Cytracom Execs On ‘Blazing A Trail’ For MSPs To Manage Security

‘We’ve shifted networks and the identity-based model and what we want to do is create better integrations, tighter integrations, to the identity providers and identity tools that MSPs are using today,’ says Cytracom CEO Zane Conkle. ‘We’re blazing a trail as it relates to capabilities and value that we’re adding and enabling MSPs to extend to their customers.’

MSP-focused infrastructure software maker Cytracom is “blazing a trail” when it comes to security and MSP enablement with expanded capabilities and a relaunched partner program, and its CEO believes 2023 will be the year of the MSP.

“If you think about MSPs, we’ve gone from break/fix to managed services where you have an all-you-can-eat consumption model, but you’re still focused on the same things,” Cytracom CEO Zane Conkle told CRN. “We’re still managing computers, printers, laptops, etc. It’s now moving to a world where we’ve gone from break/fix to managed services to managed security.”

And to align with MSPs on their journey to managed security, the software vendor­–which enables MSPs to eliminate VPN and the firewall – is making continued investments in its people, platform and program.

The Allen, Texas-based company is readying the next generation of its ControlOne platform with new features including expanded third-party integrations, silent RMM deployment options and enhanced user and identity management. It also brought on Jim Hamilton as VP of channel and, under his leadership, will relaunch Cytracom’s partner program with new on-demand educational and training resources through Cytracom University.

“We’ve got an aggressive roadmap, and this kind of leads into the things that we’re doing there,” Conkle said. “If you think about identity management, the way that MSPs traditionally have managed networks just doesn’t work in the model or the mode that their customers work, or employees work, today. We’ve shifted networks and the identity-based model and what we want to do is create better integrations, tighter integrations, to the identity providers and identity tools that MSPs are using today. We’re blazing a trail as it relates to capabilities and value that we’re adding and enabling MSPs to extend to their customers.”

CRN spoke with Conkle and Chief Operating Officer John Tippett about the company’s latest hire, enhanced capabilities and partner program relaunch and why 2023 is the year of the MSP.

Zane, you said in a press release that 2023 is the year of the MSP. What do you mean by that?

Conkle: We really believe that 2023, where we stand right now, is just an amazing time for MSPs. There’s been fundamental shifts in the market with the way people work. The needs of businesses has radically shifted and I believe MSPs are in a prime position today to capture that opportunity. If you think about MSPs, we’ve gone from break/fix to manage services where you have an all-you-can-eat consumption model, but you’re still focused on the same things. We’re still managing computers, printers, laptops, etc. It’s now moving to a world where we’ve gone from break/fix to managed services to manage security. Small businesses are looking to MSPs to not only keep their networks running but also help them manage risks. A lot of that is driven by the shift to remote and hybrid work. The attack surface is much bigger than it has historically been, so we see a huge opportunity for MSPs that see this opportunity, realize it and want to go capture it.

Do you think a lot of MSPs will be shifting to become a MSSP?

Conkle: I don’t know that they’ll necessarily shift to being a MSSP. Some may make that transition but I think regardless of whatever you call it, we’ll see where it all washes out. I think the amount of security-related services that a MSP has to offer will only increase, and the expectation from the customer. It doesn’t matter what vertical or what industry you’re in, you typically fall under some compliance requirements, and business owners are becoming much savvier. Business owners are becoming much more aware of the threat landscape. They’re now more than ever turning to their MSPs to help them solve that problem, understand their risk and understand their exposure. It’s a great opportunity for MSPs to continue to expand and grow what they offer and the value they offer their customers.

Cytracom is also doubling down on its commitment and investment to the MSP community this year. Talk to me more about that.

Conkle: We’re bringing on Jim [Hamilton, VP of channel] to run channel. Cytracom is a known brand in the MSP space. We brought in a new product to market last year, and we really believe that bringing Jim on board is going to be critical to better engage with our partners in the community at large. So not only are we continuing to develop products for this community for MSPs but we will continue to invest in this market more broadly.

Tippet: When the company was founded back in ‘08 the goal to make VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) simple was driven by community engagement and the enablement resources. The channel presence was key back then. The product is very mature and our channel program is very mature as we’ve expanded around voice and UCaaS (Unified communications as a service) to now having voice communication, network connection and security. There’s investment in enabling the channel and creating educational content and advisory councils. We’re doing for network connectivity to security what we did for voice back then. We’ve turned the network on its head and we’ve made it user based, identity based and software defined. We’ve literally made it very simple, just like we did with voice back in the day.

In order to translate that out and enable our partners to leverage what we’ve built, we’re doubling down on the community effort. The advisory councils are key. What are they running into? Where do they need help? Our educational resources with Cytracom University are expanding and coming back out. Connecting the dots in the community is really key for us. We’ve seen success with it in the past and we’re increasing our investment there.

Jim Hamilton

Jim Hamilton

Why is Jim (Hamilton) a good fit for the role and what can we expect from him and as VP of channel?

Tippet: When thinking about enablement and advisory councils, Jim has two key attributes that are good there. One, he’s been in this channel. He understands how MSPs work, how to work with them, how to sell to them and how to support them. On the other side, he’s been with CompTIA for the most recent tenure of his career, which is a volunteer-led organization. The predominant input that Jim was engaged with came ultimately from volunteers. We view our partner base much the same way. They don’t have to do business with us. We can’t tell them what to do. We have to encourage from the front, we have to pull not push. Jim is very good at that. He has the skillset to make sure that he’s a facilitator. He can create environments where partners can feel heard and engaged, because we want to know what they have to say. He’s very good at a communication leadership and facilitation role. Those two things are very unique to him and they align very well with our strategy.

Talk to me about the expanded partner program and Cytracom University.

Conkle: When you become a partner at Cytracom you gain access to Cytracom University. We have multiple levels of certification and training for different folks and different staff within your your organization as a MSP. In talking to MSPs, educating and education resources are key to success. We have resources for sales, onboarding and delivery, ongoing support, how to take a managed security offering to market and how to charge more for managed security. We’ve had Cytracom University for several years, now we’re completely relaunching it with a lot more courses and content.

Are there any other new enhancements to the partner program?

Tippet: As we moved over to the network and security space and expanded what we consider connectivity, it’s still one platform, but the depth of education is now more important than ever. MSPs understand networking, we’re not teaching you how to manage a network. We’ve adopted what we believe is the future of how networking is going to be executed and implemented into the space across all verticals and all sizes. It’s early in the MSP space, and so using and leveraging community and university to not only explain, ‘You are looking for X in your traditional network deployment, here’s how you do this now in a software defined network.’ That’s important, but also we’re so focused on the channel we built the ControlOne platform to be able to be sold fully as a managed service.

That’s a big deal because MSPs today see that product and think, ‘I can displace my traditional firewall. I don’t have to buy VPN licensing. I don’t actually need a content filtering service anymore. That’s integrated. That’s interesting.’ Inevitably they then think, ‘I want to replace those things and sell it the same way,’ which is not how we built it. We built it for them to make far more profit and bring far more value into their managed services agreements. We’re leveraging tools and resources in university to show them how to sell the product and deploy the product in a way that meets their technical needs to have network connectivity and security, but also enables them to increase their top line revenue and profit margins as well. University is the platform that we’re getting that message and that capabilities out into the market.

Why should MSPs use Cytracom over the competition?

Tippet: When we think back to the biggest challenge MSPs have with the voice product, any voice product, your now sending voice data and the overwhelming problem is the network. MSPs struggle with it, they run from it, because they’ve got people complaining about phone calls. We’ve not only made VoIP itself easy where there’s no risk of taxes, billing, dealing with all the carriers…we deal with all of that and made that easy for our partners with the expansion into the ControlOne networking security platform. We’re doing that for network connectivity.

The reason that we’re different is that you now can standardize on ControlOne and sell it as a service. Now you’re providing network connectivity and security to enable people to work connected and remotely no matter where they are. When you put that with the voice product, everything just works. The ControlOne platform is aware of our voice product, it automatically prioritizes the traffic, it automatically routes the traffic and so you get an exceptional quality of service without literally having to lift a finger. MSPs love it because there is no support. There’s no fighting with firewalls, prioritizing traffic or the internet provider messing with the phone. Traffic like that all goes away with the ControlOne platform. It’s a really cool and unique experience to see like how tightly integrated it is and how uniquely that’s suited for MSPs.

Zane you said you have an aggressive roadmap, so what can we expect from Cytracom over the next year?

Conkle: We have no constraints with our roadmap. We own our technology from end to end, which allows us to build not only the right solutions for MSPs but prioritize what we work on, what’s going to have the biggest impact today and tomorrow. You’re going to see us continue to extend the capabilities of ControlOne as we are unmatched today in capabilities. And we are going to continue to invest heavily in bringing more capabilities that round out this story of selling manage security and empower partners to offer more.

The second thing you’re going to see is a tighter integration between the two products. We’ve got a lot more that we’re working on that we will be carrying in the future, but you’ll see these products become even tighter. The net result is making it simpler for MSPs to deploy network connectivity and security as well as voice into their networks.