N-able Technologies is the latest managed services software company to promote a 2011 road show. But the item that caught my attention has to do with the growing reach of N-able's managed services partners. Specifically, N-able's global MSP partner base now manages more than 40,000 SMBs -- up from about 23,600 roughly a year ago. What drove the growth?

In some ways, I suspect N-able's freemium software strategy helped MSPs to reach more customers. The freemium effort included free endpoint security tools and some storage offerings for N-able's MSPs. The concept: Get MSPs speaking with customers about free or low-cost solutions, then upsell and cross-sell the SMBs on additional managed services.

Of course, freemium is only part of the N-able story. In recent months, N-able President and COO JP Jauvin has taken on day-to-day operations, working closely with CEO Gavin Garbutt and VP of Sales Mike Cullen, among other team members. Garbutt -- ever the optimist -- shares an upbeat outlook in a recent blog post. Eager to maintain the growth, N-able is launching a 2011 Global MSP Road Show. N-able isn't the only company on the road. Level Platforms has also launched a major multi-city road show.

There seems to be plenty of optimism in the managed services market -- including surprisingly strong business statements from companies like Axcient and Labtech Software.

Reality Check

Still, I want to be careful not to hype the MSP space. Thousands of resellers are still struggling to master the managed services business model. And some MSPs openly wonder how they will drive growth -- especially as some SMB customers embrace cloud services directly from large technology companies.

All that said, anecdotal evidence looks good. And our fourth-annual MSPmentor 100 research report -- set to be unveiled February 16 -- will show some strong growth trends in the global managed services market.

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