IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

2021 ChannelPro SMB All-Stars Results

ChannelPro SMB All-Star

“Freemium” pricing plans offering base functionality to everyone and more powerful features to paying users may be familiar in the world of smartphone apps, but they’re rare for enterprise-grade data protection solutions. That’s why the new licensing scheme Acronis introduced in March grabbed our attention. Need core anti-virus, encryption, and BDR capabilities? Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud offers that and more for practically nothing. Need something more sophisticated? Purchase one of the product’s add-on packs for DRaaS, email security, or other functions and Acronis has you covered. The end result is a flexible and affordable new model for bringing tightly integrated cyberprotection solutions to your customers.

Since time immemorial, chip makers have faced a tradeoff between performance and power efficiency. ARM processors have generally favored the latter over the former, which is why smartphones and tablets often go 24 hours on a charge but lack the horsepower for I/O-intensive computing. Then along came Apple with the first devices powered by the M1, an all-new, ARM-based chip that somehow manages to combine the long battery life and instant-on availability found in mobile devices with the performance needed to run workloads like video editing software. It’s a characteristically trailblazing feat by a company with a long history of upping the ante on what hardware can and should do.

Once upon a time, a young company named N-able sold a new kind of product called RMM software to a new kind of IT company called a managed service provider. Then the task that old-school RMM tools are best at—endpoint management—became less strategic and smart channel pros started becoming cloud service providers. The founders of Augmentt, who also happen to be the founders of N-able, saw that change coming years in advance and set to work creating yet another new kind of product capable of doing for SaaS applications what RMM solutions once did for devices. The result, called Engage, is one of three products for discovering, administering, and securing cloud solutions from a startup bringing much-needed energy and innovation to a new generation of tech challenges.

Tried calling your kids lately on that smartphone you bought them? Didn’t go well, did it? And it’s not just teenagers. Consumers of all ages increasingly prefer to talk with businesses via text. Kudos to Cytracom, then, for being the first UCaaS vendor to roll out “shared inbox” functionality, an enhancement to the business SMS messaging feature it introduced two years ago that allows multiple users to exchange texts with customers on behalf of their employer using a main company phone line instead of a personal number. The upgrade brings UCaaS software into the modern era of communications by allowing organizations to present a unified “business persona” to their customers via SMS.

Sorry, channel pros, but it’s going to take more than a magical silver bullet to take down ransomware. The only way to curb a menace that has impacted over a third of organizations worldwide to date, according to IDC, is to pile on tools, techniques, and technologies for combatting it until declining ROI forces hackers to give in. Datto has exhibited just that kind of doggedness in the last year through actions like adding ransomware detection functionality to its RMM solution, launching Datto Cloud Deletion Defense, and acquiring threat detection vendor BitDam. Individually, none of those accomplishments qualifies as a game-changing breakthrough. Collectively, they demonstrate an admirable seriousness of purpose about tackling the IT world’s single biggest danger today.

When Deloitte asked businesses about “everything as a service” earlier this year, 82% called it very or critically important for their success. Hewlett Packard Enterprise saw that coming ages ago and created GreenLake, its as-a-service infrastructure offering, in response. Originally meant for enterprise buyers, the rapidly growing platform has been steadily coming within reach of smaller organizations ever since. That process took a big step forward this spring when HPE made standardized blocks of virtual machines and containers available at price points that a wider range of SMBs can afford—and that a wider range of SMB partners therefore can sell.

HP isn’t the first manufacturer to adopt fighting climate change, promoting human rights, and closing the digital divide as corporate causes. It is the first that we know of to help channel pros participate in those efforts too by introducing a sustainability partner program. Called Amplify Impact, it offers a collection of resources that members can use to assess their sustainability efforts, execute new sustainability initiatives, and even capture sustainability sales opportunities. HP wants to enroll at least 50% of its partners in the voluntary program by 2025. Planet Earth will be the biggest winner if it does.

When a weather crisis strikes your community, you turn to the Red Cross. When a security crisis strikes the channel, you turn to Huntress. From SolarWinds to Kaseya and beyond, the security vendor’s analysts have worked around the clock when necessary to share up-to-the-minute details and recommendations about the latest cyber emergency with partners and nonpartners alike. Along the way, they’ve established themselves not only as an invaluable source of timely, accurate information when the pressure’s on but as a kind of IT industry first responder to boot.

Intel’s recent 11th Gen Core chips for PCs and 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable chips for servers are pretty impressive, but if you really want to be impressed, ponder what it took to merge the Intel Technology Partner, Cloud Insider, and IoT Solutions Alliance partner programs into a single offering with one set of tiers, qualifications, and benefits flexible enough to serve everyone from system builders and VARs to ISVs and OEMs. That massive undertaking, which culminated this year in the debut of the new Intel Partner Alliance, underscores the degree to which the lines separating VARs, cloud solution providers, and IoT integrators are blurring even as collaborative go-to-market ecosystems grow increasingly important in meeting end-user needs.

Even Lenovo isn’t completely sure who will use it or how, but the ThinkPad X1 Fold is a marvel of innovative engineering just the same. A 13-inch, hingeless notebook that users can lay flat, hold like a book, or prop up like a conventional laptop, the device is more a proof of concept than the specific response to a particular need. But it’s also the trailblazing first example of an all-new form factor that opens up a world of imaginative use-case possibilities.

As long as we’re discussing new endpoint categories, Microsoft created one of its own this year when it launched Windows 365, a version of its Windows operating system that streams complete, personalized virtual desktops to a new class of “Cloud PCs.” Based on Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop solution, but simpler to configure and use, the service runs within the same infrastructure as the Microsoft 365 productivity suite, integrates with Azure Active Directory, and supports both Windows 10 and Windows 11. With employees who split time between home and the office fast becoming the norm, Windows 365 gives end users a new way to enjoy secure, anytime, anywhere access to as-a-service desktops while giving Microsoft’s giant partner community a new source of cloud revenue.

Speaking of Windows 365, guess who Microsoft turned to for prerelease feedback on that top-secret product. Who else but Nerdio, which in a remarkably short time has established itself as one of the channel’s foremost sources of Azure expertise. This year, the company exerted continued leadership in helping channel pros profit from the Microsoft cloud by launching Nerdio Manager for MSP, a multitenant management and optimization platform for Microsoft Azure, adding Windows 365 support to that product pretty much the moment the service shipped, and introducing its first partner program. Just five years after its founding, Nerdio is looking remarkably grown up.

If you’re an MSP, RMM solutions are something you use. NinjaRMM is turning them into something you can sell too. The company’s VAR partner program allows channel pros to earn up to 30% margins offering RMM software to midsize and larger businesses suddenly in need of remote support tools due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to deal registration and market development funds, a recently launched partner portal stocked with training materials for newcomers to RMM is the latest benefit of joining a program designed to be easy to enter and easy to profit from.

You can make good money selling something many people need. You can make great money selling something everyone needs. They may not be the sexiest services in IT, but warranty management and software renewals are two things everyone needs. ScalePad (formerly Warranty Master) has brought both essential functions together in a single platform that not only tracks expiration dates, license status, and the like but includes tools for turning hardware asset management and software asset management (or “HAM and SAM,” as ScalePad likes to call them) into incremental revenue sources. Anyone else know why they seem to have so few competitors?

Centralized SaaS management would be a whole lot simpler if it involved one scripting language that pretty much everyone knew. In reality, however, cloud applications use a variety of scripting languages that few techs are fluent in. SkyKick’s answer to that dilemma, called Cloud Manager, ingeniously lets MSPs write all their automations in PowerShell and then translates that code into JavaScript, Python, or whatever else is required, automatically and behind the scenes. Combine that with a library containing hundreds of prewritten scripts, among many other features, and the result is an impressive tool for administering multiple SaaS solutions from multiple vendors for multiple customers efficiently.

Security, as the saying goes, is a team sport. The only way we beat the criminals who will be inflicting an estimated $10.5 trillion in global damage by 2025, according to researcher Cybersecurity Ventures, is to fight them collaboratively. Late last year, Sophos demonstrated what it means to be a team player when it made four artificial intelligence technologies freely available to researchers, fellow vendors, and security service providers. Needless to say, the company could have used those resources, which include a “digital epidemiology” methodology and the first production-scale malware research data set available to the general public, to gain an edge on the competition. Instead, Sophos set a commendable example for others by sharing cybersecurity advances with peers much the way scientists do.

It’s TD SYNNEX now that its merger with Tech Data has closed, but SYNNEX was still just plain SYNNEX back in April when it introduced a boldly reimagined version of its Varnex partner community. Called Varnex 2.0 internally, the new program turned the group from a source of marketing resources and peer-to-peer networking opportunities, like every other distributor member community, into a collaborative sales organization offering a potent new way for channel pros with specialized skills to drive revenue by working together to deliver complete end-user solutions.

Fueled by exploding adoption of videoconferencing software amid the spread of COVID-19, Zoom’s sales soared 326% last year. The good news for you is that they’re sharing the wealth. In scarcely more than 18 months, Zoom has turned a barely existent partner program into a surprisingly robust one with lead-generation campaigns, market development funds, an online training academy, and more backed by legions of freshly hired partner account managers, partner success specialists, and technical sales reps. The upshot for channel pros is a second option, in addition to Microsoft Teams, for profiting from a work-from-home phenomenon that’s here to stay.

ChannelPro Not for Profit All-Star: KnowBe4

You’d think a security awareness training vendor would have its hands too full teaching people to dodge phishing emails these days to spend time giving back to the community. Yet in the last six months alone KnowBe4 has launched a climate pledge aimed at lowering its carbon footprint and participated in efforts to get African girls engaged with technology. And in August, in celebration of its 11th anniversary, the company made a donation to a beekeeper’s association big enough to add as many as 385,000 honeybees to a declining global population. All three actions are just the latest from a company that has consistently made sustainability and diversity top corporate priorities.

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