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Carbonite, Webroot To Debut Unified Partner Program In Early 2020

Carbonite will move away from a partner program that required robust certifications to get a healthy margin and instead embrace a model where certifications provide a margin boost but aren’t a barrier to entry.

Carbonite will unveil a partner program early next year that has standardized margins across the entire product portfolio and is fully integrated with the Webroot channel team.

The Boston-based data protection and cybersecurity vendor plans to spend the coming months standardizing how it delivers elements like margin and deal registration to channel partners regardless of whether they came from the legacy Carbonite or legacy Webroot side of the business, said Charlie Tomeo, vice president of worldwide channel sales. Carbonite closed its $621.7 million acquisition of Webroot on March 26.

Carbonite will move away from a stringent program that required certifications across multiple different products to get a healthy margin, Tomeo said, and instead embrace a model where getting certifications provides a margin boost but isn't a barrier to entry. Carbonite's legacy partner program emphasized certifications to the point where partners might have been deterred from working with the company altogether, he said.

[Related: Carbonite Taps Webroot Execs For COO, CTO, Chief Product Officer Posts]

"I really take pride in how important the channel is to a vendor's success and also how we can be very important to their success," Tomeo told CRN.

Carbonite and Webroot historically had very different go-to-market motions, Tomeo said, with Webroot working predominantly with MSPs and RMM (remote monitoring and management) vendors while Carbonite embraced more of a traditional product resale model that involved VARs, distributors and DMRs (direct market resellers) like CDW and SHI.

Going forward, Carbonite plans to avoid making any changes to the MSP-focused channel team while integrating personnel from the legacy Carbonite and Webroot sides of the business to serve traditional product channels, Tomeo said. The new, unified partner program is expected to be rolled out in the first quarter of 2020, according to Tomeo.

Tomeo said Carbonite personnel would probably take the lead in managing DMR relationships while leveraging Webroot's channel team to ensure they're successful selling cybersecurity into those accounts. The acquisition brought together roughly a 30-person channel team from Carbonite and a 20-person channel team from Webroot, Tomeo said.

The company will have to iron out some differences in how Carbonite and Webroot historically treated traditional resale partners. For instance, Tomeo said Webroot historically required all product purchases to go through distribution, while Carbonite allowed the solution provider to choose whether it wished to do so.

Going forward, Tomeo said the company will require all new channel partners to go through distribution since it's easier to manage but added he doesn't wish to disrupt how legacy Carbonite partners are used to transacting.

Even though Carbonite will have a unified partner program, Tomeo said the company will maintain separate certification requirements, deal registration rules and margin expectations based on go-to-maket motion. Webroot works with roughly 16,000 MSPs, while Carbonite has between 4,000 and 5,000 more traditional channel partners.

Carbonite didn't acquire Webroot to leave it as a stand-alone operation, Tomeo said, adding the company is looking to enable partners to sell more holistic offerings that incorporate Carbonite's legacy data protection technology as well as Webroot's legacy security technology. The company wants to be a meaningful part of the channel's business for existing and new partners alike, he said.

From a metrics standpoint, Tomeo said the company plans to track everything from the frequency and volume of partner engagement to the level of inbound activity and interaction with the partner portal to the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Ultimately, though, Tomeo said it comes down how much revenue is being driven through the channel.

Changing vendors is one of the hardest things a solution provider has to do and ends up creating a huge amount of pain for those that manage more than 3,000 seats, according to Mike Estep, president and owner of Duluth, Ga.-based Beca. Specifically, Estep said training engineers and customers on a new tool and physically shifting over workloads tends to take a lot of time, thereby inhibiting new customer acquisition.

"Once you get to a certain size, it's hard to change," Estep said. "Those changes have to be calculated and deliberate, and there has to be a real advantage."

At the same time, Estep acknowledged that picking a vendor and consolidating around it can provide a huge scale and cost advantage in the long run, and ultimately result in having to manage fewer vendor relationships. But in an acquisition scenario, Estep said it's vital to ensure that all parts of the business will continue to have R&D funded at pre-acquisition levels so that the pace of innovation doesn't slow down.

Meanwhile, MSP KeanCom began exploring Carbonite's technology more closely after it purchased Webroot, according to founder and owner Keith Newell. The Guilderland, N.Y.-based company has rolled out several test units internally within its own offices and has found that its offerings fit every scenario and are priced competitively.

The MSP has on-boarded many new customers to Carbonite, according to Newell. Existing customers will be able to replace their current data protection tool with Carbonite upon the expiration of their one-year or three-year contract.

Newell praised Carbonite for its prompt response to support tickets and for avoiding sales tactics like aggressively pitched end-of-the-month promotions. Going forward, Newell said it will be advantageous to get technical support for both its cybersecurity and data protection products from the same place, particularly in instances where issues need to be escalated.

"I'm excited to have a single vendor for my entire security stack," Newell said.

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