Zoom Channel Chief On 'Surprising' Video Use Cases And Security During COVID-19

Laura Padilla, head of channel and partners for Zoom, shares how the company is now making security easier for end customers, the new kinds of meetings that are popping up during the pandemic, beating out the incumbents -- such as Cisco Webex -- and long-term opportunities for partners after COVID-19.

‘The Same Zoom You Know And Love’

To say Zoom Video Communications saw business boom as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is an understatement. The global health crisis has forced millions of people out of their offices and schools to work and learn from home, and shelter in place as social distancing orders went into effect in many countries to slow the spread of the virus. In the meantime, Zoom went from 10 million daily meeting participants to 300 million daily meeting participants on its videoconferencing platform -- a growth of 30x in a matter of months.

At the same time, the company has faced criticism around the security of its platform as hacking and so- called "Zoom-bombing" -- when uninvited attendees join and disrupt meeting -- incidents began to rise along with the popularity of the platform. But despite its security challenges, which the provider is diligently working to overcome, Zoom is still the platform that customers know and love to use, said Laura Padilla, head of channel and partners for San Jose, Calif.-based Zoom. The company is using the staggering growth it has seen as an opportunity to improve its platform and bolster is security posture, she said.

"I look at this experience as making us an even better platform for partners to sell because the list of things that we have introduced have made us stand out even more from our competitors," Padilla told CRN.

Padilla talked security updates and the use cases that have emerged that have surprised the company, beating out the incumbents, such as Cisco Webex, and long-term opportunities for partners after COVID-19. What follows are excerpts from the conversation.

How is Zoom addressing data privacy and security concerns from partners and their customers?

Our partners have said their customers have the same concerns you've seen written about on the security side and we've set up briefings with those partners who have requested them, as well as with their customers to make sure we satisfy all the questions they have and the concerns that they may have. And every single one has walked away, completely satisfied, having no concerns and just even more reinvigorated over the partnership. We've had no real issues, just a lot of questions that we've answered. The kinds of common questions that we're getting is around things like what's the best way to secure a Zoom meeting? As we've seen some of the things happening with [meeting] disruptions.

The biggest thing that we've announced is our 5.0 release which now has this really awesome and visually simple security icon right at the toolbar now [that users] can use to quickly secure their meetings. The problem we were having before was that because of the explosive growth and because we are so easy to use, people were just jumping on and publishing their IDs openly, and it's just like if your email out your security pin -- unfortunately, there are people who will take advantage of that. Many users -- some first-time video users especially -- were believing in others and not thinking the worst and just trying to keep themselves connected, so we had people taking advantage of that. Also, many people weren't educating themselves on all the security controls we had before hosting the meeting. We had a lot of these [features] before, they were just hidden in the settings and other areas that weren't as obvious. So now in that security icon, they can lock the meeting if they have all their people in and they don't want anyone else to join. You can enable the waiting room and admit people to the meeting, and you can also decide whether you want to allow other people in the mean to share their screen or not. Also, if you want people to chat, you can make sure people can't rename themselves and make sure that they register their name their email at the beginning so you can have some control around that. Even after all of that, if someone else comes in that you don't want and they do something inappropriate, you can also remove that participant from the meeting and now you can report them as well -- that's all within the security icon. We are also working with law enforcement to be able to report some of those users that may do things that are inappropriate, and they'll have to pay for that.

How many new partners have you signed up since the launch of your referral-based partner program in March, and has COVID-19 boosted channel interest in Zoom?

We launched the partner program a little over a month ago with four master agents. We have about 2,000 subagents now that have joined our program as a result of that. So, it's just been amazing growth just based on the response in the partner community. We're actively now trying to meet that demand of requests and deal registrations. As a result, we are hiring both on the operations side and the partner program side, as well as channel sales managers in all geographies to support that growth.

Our partners have always been very supportive of us, but we're going into an incumbent space where there's been big players who have been in the space for a long time, like WebEx. What we've actually found is those partners who were kind of on the fence with us because of those incumbent partnerships, [COVID-19] has caused partners to double down on Zoom even more because their customers are saying that that Just find us [to be] a more reliable solution and we work better. They've been asking for Zoom and as a result, those partners are now spending more time with us and getting much more invested because of the growth that they're seeing in their business in the requests.

How have use cases expanded as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The use cases have grown in lots of different ways. What [coronavirus] has shown is that the use cases we were already doing have just exploded even more, things like telemedicine, healthcare, higher education, and so forth.

I think the use cases that we were most surprised about were more on the consumer side — people doing things like happy hours over Zoom and even church services. Even though education was always an important [segment] to us, we now have whole communities all over the world on Zoom. We have over 100,000 schools in over 20 countries now using Zoom to keep kids' education and classrooms functioning in this environment. Just being able to support those use cases, I think, has been the most surprising. I think it's fun ones to see how people have been so creative with our technology. Of course, on the business side, that has exploded as well. But we've already seen those use cases before, so now they are just being over-emphasized — it's all much more exaggerated now and the growth has been explosive.

How important have solution providers been in helping Zoom deliver a secure videoconferencing solution and are partners wrapping their own managed security services around Zoom?

We actually just got off a meeting with a partner today where their CISO [chief information security officer] team asked us if they can help. We are putting together a CISO council and there will be some partners on that council as well. We are working with certain partners on doing things like, if there's certain partners who want additional penetration testing or other types of testing, we're taking them up on that. And anything they are requesting for their customer base, we are supplying that to make [the partner and customer] comfortable.

Some of our service provider partners do have integrated security offerings with us like Verizon and AT&T, and we are working with other service providers globally who are going to be doing similar things. We are in discussions around managed services offerings and what that looks like today with partners.

Many partners today are still helping their customers adjust to work from home environments, but what are the long-term opportunities for partners with Zoom?

The goal of the new partner program was to allow [partners] to sell all of our services -- including Zoom Phone. Partners are now selling both Meetings and Phone and we've seen an uptick in both in this environment. However, Meetings has still been our core business. Along with Zoom Phone, we're enhancing chat. We're really growing into more of a collaboration platform -- video-first is always going to be our main business -- but what we've done is architected the platform so you can go quickly from a visual video meeting to a phone call, to chat, or to a Zoom Room. So, you're able to move off from the service and from the platform into any way that you want to communicate. Making that seamless platform story even stronger is what we're focusing on today.

The other piece that is a big piece of that as well is growing the APIs and the marketplace. We have a very rich set of APIs and we're also working closely with partners who have developers and are looking to actually enhance any offerings that they have -- any applications or services offering they may have -- writing to our APIs and be able to further enhance that and maybe develop custom applications for their customers, and so forth. The platform story is going to become even stronger in the year to come.