As the Barracuda MSP team celebrates Barracuda’s 15th anniversary, we couldn’t help thinking about all the ways the IT channel has changed since 2003. Technology has changed. Threats have changed. Even the way MSPs run their businesses and expect to interact with their vendors has changed.
To get a better perspective on all these changes, we spoke with Neal Bradbury, senior director of business development at Barracuda MSP, who has more than a decade of experience working with channel companies. In 2003, Neal co-founded Intronis, which was acquired by Barracuda Networks in 2015 and then later became Barracuda MSP. He currently serves as the vice chair of CompTIA’s IT Security community, and he’s been named a CRN Channel Chief for he past six years. So, we knew he’d have some interesting insights to share.
Q&A with Neal Bradbury
What are the most important changes you’ve seen in the IT channel over the past 15 years?
The shift to the as-a-Service model has been a game-changer for IT channel providers. As businesses have gotten used to consuming different types of technology as a service (Software-as-a-Service, Hardware-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Security-as-a-Service), it has opened up new revenue streams for channel companies and helped them strengthen their relationships with their customers.
Another important change is how the MSP tool set has matured. An ecosystem has been created around the RMMs, PSAs, and other tools that now serve as the backbone of MSP operations, to help them run their businesses more efficiently.
What differences have you noticed in how MSPs are running their businesses? How have their relationships with vendors evolved?
As MSPs have matured over the past 15 years, I’ve notice more of them taking time to start looking at metrics to help them make smart choices to improve and grow their business. They’re finding ways to automate more to be efficient, taking full advantage of the ways RMM and PSA tools can help them.
The level of engagement partners have with key vendors has also increased. Vendors have always provided marketing development funds (MDF) to some extent, but building relationships with channel partners has become more of a priority over the past decade and a half. Customer success wasn’t a thing 15 years ago in the IT industry. Now, our partner success team is an important part of how we maintain relationships with our MSP partners.
What concerns do you hear the most from MSPs?
How to protect against ransomware and other email-borne threats such as phishing, spear phishing, business email compromise, and account takeover are the concerns I hear MSPs talking about most. It’s a big shift from 2003. Fifteen years ago, when we launched Intronis as an online backup company (we weren’t even talking about the cloud yet!), we focused on protecting data from fires, floods, theft, and human error. Cyber security and cyber criminals didn’t even enter into it yet. Obviously those priorities have changed tremendously.
How has your role changed over the years?
Over the past decade and a half, I’ve done almost every job in the MSP organization. In the beginning, I was primarily on the operations and product management side, but around 2012 I shifted to a public-facing role, working more directly with our MSP partners. Because I’d gone through many of the same pain points they’ve gone through building a business, I have been able to relate to them more closely. Over the years, I have gone from doing everything, to managing a team, to leading others. Now I work on business development and alliance relationships, sharing my knowledge of the MSP channel with the rest of the Barracuda team.
What career advice would you have given yourself 15 years ago?
I think the best advice I could give myself would be to focus. Around 2008, we began focusing on MSPs exclusively, and that focus led to hockey stick growth. Before that, we were trying to be everything to everybody, an approach I still see a lot of MSPs taking. But, I’ve noticed that the most successful MSPs have decided to focus instead. They establish a vertical specialization and use that to grow more effectively.
Another piece of advice, is a tip I got from Rick Faulk, the former CEO of Intronis: Be first or be different. Today, the marketplace is very competitive and that’s why it's important for MSPs to embrace the be first or be different mindset.
How will MSPs need to adapt to stay relevant for the next 15 years?
To stay relevant in the future, MSPs need to continuously evaluate customer needs and how you can help meet them. Understand how customers run their business and how you can help them be more profitable and efficient. Watch how they’re needs and their business is changing because if you’re not paying attention, you won’t last.
Photo: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek / Shutterstock.