IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Differentiate Yourself with a Custom Firewall Offering

White-label firewall solutions allow MSPs to build a valued brand and drive higher margins. By Frank Bravata

YEARS OF SELLING off-the-shelf firewalls had left us tired and frustrated. Our prospects had grown savvy—why should they buy from our firm at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price when they could go online and find someone willing to undercut us just to get the business? We decided it was time to change things up and construct a marketable solution that we could use to build our own brand.

If you’re an MSP like us, your primary source of revenue is typically the services you deliver, but hardware sales can inject extra profit and strengthen your bottom line. Furthermore, few things are as lucrative and strategically differentiating as developing products and solutions that are exclusively yours. With those facts in mind, my team set out to build our own branded firewall offering.

The Solution: We wanted to construct our offering around a product that would increase our margins and protect our clients, who are mostly businesses with 10 to 50 users. After checking out a wide variety of available systems, we settled on firewalls from Untangle Inc., based in San Jose, Calif. We liked the fact that they’re hardware agnostic, which allowed us to run them on our own white-label hardware. In fact, we sell the entire solution under our brand. Instead of promoting manufacturers and companies our clients may not care about, our completely white-labeled solution keeps Cyber Brigade’s name front and center with our customers.  

Another great feature of Untangle firewalls is how customizable they are. Partners can add applications and incremental functionality to the base model with relative ease, allowing us to deliver precisely tailored solutions for each customer. Optional features include intrusion prevention, virus scanning, phishing and ad blocking, application control, spam and web filtering, bandwidth control, WAN balancing and failover, web caching, captive portal, IPSec VPN, OpenVPN, directory sync, policy manager, and reporting. We build the right stack of applications and options for each client based on its business objectives and regulatory compliance requirements.

We offer the units on a hardware-as-a-service basis with a minimum one-year contract, where the client pays for the service monthly and we retain ownership of the units. That arrangement is more profitable than the one-time purchase model, and the relationship it establishes typically leads to additional product and services sales.

Branding: Once we developed our firewall standard, we decided to make it a core part of the offerings that we deliver to all of our current and future clients. Next, we strategized on a name for the solution that would fit with our company’s military branding. Eventually, we settled on SentryCube and selected a rugged mini-PC that looks military-grade to host it on. To further enhance the product’s marketing appeal and “wow factor,” we bring our demo units on-site in a waterproof military-grade carrying case.

Specs: Each SentryCube solution is built by hand to the exact specifications of the client’s environment. We over-deliver on Untangle’s recommendations. Most noticeably, our team builds each unit with a solid-state drive to permit lightning-fast read/write access and provide sufficient storage space for logs and reporting. We increase memory and drive space as our clients grow and evolve their businesses. For clients involved in a merger or restructuring, we can swap out the units for larger or smaller ones as need be. Untangle’s licensing isn’t tied to any specific hardware, which makes that kind of flexibility possible.

The Launch: Our big launch kicked off during the second quarter of 2017. We notified each of our managed clients that we would be installing these devices, and we informed those not already on a managed firewall plan that their prices would be increasing.  

Once we installed everything and our clients were happy with the results, we scheduled a “launch day” lunch and learn to introduce SentryCube to the broader business community. We put out a press release and had several organizations email their membership about the event. As we got closer to the big day, we ran social media campaigns to drive attendance as well. About 50 local businesses ultimately came to the event, and we sold five units to new clients. Several other prospects who showed up eventually became Cyber Brigade customers as well.

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