Continuum's CEO: We Want Partners To See More Success

Michael George

Boston-based remote monitoring and management platform vendor Continuum recently announced the launch of a new ’partner success’ organization, in part to help improve the company’s understanding of their partners’ businesses, and showcased some of its upcoming features and platform updates.

Continuum announced the initiative at its second annual partners conference -Navigate - at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. During the sold-out show, Continuum's CEO, Michael George, addressed more than 600 partners about the importance of the cloud and the integral part he believes outsourcing will play for future competitors in the MSP market. He also spoke with CRN about how Continuum is helping its partners navigate that future, and when they can expect the release of Continuum's cloud-defined backup product update, Continuity 1.1.

[Related: New Continuum Division To Focus On Helping Partners]

One of Continuum's offerings, the Help Desk, is a white-label helpdesk for MSPs who wish to outsource IT. Why is that an important offering for your clients?

In the small to medium business market, the demand for IT services is way outstripping the capacity that exists for well trained, certified technicians. And even if you can find them, they are hard to retain. … The principle of our business is not just ’Hey, we have a great product!’ or, ’We are doing this through automation,’ but we actually have an integrated services delivery model that enables a managed service provider to have a completely different service model, which is absolutely necessary for them to be able to go compete and for them to be able to have the capacity to grow. The biggest growth inhibitor today for the managed service market is the skills gap that is out there. So, we solve that. We fill that skills gap with our outsourcing model.

You have said that for MSPs to truly be competitive, they will have to leverage the cloud. Isn’t that an intimidating space for MSPs to move into? Why would they want to move?

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If you look at the offerings from cloud providers today, they are actually rather intimidating to the MSP today because it looks like they are beginning to market and offer things that the MSP traditionally did for the SMB. I think that is why most of them find it a little daunting.

The fact of the matter is, there are certain attributes of cloud-based computing that (are) of high value to the MSP and they need to shift their lenses a bit, and not think of them as being competitive, but think about the core attributes of cloud computing that could be advantageous to the MSP and then join in and not resist what I call the "natural forces" of marketplace.

How are you helping partners make that move? What offerings do you provide?

We are trying to help our partner reposition themselves to not fight or resist the cloud, but to adopt it for the benefits that it offers to this market. … One of the things we are doing by teaming up with [IBM's] SoftLayer is helping our partners understand that when we talk about competing from a storage perspective, none of these proprietary backup and disaster product companies are going to be able to get to the scale where they can compete effectively against - let's say Amazon.

Why won't proprietary backup and disaster companies be able to compete against the big players in cloud?

Amazon, in the price performance, the asymptotic curve of performance, (is) going to be the price leader - period. And even guys like IBM SoftLayer and (Microsoft’s) Azure are in a battle to catch up. But they are just battling each other to death over trying to make storage so inexpensive that the cost is negligible to the economics of your business. We think that it is just foolish that backup and disaster recovery companies are racking and stacking their own storage systems and trying to go compete against that. That is fools’ work. So, one of the things that we are doing in our Continuity product is (to) leverage the benefits of SofltLayer - in this particular case - to go take advantage of the fact that they will be one of the price performance leaders in storage. [That partnership] enables our partners to be able to go and adopt a cloud strategy, but use it for the things that they are good at, not the things that they need to resist and be competitive about.

What are you looking at as far as product rollouts?

Continuity 1.1 will have an October release for sure. We are committed to that.

When talking to your customers, some had questions about what Continuum's game plan will be around the arrival of the iPad Pro into the business space. What is the game plan for managing these devices?

We already do manage these devices today. We have a whole mobile device management component that will sit on any of these mobile devices and provide a full set of services beyond what you might get from Apple or anybody else. I'm not sure if you have ever lost [an iPad] or misplaced it or anything else. But, you think you would have a certain level of security. You don’t. Our MDM product is pretty well documented but, it has (a) lock, and you can delete files and control the device remotely and everything else. So, our MSPs are in full control of all of those devices. We have more than just plans; we will automatically seat ourselves on those devices as they proliferate the market.

You announced the start of a new partner success division. What will it be doing and how will the new division affect partners?

At a corporate level, it is an area we are putting our shoulder into. We are putting more resources into it, and we will be hiring and training people in our staff in that whole category. What it means for the partner, we understand what makes a partner successful. … We are going to have a much better, closer engagement with our partner community to help them better understand what will make them more successful in their managed services business.

Why do you need to go to that level? Why not just organize webinars and training programs remotely?

There are certain attributes that don’t make all of those things global. There might be some locality issues; there might be some partners that are in vertical markets, or there might be a whole variety of other things. We have partners that come from other channels, like telco and office equipment. So, it's not like we can say: 'Here, we are going to give you this seminar that is going to make all of you universally successful. … We are also going down to the partner-by-partner level and getting engaged where we can just be more of an "in your team" partner … to help them figure out how to optimize their clients’ sites, how to optimize their business, how to sell, how to promote and how to retain their customers. We don’t want our partners to lose their clients. So, we will have a full engagement model around helping our partners retain their good customers. It is a really important effort, and it will be super important for all of our customers.

Has Autotask's acquisition of MMR vendor CentraStage (September 2014) affected business for you at all?

It hasn’t. At some level, we applaud them. They are acknowledging the importance of what we do … and they are just trying to cover a segment of the waterfront. … These [solutions] are for MSPs that want to own, control, hire their own people and aren't taking advantage of the outsourcing model. Autotask bought a company to do that for them in the low end of the market and that is not our core. Our core (clients) are more commercial-oriented companies that have figured out that leveraging an outsourced model was an imperative to compete in this business. So, we haven't really rubbed up against each other; there is a pretty big gap between our partner base and the segment that will be using those [Autotask's] tools. It has not been and we don’t foresee it to be problematic for business or for our partnership with them.