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Sophos Teases Launch Of Cloud Security Partner Program, Certifications, Competitive Hotline

On the heels of strong partner growth, Sophos says it will be rolling out a new cloud security provider partner program, training certifications, channel community, and competitive hotline.

On the heels of strong partner and product growth, Sophos teased the launch of a new cloud security provider partner program, as well as new training certification programs and channel community launch.

Sophos teased the upcoming launches and highlighted its growth over the past year at its annual Sophos Partner Conference, held last week in Las Vegas.

In an interview with CRN following the conference, Vice President of Global Channels Kendra Krause said Sophos is planning the launch of a new cloud security partner program. Krause said the program will focus on the Infrastructure-as-a-Service market and how partners can bring security to public cloud environments. She said Sophos is still looking for feedback from partners, but expects to launch the program later this year.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: Sophos CEO On One Year As Public Company And The Growing Endpoint Market]

Sophos also teased the launch of new training and enablement offerings, Krause said. The company will be replacing its sales certification program with a Sales Samurai certification. The "blue belt" level certification will recognize foundational product information and sales skills and the "black belt" level will require more ongoing and dynamic product training on a quarterly basis. She said Sophos will also update its technical trainings, making a "fast start" option available for partners who already have foundational knowledge and skill sets, and a self-paced option for the company's architect-level certification. Those new certifications will come later this year, Krause said.

Krause said Sophos will also be launching a new competitive hotline, where partners can call in if they are in a competitive sales situation and get information on how the competitive product stacks up and further information they might need for a successful sale. The competitive hotline will be available across the Sophos portfolio, she said.

The launches come after a strong year of channel growth at Sophos, Krause said. That includes the company's new MSP Connect program, which launched last May and has already signed up 2,800 partners.

"Partners are extremely happy and very excited, not only about our future but where we are today and that we have such a strong product offering and next-generation strategy," Krause said. "We're wrapping that around with the best channel program and support system and helping them drive incremental leads, revenue and profitability."

Krause said Sophos is seeing particular interest for its Sophos Central security management platform and Intercept X next-generation endpoint security offering. Intercept X is the company's fastest-growing product, she said, and Sophos Central saw 90 percent growth in the number of partners selling it in the company's fiscal 2017 third quarter (ended Dec. 31) this year versus the same quarter last year.

Karl Bickmore, CEO of SnapTech IT, said his business has seen particular growth with Sophos around the company's new MSP program and Sophos Central. At the event last week, Bickmore said the MSP program sessions he attended were standing room only, and his own business has been taking off in those areas.

"There is a real undertow happening with their MSP program," Bickmore said. "That's a part of the market they, frankly, had not previously addressed. … I feel like they have leapfrogged and it is now easier to business with them as an MSP."

Krause said Sophos also continues to see traction around its Synchronized Security strategy, which looks to bring together the company's network and endpoint security solutions into a single platform. She said Sophos is seeing a 40 percent increase in the number of partners selling both endpoint and network in the company's fiscal third quarter versus the same quarter the year before.

"Partners are seeing the value [with Synchronized Security] and the value they can provide to their end users with complete security and the technology all talking to each other," Krause said. She said Sophos plans to continue pushing this growth with the launch of a Synchronized Security accreditation program for individuals and a Synchronized Security Partner recognition for partners who meet certain certification requirements and do a case study.

SnapTech IT's Bickmore said the Synchronized Security strategy allows him to offer a simpler and broader-reaching security package to customers.

"Instead of selling two products, I'm selling six. It makes for a great story – a great differentiation," Bickmore said. For his MSP business, he said it also means a more comprehensive security offering, which prevents any issues that have to be fixed from a managed services perspective. "It is incredibly simplifying for me to have to deal with one vendor. There's always an argument over do you want the best-of-breed or platform play, and the fact of the matter is that Sophos is leading in so many categories … that it's really the best of both worlds. I get to be both simplified and working with the best-of-breed product," he said.

Bickmore said his business is seeing particular traction for Sophos' Intercept X next-generation endpoint security product and Phish Threat phishing simulation offering, both of which he said he has yet to present to a customer and not convert into a sale.

To continue building its partner strategy, Krause said Sophos plans to launch a channel influencer community, which brings together a diverse set of partners to get feedback twice a quarter on programs and new products. She said Sophos will look to add around 500 partners to this community.

"It stands behind our channel-first strategy," Krause said. "My specific goal is to ensure that we are and continue to be the best channel partner to work with in the industry. I think it is extremely important and something that we cannot do in a vacuum."

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