Channel partner programs, IT management, Midmarket, MSP, Networking

Inside the Sophos MSP Connect Partner Program

Credit: Getty Images
Scott Barlow, VP, Global MSP, Sophos
Scott Barlow

Like so many cloud-centric security software companies, Sophos has launched an MSP partner program. But is Sophos MSP Connect truly unique -- or just another reseller program with the MSP label slapped on the box? All the evidence suggests that this is the real deal.

When I first heard about the program, I wondered if it was simply a warmed-up version of the Reflexion Networks partner program. (Sophos acquired Reflexion, an MSP-centric security company, in 2015). But then I poked around a bit. And I got a briefing from Scott Barlow, VP of global MSP for Sophos. Yes, Barlow is a Reflexion veteran. However, it sounds and looks like the Sophos MSP Connect partner program truly was built from the ground up for managed services providers.

Managed Security Services

You likely know Sophos offers network, end user and server protection solutions. But what happens once an MSP sells Sophos solutions into its customer base? That's where Sophos Central -- a partner dashboard -- comes into the picture. It provides a "single pane of glass to manage everything Sophos has to offer: from XG Firewall to Next-Generation Endpoint Security, from Email Security to Web Service and from Mobile devices to Wireless Access Points," the company claims.

On the one hand, MSPs will still need multiple panes of glass (infrastructure management, storage management, Office 365 management etc.). But on the other, Sophos Central seems to be giving partners one screen from which to manage a growing portfolio of security services. Moreover, the single dashboard truly is multi-tenant, meaning that it was designed from the ground up for MSPs. Moreover, MSPs can leverage the dashboard to offer annual or monthly licenses. Volume discounts automatically kick in as the MSP's footprint across customers expands. (Ask Sophos about the specific tiers and discounts.)

Sophos MSP Connect Partner Program: Three Benefits

The Sophos MSP Connect partner program delivers three benefits, the company claims:

1. Increase Revenue

  • Upsell and cross-sell security services
  • Add additional products to the MSP menu of offerings
  • Increase profitability through aggregate billing

2. Lower Costs

  • Reduce vendor management time and resources
  • Improve security posture with Synchronized Security
  • Convert from Capex to Opex

3. Improve Operational Efficiency

  • Integration into MSP vendor ecosystem
  • Single dashboard to mangae endpoint and network security
  • On-demand configuration to add customers at your leisure.

Midmarket Security Play?

Sophos solutions can scale down into small business and up into the enterprise. But overall, the company positions itself as a midmarket player. Not by coincidence, Sophos itself is a midsize enterprise. The company generates about $450 million in Fiscal Year 2015 billings, and the 2,500-person organization has about 20,000 channel partners.

How many of those partners are true MSPs generating and managing recurring revenues? That's a figure I forgot to pursue when I spoke with Barlow last week.

While promising, Sophos faces rivals that are reformulating their cloud and MSP practices. Symantec, after stumbling in recent quarters, is retrenching and preparing a range of cloud-oriented upgrades. The situation is similar at Intel Security, which canceled some MSP-oriented products in late 2015 but rallied partners with updated messaging at a partner conference last week.

Meanwhile, a growing list of security-focused technology companies have fully baked MSP partner programs. Key examples beyond Sophos include Kaseya AuthAnvilOpenDNS (now owned by Cisco), PassPortal and Webroot, among others.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.