Road Report: Vendor Updates from Channel Mastered’s Latest Travels

Keeping busy this fall? Channel Mastered certainly is. In fact, we attended seven industry conferences on both ends of the country in October and November alone.

Perhaps you visited our giant Sales and Marketing Academy booth outside the Channel Futures Leadership Summit show floor (see below), where Mark Crall, Charlene Ignacio, James Kernan, Erick Simpson, and I presented alongside a host of leading vendors.

Or maybe you sat in on one of the sessions Erick and Lisa Shorr led at DattoCon and IT Nation Connect. Or bumped into Mark at the ASCII Edge event in Washington D.C. Or ran into me at the Cisco Partner Summit, the Canalys Forum North America, or TD SYNNEX CommunitySolv.

As usual, the whole team returned from its travels with lots of stories, photos, and insights to share. Read on for just a few of the highlights.

The “Rat Pack” is Back!

Who doesn’t love rats in fedoras? Or free marketing resources?

The “Rat Pack” Giveaway contest we held this August at CompTIA’s ChannelCon show in Las Vegas was such a hit that we did it again in Miami last month at the Channel Futures Leadership Summit. Join us in congratulating our three lucky winners, who took home prizes worth more than $20,000:

First prize: A free Channel Mastered thought leadership white paper

Second prize: A free Channel Mastered digital marketing campaign

Third prize: A free sponsored episode of the Channel Mastered MSP Chat podcast

Vendors on the Move

You can’t go to as many conferences as we have lately without picking up interesting news from interesting vendors. Here are five examples.

Thread Wins Big at IT Nation Connect

Thread appears to have a genius for branding. The service experience platform for MSPs first opened its doors roughly a year before Meta launched its Threads social media service, and added its Service CoPilot feature mere months before Microsoft announced its Copilot for Service offering.

The company is making a name for itself with MSPs now that ConnectWise named it the winner of its latest PitchIT Accelerator Program. Held annually since 2018, PitchIT incubates promising young vendors and provides direct financial assistance to the two most impressive. Thread’s first-place finish this year placed it ahead of 25 other contestants and landed it $70,000 in prize money.

The Thread solution’s efficiency-boosting capabilities are ultimately responsible for that accomplishment. The system lets technicians communicate with end users directly via chat inside the applications they spend their time in these days, like Teams and Slack.

“Service is the most important part of what an MSP delivers,” notes Matthew Linn (pictured), Thread’s co-founder and COO. Meeting clients where they work differentiates users from the competition.

Service CoPilot, meanwhile, differentiates Thread. Powered by Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service, the system automatically categorizes support requests, prioritizes them, spell checks and clarifies technician communication, and creates a time entry in either ConnectWise PSA or Datto Autotask.

“If you talk to a technician, probably the only thing that they hate more than tickets are time entries,” Linn says. Thread lets technicians concentrate on keeping customers happy instead. A forthcoming Service CoPilot feature will further enhance satisfaction by scanning chats for signs of client frustration and escalating associated tickets automatically.

Users save an hour a day per technician on average, according to Thread, resulting in a 30% decrease in time to resolution and 21% increase in gross profit margins.

Subscriptions, Linn notes, are exclusively month to month. “We believe that if we’re not delivering the value that we’re promising and you’re not getting it from the product, then we’ve failed or the product has failed,” he says. “We don’t believe that you should be punished for our failure.”

Account management and advisory vendor vCIOToolbox won $30,000 for placing second in this year’s PitchIT contest. Continuous vulnerability management vendor Nodeware placed third.

MSP360 Helps MSP Clients Help Themselves

Like Thread, which promises “death to the ticket,” MSP360 is all about easing ticket workloads too. In pursuit of that cause, the company has just introduced self-serve functionality, called Online Access 2.0, that lets end users remote into desktops and recover backup data without assistance from their managed service provider.

“We think that the users are getting smart enough that they should be able to handle some of that stuff on their own with limitations that their MSP defines,” says Brian Helwig (pictured), MSP360’s CEO.

An upgrade due later will automatically display the last 10 files the client removed too. Instead of filing a support ticket after accidentally deleting something, Helwig notes, customers “can just right click on one of them and click restore.”

MSP360’s integrated platform includes backup, RMM, and remote access applications. Integration with software from Deep Instinct adds security functionality as well. Additional integrations with AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Backblaze, and Wasabi simplify backup storage.

“We don’t force you to store the data on our platform,” Helwig notes.

Or anyone else’s, he adds. Partners are free to use any S3-compatible storage service they prefer. “We allow you to store on any storage platform, public or private, on the planet,” Helwig says. Choosing one of MSP360’s storage integration partners, though, lets users pay for backup software and third-party storage on the same bill.

Partners can stop those bills from coming at any time. “We have no contracts,” Helwig explains, noting that a five-seat minimum is the vendor’s only licensing restriction.

“We don’t lock you into a three-year deal,” he says. “We feel like if we do what we’re supposed to do consistently and we deliver on our service and our product promise, the end result is that you’ll stay with us forever.”

Volume discounts enable partners to get almost 90% off list pricing. A recently introduced cybersecurity starter pack raises that number to 100%.

“It gives you 10 desktops, 10 Deep Instinct endpoints, and an RMM agent free for a year,” Helwig says. “You can come in and grab it and go.”

ZenContract Eliminates 48 Million Contract Management Steps

Like Thread, ZenContract is all about streamlining a critical but time-consuming managed services business process—contract management. The company’s flagship solution helps MSPs at every stage of the contract lifecycle.

“Most of us do that manually and with 48 million steps,” says Trevor Thomas (pictured), the vendor’s vice president of sales. “We automate all of that.”

Created by MSPs for MSPs, ZenContract’s software includes intuitive tools for securely building customized template-based contracts, collecting customer comments and signatures, managing renewals, enforcing compliance with preset contract policies, and more. Integration with ConnectWise PSA, Datto Autotask, Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics, and Microsoft SharePoint keeps contract data in sync across all of the business tools MSPs rely on automatically.

Subscriptions start at $99 a month for a single-user license and top out at $399 a month for 10 users. A recent upgrade called ZenPolicy adds the ability to help clients define and apply security, BYOD, remote work, and other IT-related employee policies.

“It allows the MSP to monetize the platform by offering policy management as a service,” Thomas says.

Users pay an incremental $25 a month for the new functionality, which they can resell to clients at $99 a month and up.

“That’s 75% margin,” Thomas observes. “It’s quite good money.”

CyberGuard360 Has a Secret to Keep

Security vendor CyberGuard360 is on the verge of adding new functionality to its already expansive security platform. We’ll all have to wait a bit to find out what kind of functionality though.

“We definitely have some new things coming out on the horizon in the early part of next year that I’m very excited about,” says CEO and Co-Founder Al Alper (pictured), who declined to get into specifics.

When they arrive, however, the new capabilities will join a product family that already offers vulnerability scanning, automated pen testing, security awareness training, dark web monitoring, CMMC compliance, and more. All of those features are tightly integrated as well, Alper notes.

“Otherwise, you’d have to go to a dozen other vendors to assemble a stack, which increases your cost center, involves multiple panes of glass for support, has different infrastructure, and then doesn’t integrate the data underneath,” he says. “We do all of that.”

Alper, who is also CEO of Absolute Logic, a managed service provider in Wilton, Conn., stresses that all of CyberGuard360’s software is tailored to MSP needs.

“I come from the MSP world,” he notes. “I know what works and what doesn’t.”

Field Nation Is Ready to Close the Labor Gap

The unemployment rate for technical occupations, which was already low, dropped even further last month to 1.7%, according to data from CompTIA last week.

That’s less than half the nation’s 3.7% overall unemployment rate, and suggests that MSPs—and vendors—struggling to find skilled technicians will continue to struggle for some time to come. If job sites, social media, and other traditional hiring techniques aren’t working for them, Field Nation is ready to help, according to Tara Johnson, the company’s head of brand and content marketing.

“We’re another resource,” she says.

Well, not just another resource. “We are a resource that is the number one labor marketplace and that has the ability for service leaders to tap into an on-demand workforce to be able to support projects anywhere, anytime,” Johnson explains.

Indeed, over 7,000 companies file more than a million work orders a year through Field Nation, which specializes in connecting experienced technicians with employers in need of temporary help.

“Our field service leaders are out there day in, day out with MSPs that are figuring out how to overcome labor shortages,” Johnson says.

And do it without lowering standards, she continues. “There’s definitely rigor and process that goes into how these techs come onto the platform and how a buyer can tap into them.” All of which suggests calling Field Nation could be the alternative IT providers need to yet another prolonged, frustrating hiring hunt. “We are another opportunity, another solution for them to get their work done and do it in a way that is cost effective, is timely, and provides insights and support along the way,” Johnson says.

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