its own section is that while the above stuff you can usually get a workaround in place for most issues when it comes to networking, you NEED the correct information when you need it. I highly recommend that once you have the above basics in place, this is the next category you look at when it comes to documentation. Software Options: NetBrain, Cacti

Wrap-up

Hopefully, this article will help you get off on the right foot when it comes to documenting your customers’ networking and equipment. Good documentation can be a lifesaver, and it’s ultimately one of those things that takes a good MSP and turns them into a great one. What about you? Do you have some existing documentation tools that you use and would like to share?