Ask an MSP Expert

Q: The good news is my MSP has added multiple customers to our managed service plan recently, and we’re very happy with the increasing volume of customers. The bad news is my techs have been spending more time troubleshooting errors.  We’re looking to streamline our process so we can reduce the time techs have to spend on that. What tips can I use to make the troubleshooting process easier and to help customers prevent future errors?

We’re excited to hear you’re bringing on new customers, but we understand that efficiency is crucial to running a successful business. Having more customers, especially more customers who are new to the managed services experience, naturally creates more opportunities for errors to pop up. We know it can be difficult speaking to customers about the technical aspects of IT, such as backup errors, but these conversations are necessary and add more value to your managed services offering. 

To help facilitate these conversations with your customers and streamline the troubleshooting process, we consulted Manager of Partner Services at Barracuda MSP, Justin Ridenour. Justin talks frequently with customers about Data Protection-as-a-Service and how to troubleshoot errors. Here are his tips to help your team troubleshoot more efficiently:

Warning signs to watch for  

The worst thing you can do is ignore backup errors. Addressing errors right away will help you catch problems early and avoid dealing more time-consuming problems that could develop over time. If you’ve seen these red flags, make sure to speak to the customer soon to prevent data loss.


-Multiple missed backups. If a customer misses one backup, it isn’t a big deal. Missing one backup can simply be a computer got turned off at the end of the day. Remind your customers to leave on their computers so backups can run effectively. But missing multiple backups can be a problem, and this is when you need to discover the root cause.

-There is a huge change in the data size. Whether it’s a significant increase or decrease, a drastic difference in the data isn’t good. This indicates the customer may have lost important files or has added a ton of stuff to the computer system. Either way, it’s a good time to talk to your customer to make sure you understand what’s happening in their IT environment and how their needs may be changing.

Common reasons you need to troubleshoot

If there are a significant number of problems or missed backups, consider doing an onsite visit. It might seem like more work, but this will help you get to the root of the problem.  While you’re there, run a test backup to see what issues they might be having. If this isn’t an option, do a walk-through on the phone to identify any environmental issues that may be preventing it from running. For example, here are a few reasons why you might be running into an error:

-VSS (Volume Shadow Copy) is not up to date. Often when I’m helping MSPs troubleshoot an issue, it ends up being because this isn’t up to date or there isn’t enough storage for snapshots.

-NAS (Network attached storage) is unable to be accessed. If your storage location can’t be accessed our software will not be able to backup locally to that device.

-Windows updates are not completed. If Windows is not updated, it can prevent a complete backup. This works hand in hand with your VSS. (VSS is a Windows service).

Best practices to follow

In the short term, you want to handle the current issue, but your ultimate goal is to avoid troubleshooting similar issues down the road. Here are a few best practices that I recommend to our MSPs partners that will save time for both you and your customers.

 –Schedule backups instead of relying on manual backups. One of the biggest mistakes people make is choosing manual backups over scheduling. Scheduling backups ensures that your data is backed up on a consistent basis. If you rely on your tech or yourself to do a manual backup, it often gets forgotten. This also gives you the freedom to decide which information you want to backup. In this case you want to choose which files you need to back up not the whole C: drive. Most of the time folders like C:\temp or C:\windows do not need to be protected.

-Run test backups to make sure permissions are set correctly, required software is installed, and remote drivers are accessible. Whenever new customers are on-boarded, you should run a test backup to make sure everything is running smoothly from the beginning.

-Check for environmental issues that might be preventing backups from running, such as out of date VSS systems. Then, review the logs and look for any warnings.

-Test the restore. Before doing a test restore, disable any current backups to avoid overwriting. The results from the restore should match the latest backup. View the backup to make sure all the information is usable.

-Explain the error reports. Show your customer what you’re monitoring and use reports to show how previous backups were effective. Doing this will give them peace of mind. For example, if you’re a Barracuda MSP partner, you can use the Executive Summary report to show them the percentage of backups that have been completed.

Utilizing these tips should help you save time and will reduce errors. Talking about troubleshooting with your customers can also open the door to different conversations about their IT needs. This is the perfect time to talk about how much data they’re using, any compliance issues they’re dealing with, or other concerns they might have, such as cybersecurity.

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Photo:  maradon 333 / Shutterstock. 


Lauren Beliveau

Posted by Lauren Beliveau

Lauren is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at Barracuda MSP. In this position, she creates and develops content that helps managed service providers grow their business. She also regularly writes The MSP’s Bookshelf and our Ask an MSP Expert column.

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