MSP, Networking, Small business, VAR

Master MSP Security Model Can Thrive


A decade ago, so-called Master MSPs attempted to organize and maintain managed services for VARs, resellers and aspiring MSPs. Most of those Master MSP initiatives failed because acquiring and maintaining channel partners was too darn expensive.

Still, Secure Designs is proving that the Master MSP model can work. At first glance, the Greensboro, N.C.-based company is a managed security service provider (MSSP) that works with SonicWall. But take a closer look and you'll notice that Secure Designs actually has a succcessful partner program of its own.

The model is fairly simple:

  • Partners are the trusted advisors who sell SMB customers on SonicWall firewall services.
  • Secure Designs, in turn, manages all of that security infrastructure for the partners.

"We're the security backbone, and the partners provide the last mile" says Secure Designs President and CEO Larry Cecchini. Indeed, VARs basically line up the customers and earn recurring revenues from Secure Designs. The Master MSP, in turn, has a network and security operations center to carefully manage, monitor and maintain all of that infrastructure.

Secure Designs Managed Security Services

Founded in 2002, Secure Designs now manages more than 8,000 end-customer locations across all 50 U.S. states. The company is currently adding about 300 customer locations per month and expects to surpass about 10,000 locations by early 2016. At that point, roughly 500 customer locations should be coming online per month, Cecchini predicts.

So how did Secure Designs succeed in a market where so many Master MSPs failed? The answer involves a blend of focus, proper funding, ideal timing, and execution, ChannelE2E believes.

Larry Cecchini
Larry Cecchini

Focus: Many early Master MSPs tried to offer multiple hosted or onboarding services to VARs and resellers. Those services stretch from remote management tools to security, storage and so forth. In stark contrast, Secure Designs bet the farm on security.

Proper Funding: Many early Master MSPs tried to boot strap their businesses. In some cases, those startups didn't have enough money to develop operational excellence or specific intellectual property to warrant their middleman services. In Secure Designs' case, the company raised some seed money to prove the company's concept early-on, then tightly managed growth spending thereafter.

Ideal Timing: The company launched in the aftermath of the dot-com implosion. That allowed Secure Designs to quietly gain $3 million worth of data center and carrier-class infrastructure for pennies on the dollar.

Execution: A tight-knit management team has worked closely with SonicWall and a handful of other strategic partners to grow the business.

Admittedly, Secure Designs isn't alone in the Master MSP market. Other key players that have marched forward include Virtual Administrator, Alert Logic, and a range of other MSSPs that have partner programs.

Secure Designs: Next Moves

Secure Designs expects is business to further accelerate once Dell completes SonicWall's sale to a private equity firm. That deal is expected to close around November 2016, essentially restoring SonicWall to a pure channel sales model.

"Once SonicWall becomes a standalone business we expect to move more quickly in lock step with them," says Cecchini. "The SonicWall machine -- the business -- got a bit bogged down under Dell's ownership."

Secure Designs’ Network Operations Center (NOC)

A few examples: SonicWall will now review and approve MDF (market development funds) much more rapidly as a standalone company. Plus, SonicWall has already restored its close relationships with distributors. Those relationships had been funneled through Dell the past couple of years, company officials concede.

Secure Designs also is taking a close look at SonicWall's cloud-based management tools, which just began a beta testing process. And there are signs that Secure Designs could potentially profit from SonicWall's forthcoming endpoint partnerships -- though the Master MSP will closely study each of those areas before making any firm company decisions.

Overall, Secure Designs grew about 84 percent in 2015 vs. 2014. The current year is really about managing that growth -- including a private label partner initiative that now includes six influential companies that market and sell Secure Designs' services as their own.

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.