Partners Urge ConnectWise To Not Lose Sight Of What Makes Perch Security, StratoZen Unique

Seven ConnectWise partners talk about their hopes for the integration of the company’s recent security acquisitions, the all-in-one platform ConnectWise Fusion, and what they would like to see moving forward.

ConnectWise Wins Partner Praise

ConnectWise recently unveiled two security acquisitions—Perch Security and StratoZen—as well as the creation of ConnectWise Fusion, a single platform for all of its products.

The acquisitions of Perch Security and StratoZen will be rolled up into one product that uses StratoZen to deliver actionable insight using Perch’s toolset.

Partners were thrilled that the company is doubling down on security, as global threat actors have at times exploited the popular MSP platform to launch attacks on solution providers and their customers.

Many also lavished praise on Perch Security, which ConnectWise invested in two years ago but outright purchased ahead of this year’s IT Nation conference in November.

“The Perch and StratoZen acquisitions show that ConnectWise is genuinely serious about improving both their security offerings and their overall security posture,” Gavin Stone, chief technology officer at Impact Computing and Consulting, who also runs the blog MSPGeek, told CRN. “They have a lot of work to do to ensure that the elements that make those companies unique are not lost while being part of a larger corporate structure.”

CRN spoke with seven ConnectWise partners about the acquisitions and what they hope to see moving forward.

Mark Essayian, President, KME Systems, Lake Forest, Calif.

As a ConnectWise, Continuum and Perch user, I’m glad to see it under one umbrella. I think a lot of MSSPs are lying to themselves when they say they know what they are doing. When you hire people, you want people who are smarter than you. It’s very dangerous to do it on your own with disparate products.

The reason we stay with ConnectWise is there is an overriding strategy. If I try to do this on my own, you know how many hours I need to put in to get it done correctly? I’m running a business. I don’t have time to learn how to do that part of my business.

Do they have a strategy that they are working toward? Yes. We deal with the Continuum NOC and the Perch NOC and SentinelOne. At least when it’s under one umbrella, me, as the MSP, I get to point one finger. I’ve got ConnectWise helping me do a majority of the heavy lifting. They might be struggling to put all this together, but they have to do it right. That takes time. Do you know how hard they got bit a year ago when they didn’t pay attention to security?

I’m not sticking my head in the sand, but they’re the best thing for us right now. And I am carefully watching what Microsoft is doing. Right now ConnectWise is the best bang for the buck that I can bring to the table for my business process. People want to complain about ConnectWise, that’s fine, but right now, they’re good for my business.

When you run your own business, and you’re self-aware about where you are messed up, it just gets worse at the bigger end. I can’t imagine what it’s like for ConnectWise. I’m not an apologist for them, but I’m realistic about what they’re facing and the toolset they bring to me. I gladly pay my bill because they are helping me on a consistent basis run my company.

Jason Slagle, VP, Technology, CNWR, Toledo, Ohio

Perch is amazing. They have a great team. They’re very transparent. They care about their customers. They believe in the saying, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’

If you look at the slide ConnectWise presented [at IT Nation], they basically have Perch slotted in as only tools—the event notification, the back-end data storage and retention, and the log collector stuff. Those aren’t the secret sauce that made Perch special. The whole Perch back end is built on open-source tools. I can build the Perch back end. I can’t provide the people end on top of it.

If your whole idea is that you’re going to buy Perch and only use it for those back-end tools, then I don’t know what those guys are doing. That is not what made the company special.

Dustin Bolander, CIO, Partner, Clear Guidance Partners, Austin, Texas

Are MSPs smart enough to buy [the product ConnectWise is rolling out] and use it correctly? The answer is absolutely no.

I was talking to a security services vendor today and they said they will find a major vulnerability or active attack against an MSP and can‘t even get anyone [at the impacted MSP] to return their calls about it.

Locally, we‘ve seen MSPs using the latest EDR/MDR [endpoint detection and response/managed detection and response] and then leaving RDP [Remote Desktop Manager] open and wondering why their clients are still getting breached again and again.

This service is even more expensive and complex. That is a hard sell to the majority of MSPs who still cannot master the fundamentals.

We‘re going to be cautious and see if [ConnectWise] can execute on the vision.

Gavin Stone, CTO, Impact Computing & Consulting, Preston, U.K.; Also Runs Website MSPGeek, a peer support group for ConnectWise partners

The Perch and StratoZen acquisitions show that ConnectWise is genuinely serious about improving both their security offerings and their overall security posture. They have a lot of work to do to ensure that the elements that make those companies unique are not lost while being part of a larger corporate structure.

ConnectWise would do well to learn from how companies like Perch interact and treat their partners. Perch has always had a fantastic relationship with MSPGeek, and their interaction with the community has always been top-notch.

ConnectWise Fusion is exactly what the ConnectWise platforms and products need. The idea is great, but execution will be judged based on how it works practically and the actual, tangible benefits this brings.

I‘d love to see a detailed public road map with defined deliverables that show how each individual product is going to be developed and how this fits in to the overall ConnectWise strategy going forward, as there is a disconnect and uncertainty with partners on the future of products like Automate. In order for partners like me to continue investing in additional solutions in their ecosystem, we need to regain confidence and see innovation and change in the original flagship products like Manage and Automate that most of us use heavily day to day.

Matthew Hildebrandt, President, StrataDefense, Wausau, Wis.

They’re talking about increasing support and all this fun stuff again. And it‘s like how many times are you going to keep kind of dangling that carrot in front of your MSPs or TSPs or whatever acronym they call us?

We‘ve had support tickets open that, you sit there with bated breath waiting for the phone to ring on the callback to get to get basic support. Now you want to go manage a whole bunch of SOCs?

Technology service providers are struggling. They’re not equipped with the right tools all the time to be that security expert for their clients. So ConnectWise is trying to fill a gap. I understand that, but at the same time you look at the strategy and you go, so what is the strategy?

Two years ago, ConnectWise said that every MSP was going to be an MSSP. That’s not really the case, though, because there are a lot of folks out there that don’t have that skill set. It’s not to trash anybody, but it’s not in their wheelhouse. And then you look at these acquisitions, and hopefully they can turn water into wine. That would be the ideal scenario. Hopefully, they figure out how to make security operations simple.

If somebody‘s got a grand vision that they can lay out, I would love to hear it. I think that has been one of their biggest struggles. It’s just, they’ve done all this M&A. They’ve put all these new pieces into place. … Now start to clarify what that means for your partners so that they know what’s coming down the pike and where you’re going.

Don Baham, President, Kraft Technologies Group, Nashville, Tenn.

We’ve been a StratoZen customer for a few years and a ConnectWise partner for 12 years, I believe. It is exciting. I know a couple of the founders of StratoZen so, personally, I’m excited for them. For us, the fact that, they were acquired by ConnectWise is a plus. We use their four major products now and to see [ConnectWise] continue to expand in the security space, and bringing in the StratoZen product line and those services, it just makes a lot of sense for us and we‘re excited to see where the integration goes.

I think for the industry it is a good sign. For far too long, the MSP industry has maybe not been taking security seriously enough and you can see that in how some MSPs operate. I think the fact that major vendors like ConnectWise are making that push is good news for the industry because we are being targeted. We need all the support we can get.

The challenge is there is a lot of VC money. So there are a lot of acquisitions happening. You see this at ConnectWise. One of the concerns I have is how do you integrate all of these and make it a cohesive set of services for your customers without confusing them?

So you have the Continuum purchase. You have StratoZen. You have Perch. There’s some overlap. It’s going to be interesting to see how ConnectWise clears away that confusion for their customers and says, ‘This is our recommended go-forward path for how to integrate our security tools and services into an MSP business.’

What StratoZen has done recently is build a platform around orchestration. It would make sense that they could layer StratoZen at the orchestration layer, putting all the pieces together and running playbooks and build out sort of ‘What do we do now that we have this data that is correlating events? How do we actually tell our MSP clients and our end clients what to do when X,Y or Z happens?’ I could certainly see StratoZen being that orchestration layer.

Karl Bickmore, CEO, Snap-Tech IT, Atlanta and Phoenix

We were an early adopter from a ConnectWise partner standpoint of Perch Security so we‘ve got a couple of years under our belt with them now. From our perspective, we’re pretty happy about ConnectWise taking the whole piece.

One of the things that has been a bit of a struggle with the acquisition of Continuum is there have been competing security products that overlap considerably in what they do. In my mind, Perch being one foot in and one foot out was making other products that aren‘t quite as helpful or useful more in the forefront of [ConnectWise’s] focus, in my opinion. So I’m really excited to see Perch step up to the full stage. I think it’s a much more complete MDR, SIEM solution than the things that I had from Continuum before. So from my perspective, this is a big step up. And I think that it’ll be really interesting to see all the ways they infuse it into the product. I’ve heard rumors of various different models of how it would work and ways it might integrate. I think there are lots of creative things they can do with it now that they have full control over the direction of it, so I think that it’s a really positive thing.

To me, it‘s all a matter of execution now. It’ll be really interesting to see what they come up with and which parts land in which section because they are two products that once again have overlap. So it’ll be fun to see what they do with it. From my perspective, StratoZen has had a very good reputation. Mixing that with Perch Security really could be a dynamic combination, specifically for something that the MSP space can really take advantage of. It’s been a longtime struggle with security products to find things that fit in the SMB space, that have all the functions we need like multitenancy and integration with things like ConnectWise Manage, but also with a price point that our 50-seat customers can handle.