After roughly three years of quiet growth, it sounds like GFI Software is starting to earn respect as a top-tier player in the managed services software market. Indeed, more than 5,000 MSPs now use the company's GFI Max RemoteManagement platform, according to GFI Max General Manager Alistair Forbes (pictured). If accurate, I believe that figure would place GFI among the largest providers of remote monitoring and management software to MSPs.

So how did GFI Software gain critical mass in the managed services market? In some ways, it started with the 2009 buyout of HoundDog Technology Ltd., a small but fast-growing SaaS company. At the time, HoundDog's customer base included more than 1,700 IT service providers -- mostly located in Europe. Alistair Forbes joined GFI as part of the HoundDog acquisition -- and he's been driving the company's managed services software and partner strategy ever since.

The results sound impressive: Forbes says GFI now has 5,000 MSPs worldwide, and North America deployments are now outpacing European deployments, which also continue to grow rapidly. Plus, GFI's MSP base sounds healthy. According to a recent survey, 50 percent of GFI MAX partners say their biggest priority in 2012 is to grow their business and market share -- or to get organized to drive future growth. Plus, 78 percent of GFI's MSPs are discussing cloud services with customers.

Behind the Numbers

Still, I'm always a little wary when vendors publish their installed base figures. A key question: Are the 5,000 GFI customers truly MSPs -- or does that 5,000 figure include a range of resellers and VARs who really don't have recurring revenue businesses?

Forbes concedes that "some" of the 5,000 figure likely includes small MSPs that are dipping their toes into the managed services market. But he insists that the GFI MAX installed base is not a break-fix reseller audience. GFI has MSPs that have hundreds of end-customers, Forbes added. "Our growth rate, if anything, is accelerating rather than slowing down," he said. "We're now on the same playing field as all the household names in the MSP [software] market."

Piecing It Together

But how did GFI MAX grow its installed base so rapidly since the HoundDog acquisition in 2009? Forbes points to the company's integration strategy.  "It's all done from a single console, and that's compelling to MSPs." He also noted that GFI Max offers business support materials to MSPs.

Although MSPmentor does not track market share figures in the MSP software area, here's an interesting stat: Roughly 9 percent of the MSPs completing our fifth-annual MSPmentor 100 survey said they run GFI MAX -- a healthy figure in the highly fragmented world of MSP software. The complete MSPmentor 100 survey results will be unveiled February 15, 2012.