Sophos Readying MSP Program Expansion

The U.K.-based security company is set to launch the new program at the end of June, with a centralized management console and pay-as-you-go pricing. Sophos will provide monthly billing and invoicing and is retooling its training programs and support to better address service providers, said Kendra Krause, Sophos' new channel sales vice president.

"This is a utility model where partners are doing it without any upfront costs," Krause told CRN. "Our MSP program will take our current security offerings and give them centralized management at no charge."

[Related: Head-To-Head: Symantec Vs. McAfee In Endpoint Protection ]

Sophos launched a program for MSPs in 2010 promising deeper, recurring revenue streams and volume-based discounts. The company had supported MSPs on a case-by-case basis negotiating pricing and contract terms and conditions. But product engineers, led by Sophos CTO Gerhard Eschelbeck, are working on Web-enabling the entire product suite, beginning with the endpoint software.

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Sophos said it will release retooled cloud-based versions of its security products beginning this summer. Krause said the MSP program is not dependent on the full rollout of the Web-enabled software.

"The cloud will provide another element to the MSP program, but we're going to be able to launch the MSP program without necessarily having all of the cloud elements in place," Krause said. "Centralized management will be available without having a cloud offering, and in the summer we'll offer full cloud management capabilities."

Krause and other Sophos executives met with partners earlier this week during the company's partner summit in Washington, D.C. Sophos gave partners a sneak peak at the MSP program, highlighting new gold and silver level MSP partner tiers with access to an advanced technical support team.

"I've always known that the traditional VAR was moving to the MSP model, but we had a lot of people interested in learning about our program," Krause said. "If they're not doing it today, most of them are thinking about doing it in the future."

Midwest Computech, a Kansas City, Mo.-based reseller and MSP, became a Sophos partner when the security vendor acquired unified threat management vendor Astaro in 2011, according to Bruce Barbour, Midwest Computech's vice president of operations. The company, he said, has had a good relationship with Netherlands-based antivirus vendor AVG for about a decade. Barbour said his company has not experienced any lead generation disruptions or other problems in the transition to Sophos.

Barbour said his company prefers a best-of-breed approach when selling security rather than standardizing customers in a complete security portfolio from one vendor.

"The thing that needs to be approached cautiously by trying to do complete packages for small businesses is cost," Barbour said. "The price has got to be in the range of affordability, and if it is not, it will fade away fast."

In addition to Sophos' UTM capabilities, Barbour said Midwest Computech is interested in Sophos' wireless security tools. The company's Wi-Fi access points integrate with the former Astaro UTM. Sophos' portfolio also includes disk encryption and mobile device management.

Sophos changed its licensing from per-device to per-user in January to foster growth among small and midsize businesses, keeping deployments simple and at a lower price point to competitors. Sophos said Web enablement of its product portfolio will start with endpoint protection, followed by Web filtering capabilities, networking and mobile capabilities over the next year. The company will also continue to support its current set of on-premise security products.