Cytracom’s Plan for Fixing SMB Networking

Photo by Tekton on Unsplash

A story I wrote for ChannelPro this week about Cytracom has me recalling a conversation last September with Zane Conkle and John Tippett, the company’s CEO and COO, respectively.

It was about the state of SMB networking, something they both felt no one has gotten right yet. Every solution out there, they said, is too expensive or complex or both for a typical MSP, and even the so-called managed networking solutions require you to buy or finance hardware upfront.

The very next day, I came across a story about a newly launched network-as-a-service startup named Nile. As I subsequently reported, the company offers Wi-Fi at flat recurring rates on a stack of custom-designed, pre-integrated network hardware. Everything’s sold exclusively through partners who never have to persuade customers to buy new routers or access points, because whenever Nile ships updated models, subscribers just get them at no extra charge.

It sounded perfect for SMBs, but to my disappointment, Nile’s plan was to build credibility in the mid-market before moving up to bigger organizations. “We’re not going to go out and sell to the Pentagon to start with,” Lou Serlenga, Nile’s CRO, told me.

He was just reaching for a name that would convey “large enterprise,” of course, but the choice he made was apt. The beauty of Nile’s solution is its simplicity, and while the Pentagon values simplicity as much as anyone, it has security mandates and sunk infrastructure investments and layers of IT management that make embracing something radically new just because it’s simple difficult.

You know who doesn’t have those problems? Two people named mom and pop. Mom and pop don’t know what routers or access points are, and hate cutting checks to buy them. They just want fast, reliable, secure Wi-Fi at a predictable as-a-service rate. Nile could probably own SMB if it wanted to, but has a different market in mind.

All of which brings me back to ControlOne, the end-to-end networking and security platform Cytracom launched a year ago, because it’s inspired by a similar vision but squarely targeted at SMBs. The system is principally designed to eliminate the complexities of deploying and managing VoIP solutions, but also aspires to be a super easy way for MSPs and their clients to keep hybrid workers securely connected both on and off premises.

“There’s no traditional firewall. You’re not forwarding ports. There’s no VPNs,” said Tippett in a recent conversation. Yet users still get everything those technologies offer, he added. “You have a corporate network, you have content filtering, deep packet inspection. It lets you enforce [policy] compliance.”

Critically though, according to Cytracom, everything is seamless and transparent to the end user. “There’s no connect and disconnect,” Tippett explains. “Wherever you go, your device is on the corporate LAN all the time.”

Like Nile’s service, moreover, ControlOne sells for one all-inclusive price. You never have to price out firewalls or pre-purchase 25 license packs, Tippett notes. “You consume the entire product as a service.”

That’s a different value proposition than most MSPs are used to, which is why Cytracom has new sales training resources for its partners coming soon. It’s also why I’ve been keeping an eye on ControlOne and will continue doing so. I’m not aware of anything else right now that’s quite as close to what SMBs generally—and small businesses especially—most want in a networking service. If you are, or have other thoughts on ControlOne and Cytracom, post a comment or give me a shout.

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And now the news…

Datto has cloud management coming soon

Like very soon. Included in Datto’s RMM roadmap webcast this week was word that the vendor’s first cloud management solution is just months away from GA.

This is a bigger deal than it might seem, because while ConnectWise demo-ed a proof-of-concept cloud management tool at its IT Nation event last November and Kaseya (Datto’s parent) has been talking about cloud management since at least last June, N-able is currently the only top-tier managed services software vendor with a SaaS management tool in market. As a result, cloud-only companies like Augmentt, Nerdio, SkyKick, and Auvik’s Saaslio unit (more on them in an upcoming edition of Channelholic, by the way) dominate the space at present.

Datto’s forthcoming system will be a fully integrated module inside Datto RMM specifically dedicated to Microsoft 365. Out of the gate, users will be able to view and administer tenants, users, and devices, and perform a few common tasks like resetting passwords and blocking risky sign-ins. Future releases will support user onboarding and offboarding, integrate with Datto’s SaaS Protection cloud backup solution, and more.

Closed alpha testing is set to begin in the middle of Q2 (i.e. within a few weeks), with a full-blown release expected at the end of the quarter or early in Q3 (i.e. within three-ish months).

Included in the 11.7 release of Datto RMM due next week, by the way, are the ability to jump straight from that product to a device-specific list of alerts in Datto’s EDR solution (an integration that supposedly saves 10 clicks) and EDR agent deployment for Linux and macOS devices, among other things.

K.I.S.S. security resources from across the pond

Kudos to the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Internet Security Alliance for this week’s publication of their latest Director’s Handbook on Cyber-Risk Oversight, an updated fourth edition that contains all-new guidance on “systemic resilience.”

Bigger kudos to the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre for posting two free, interactive, and extremely simple security resources that SMB end users can actually understand. The first generates a personalized “cyber action plan” based on responses to a brief questionnaire. The second performs a quick-and-dirty security check of your IP address, website, and web browser.

Biggest kudos of all to Huntress for calling my attention to both tools, which the vendor hopes will set a new user-friendly standard for teaching SMBs about cybersecurity.

“The recent (US) National CyberSecurity Strategy is an epoch defining document,” said Dray Agha (pictured), a U.K.-based senior ThreatOps Analyst Team lead at Huntress, in remarks emailed to Channelholic, “but it sure was missing a compelling graphic or two! US government cyber security entities would benefit from transposing much of their excellent content into a visual medium, which makes it easier to circulate and be digested.”

In the meantime, Agha continues, MSPs here in the U.S. can and should use the U.K.’s new tools. “Walking a prospective customer through a (UK) government Cyber Action Plan that assesses their security posture in incredibly simple language, and in less than two minutes, can help a prospect understand where the gaps are in their security strategy. That this comes from a neutral source and not from an internal sales or marketing team for that MSP is a boon to the prospect trusting the findings that recommend particular defensive strategies.”

Also worth noting

Sophos, like Trend Micro before it, is sharing security data with Cowbell Cyber to help businesses get lower rates on cyberinsurance.

VMware’s new partner program has tracks for cloud, managed, and other service providers in addition to traditional resellers.

SAP now has a cloud-based ERP system specifically for midsize businesses.

Members of TD SYNNEX’s CommunitySolv org have a new way to find each other.

Check Point now has a service offering threat research, MDR, risk assessment, and more to “organizations of all sizes”.

Adobe is in on the AI boom too with a family of “creative generative AI models” called Firefly, and a new Firefly-based content-making tool.

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