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What IT Skills & Certifications Do You Need To Start An MSP?

Running a successful managed service provider (MSP) requires a combination of skills, training, and expertise.

While some may argue that formal education and certifications are not entirely necessary, it is undeniable that possessing certain qualifications can greatly aid in meeting the needs of clients, especially those in more technical areas.

With the rapid growth of the MSP industry, it is essential to be well-versed in the various performance-enhancing tools, technologies, and best practices available in the market.

In the constantly evolving landscape of the MSP industry, there are some core principles that every MSP must have, regardless of their specialization. These include competencies in network management and security, system administration, cloud service management, cybersecurity best practices, and operational tools knowledge.

Furthermore, adopting a service-over-technology mindset and expanding services and differentiating factors can add significant value to an MSP's offering.

Key Takeaways

  • A well-rounded skillset in network management, security, system administration, and cloud services management is essential for MSP success.

  • Cybersecurity best practices and operational tools knowledge are crucial in maintaining the safety and well-being of clients' systems and networks.

  • Differentiating factors and expanding services, such as VoIP management and niche certifications, can help MSPs stand out in a competitive market.

Certifications to start MSP

Prerequisites for Entering MSP Industry

Comprehending the MSP Business

To successfully run a Managed Service Provider (MSP) business, it is essential to have a solid understanding of the necessary skills and certifications needed.

While some individuals may enter the industry with little to no prior knowledge, it's vital to realize that formal training and certifications can provide a significant advantage, particularly when dealing with clients in more complex or difficult sectors.

Master Class and Launchpad Initiative

For those looking to enter the MSP industry, engaging in a comprehensive master class could be an invaluable resource. Such a course should provide an extensive amount of information and knowledge needed to start and run an MSP.

An MSP Launchpad initiative can help you go from having zero business ownership skills to confidently starting your MSP and knowing your service charges in around six weeks.

Billway Collaboration and Raffle

In order to facilitate billing processes for smaller MSPs, partnering with companies like Billway can be beneficial.

Billway makes billing much simpler for small MSPs, eliminating the stress of knowing who is being billed and for what amount. This can result in a seamless process of managing monthly recurring revenue.

When entering the MSP industry, it's crucial to have an understanding of essential certifications and training. This can include becoming familiar with network management and security, system administrator skills in Linux and Windows, cloud service management, cybersecurity best practices, Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM), and Professional Services Automation (PSA) tools.

Additionally, having a background in customer support and help desk operations is useful, as MSPs are ultimately service-based businesses.

Although not required, having extras such as CompTIA A+ certification, expertise in Google Cloud, AWS, or Azure, and Cisco certification can be advantageous.

As the industry grows, the addition of niche services such as VoIP services and management can help differentiate your MSP from others and potentially generate more revenue.

Core Skills Necessary to Start an MSP

Basic Network Management and Security Skills

As an MSP professional, you must have a fundamental understanding of network management and security. This includes knowledge in programming switches and familiarity with different networking systems like Cisco or Ubiquiti. Formal certification like CCNA or CCNP is not mandatory but useful in gaining credibility with clients.

System Administration for Linux and Windows Platforms

Successful MSPs must have a strong grasp of system administrator skills in both Linux and Windows. You also have the option to specialize in Apple products, but most MSPs focus on Linux and Windows. As a service provider, you can choose which platform you're most comfortable working with.

Cloud Service Management Expertise

Being well-versed in cloud service management is crucial in today's evolving tech landscape. AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud are the three major platforms you should be familiar with.

Based on client preferences and your specialization, it's essential to have expertise in at least one of these platforms.

In addition to these core skills, it's also essential to be familiar with:

  • RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) and PSA (Professional Services Automation) tools: Choose a set of tools that you are most comfortable with and keep yourself updated with their latest features and updates.

  • Cybersecurity best practices and threat mitigation, such as patching, updating, endpoint detection, and even firewall management.

  • Help desk and customer support skills, as MSPs are service-based businesses that use technology.

Furthermore, having staff with specific certifications like CompTIA's A+, Security+, Google Cloud, AWS, Azure, and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) can benefit your MSP business.

While hiring, consider technology professionals with extensive experience who may not have formal certifications but are proficient in their field.

Lastly, you can expand your services or differentiate your MSP business by offering niche services like VoIP management and cybersecurity.

cyber security practices

Essential Cyber Security Practices

When operating a Managed Services Provider (MSP), ensuring robust cyber security is not only necessary but also paramount to the success of the business. To effectively safeguard the systems and data of clients, MSPs must adhere to essential cyber security practices and maintain a level of expertise that meets the demands of today's digital landscape.

Below is a brief overview of critical practices to implement for outstanding cyber security performance.

  • Network Management and Security: A fundamental understanding of network management and security is essential. This includes basic knowledge of configuring switches, routers, and other network devices to maintain security standards.

  • System Administration: Successful MSPs need solid system administrator skills in both Linux and Windows environments. Familiarity with Apple systems is an added advantage for catering to niche clients.

  • Cloud Service Management: Knowledge of major cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud is imperative. Expertise in any one of these platforms can help cater to the specific needs of the clients.

  • Cyber Security Best Practices: MSPs must follow best practices for cyber security, including threat mitigation strategies, regular patching and updates, endpoint detection, and proper firewall configuration.

  • RMM and PSA Tool Mastery: Familiarity with Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) and Professional Services Automation (PSA) tools is crucial for smooth operation and enhanced productivity.

  • Help Desk Proficiency: Excellent customer support skills are vital for successful MSPs since client satisfaction is of utmost importance. Brushing up on help desk processes and protocols can go a long way in ensuring a positive client experience.

  • Continuous Skill Development: Enriching the team's cyber security skillset by investing in certifications like CompTIA A+, Security+, and other cloud and networking certifications can provide a competitive advantage and foster excellence within the team.

By implementing these cyber security best practices, MSPs can successfully protect not only their clients' systems and data, but also gain their trust and ensure long-lasting partnerships in the technology-driven business landscape.

Operational Tools Knowledge

Understanding RMM and PSA Tools

It is essential for MSP owners and their staff to be acquainted with Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) and Professional Services Automation (PSA) tools. These tools play a crucial role in managing an MSP efficiently.

With constant updates and changes in software, it's essential to stay up-to-date with their features and functions, aiming for at least a 90% understanding of the chosen tools.

Help Desk and Customer Support Abilities

In the MSP business, good customer support is crucial, as it is primarily a service-based industry that utilizes technology. Solid help desk skills are essential for MSP staff, be it answering phone calls or managing technology support.

MSP staff should be good communicators and able to provide assistance to customers in a clear and efficient manner. Remember, an MSP is a service-based business, not just a technology venture.

Adopting a Service-First Approach in Technology

It's important to understand that a Managed Service Provider (MSP) primarily operates as a service-based business that utilizes technology, rather than being solely focused on technology.

This mindset helps to prioritize customer needs and ensures that the right blend of skills and certifications are employed to deliver exceptional service.

Core Skills

While formal certifications are advantageous, there are also some fundamental skills that MSP professionals should possess to be successful.

These include:

  • Basic network management and security understanding

  • System administration skills for both Linux and Windows

  • Familiarity with cloud services such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud

  • Cybersecurity best practices and threat mitigation knowledge

In addition, MSP professionals should be familiar with Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) and Professional Service Automation (PSA) tools, as well as possess strong customer support skills.


While not always necessary, having the right certifications can certainly provide a competitive edge, particularly when targeting more technologically advanced or complex customers.

Some of the certifications that MSP staff can benefit from include:

  • CompTIA A+

  • Google Cloud, AWS, or Azure certifications

  • CompTIA Security+

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) or higher certifications

It's important to note that there are also many talented professionals without formal certifications, often

referred to as "silent assassins." Such experts may not possess the "paper qualifications" but can still provide exceptional services backed by their extensive skill set and hands-on experience.

Niche Services

Lastly, MSPs can also explore niche services such as Voice over IP (VoIP) management or specialized cybersecurity offerings to further differentiate themselves and expand their revenue streams.

By prioritizing the service-over-technology mindset, staying up to date with the latest certifications and skills, and exploring niche service offerings, MSPs can successfully deliver on their clients' expectations and ensure steady business growth.

Additional Certifications and Skills

CompTIA A+ Certification

For professionals in the MSP field, possessing a CompTIA A+ certification can be advantageous. This widely recognized certification demonstrates a strong foundation in IT skills.

Although not always necessary, it can be a valuable asset to have when hiring staff. It signals a fundamental understanding of computer systems and network services, which can be essential for success in MSP operations.

Specialized Certifications

In addition to the CompTIA A+ certification, there are several other specialized certifications that can be beneficial to MSP professionals and employees:

  1. Google Cloud, AWS, and Azure certification: These certifications can be particularly helpful when working with cloud services. Having a solid grasp of one or more of these platforms allows for more effective management and flexibility in customer services.

  2. Security Plus from CompTIA: This certification emphasizes cybersecurity practices and threat mitigation. By understanding essential security principles, MSP professionals can better protect their client's systems.

  3. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and CCNP: Cisco certifications can be valuable when working with network services. Hiring staff with CCNA or CCNP certifications can ensure a higher level of expertise in the area of network management.

  4. Vendor-specific certifications: Depending on the MSP's focus and preferences, certifications from specific vendors, such as Meraki or Ubiquiti, can also be helpful in providing specialized knowledge and services.

In addition to certifications, developing competence in various niche service offerings can help an MSP stand out from the competition. Examples of these services include:

  • VoIP services and management

  • Penetration testing

  • Certified System Security Professional (CISSP)

Ultimately, a combination of relevant certifications and practical experience in the MSP field form the basis for a successful and knowledgeable team. Building skills in specific areas, investing in vendor-specific certifications, and staying updated with industry trends can create a competitive edge in the dynamic MSP market.

Expanding Services and Differentiation

Voice Over IP Services and Management

Diversifying and expanding your MSP offerings can help you stand out in a competitive market and increase revenue. One area where you can differentiate yourself is by providing Voice Over IP (VoIP) services and management.

VoIP services involve both the setup and maintenance of telecommunication systems that utilize internet protocols to deliver voice calls. Offering VoIP services requires a solid understanding of various network protocols, telecommunication systems, and software used to manage and monitor these systems.

In order to deliver reliable VoIP services, MSPs should become proficient in popular cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, as well as networking technologies, cybersecurity practices, and customer support skills.

MSPs should be familiar with the required certifications, including Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), CompTIA A+, or others related to cloud platforms.

In addition to delivering VoIP services, MSPs can differentiate their services by staying up-to-date with the latest technologies, trends, and best practices. This includes staying informed on the latest updates for their remote monitoring and management (RMM) and professional services automation (PSA) tools.

Overall, adding VoIP services and management to your MSP offerings can help you stand out from the competition and provide value to your clients. By focusing on skills, certifications, and continuous learning, MSPs can deliver consistent and quality VoIP services that meet the needs of their customers.


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