Richard is still on a high from this year’s Paris DattoCon! And he just can’t help but share his excitement with you guys. So in this week’s podcast he’s bringing you not 1, but 4 of Datto’s executives who’ll open up about 2FA, the future of RMM, Datto’s European expansion, and their new line of networking products.
An Interview with:
Ryan Weeks — Chief Information Security Officer
First up, Richard talks to Ryan Weeks, Datto’s Chief Information Security Officer. Ryan is the man in charge of Datto’s own information security, internal corporate systems and infrastructure. He also plays an active role with Datto’s product teams, working on how to extend the security functionality of Datto products to better aid MSPs in the work that they do to help the end customer.
Working with such a broad scope is no mean feat but Richard relishes his role:
“I do a lot of MSP education and outreach and I’m currently on a crusade to unite all of the channel vendor technology security teams together in the fight against the endemic threat that MSPs seem to be facing these days.
Datto is a company that truly believes in the important work of security, so it makes getting out of bed and coming to work to fight the good fight really, really easy to do every day.”
The biggest security threat for MSPs
There’s no doubt that it’s a fight worth fighting; it’s a difficult time for MSPs who are currently being targeted by criminals: hackers who aren’t playing around when it comes to the damage they cause.
What advice would Ryan have for Datto partners on how MSPs can stay safe in the current climate?
Ryan’s favourite security sound bite is one that he’s stolen from the airline industry: put your own oxygen mask on first!
“We saw a pretty seismic shift in the threat landscape around this time last year, September of 2018, where MSPs started to become the focus of attack because they’re supply chain to interesting end customers that criminals want to attack. MSPs traditionally do a great job of protecting their end customers. But sometimes they may neglect — through no fault of their own — their own internal programme because they’re doing such a good job protecting their end customers.
We’re at a point where MSPs really need to stop and look at the things they’re doing to protect themselves and their own technology ecosystem, because right now they’re effectively co-sharing risk with their customers. Their customers’ risk is their risk, and their risk is their customers’ risk. And I think they really need to start viewing it that way.”
Ryan explains that there’s a lot of really tactical advice out there but at the broadest level it’s about going back to basics. It’s about looking at your people and your processes and getting your basic IT hygiene in order before worrying about anything more advanced.
Cyber criminals “aren’t doing anything exceptionally interesting. They’re doing basic living off the land techniques, stealing credentials, existing vulnerabilities, poor hygiene, like RDP open to the internet. So if you focus on simple things, you can actually really reduce your exposure.”
Strength in numbers
When it comes to mitigating the threat from cyber criminals, Ryan firmly believes that there’s strength in numbers. He knows that with the current size of the MSP industry, there’s more than enough work to go around, so in the last year he’s issued a rallying cry to bring vendors together to tackle the security threat.
“We’re facing an endemic threat right now and the only way we’re going to get through it is if MSPs and all the channel technology vendors band together and really start, fundamentally, changing the way we think about securing ourselves and our customers.
We’re also working with other channel technology providers to build an ecosystem of threat intelligence sharing and collaboration, talking about protection mechanisms that are working, how we’re detecting MSP attacks and preventing them.”
Two factor authentication
One of Ryan’s boldest moves has been the introduction of mandatory two factor authentication, but it wasn’t an easy decision to make.
“We kept seeing attackers use RMM technologies to exploit MSPs and their customers. And it wasn’t necessarily always the fault of the technology solutions provider. And at Datto, or at least what I’ve done at Datto, is I’ve brought this mentality of a shared responsibility for security; MSPs and Datto, sharing the responsibility to protect their technology.”
After looking at the stats and realising that there hadn’t been a successful security attack against an MSP that had 2FA, they were “more than 90% sure” about the decision. But they knew that user feedback would be vital.
“We got, I think, over 100 responses, most of them overwhelmingly positive. And so we just decided that the time was right, the MSPs were behind us and it was just something that we needed to do. We were going to take a leadership position in the market and say we’re going to be the first RMM to require two factor authentication for all of its users. And we’re still on that path.
We’re doing it in a way that not only solves the security piece, but we also listen to the feedback about usability and we’re merging those two things together, as we’re delivering this functionality. That’s something else that is really important to me at Datto: merging pragmatic solutions with security and usability in mind.
I don’t want to create a brick that no one can use. I want it to be a secure and usable experience.”
Emily Glass — Chief Product Officer
Next in the firing line, we have Emily Glass, Datto’s Chief Product Officer who came to the firm as part of an acquisition back in 2014. Luckily she initially spent a significant amount of time as a customer experience officer, dealing with the challenges of the product and the partners, so she had a solid understanding of their business needs before moving to her current role.
Which is just as well, because Emily now heads the teams responsible for product management and design — a role that excites her every bit as much today as it did when she first started. And the thing she’s most excited about right now?
Datto’s networking products
As one of Datto’s newer product lines, Emily finds it an interesting challenge.
“John Tippett and the product and engineering team are passionate about the mission of bringing networking gear and solutions to partners in a way that’s built for MSPs. We get a lot of feedback and that’s how we build the product, improve and innovate.”
And because it’s at the beginning of the process, it’s even more exciting because I feel like you might sometimes have more options and you really have to choose carefully.”
So how would Emily explain the MSP focus of the Datto networking range to an MSP that uses Cisco, Draytek or any of the other well-known brands that have been around for years?
“We looked at the market for networking products and saw there were really two choices. There’s the enterprise in which the price is too high, and you don’t really need all those features as a small medium business. So it’s a little bit overkill and then it becomes unnecessarily complex to manage. And in the commodity end you might have all the features you want and you might have a better price but again, it might not be pricing in the way you want to consume it.”
So that’s where the networking as a service concept comes in, where the upfront hardware fee is very low but there’s an ongoing recurring monthly fee for all the support upgrades. And all of the service that comes with it has a lifetime warranty which we think is really MSP focused.”
Of course, on top of that you have the cloud management; we really put a lot of energy into that to make it seamless to migrate between Datto products. And, if you’re familiar with some of our other products there’s a little bit less of a learning curve.”
Emily on being a woman in a male-dominated industry
Having grown up in a technical environment, Emily was never in any doubt that she would pursue a career in engineering. But when starting her university degree in computer engineering, she couldn’t help but notice that she was in a minority.
She didn’t let it hold her back though, “I think it’s a little bit about personality. I’m very logical, very pragmatic, very efficient, and I want to arrive at the best solution. And so I appreciate various viewpoints and I can tolerate a lot of discussion or noise very well, because I kind of cut through it and get to the point. I think that’s necessary for a product role, where you have to get something built at the end of the day, and you have to sometimes push through a lot of objections.”
Despite her own success, she’s glad to see the tide is turning for women in tech and is happy to have played a role in that.
“I do feel like that’s a responsibility; being that presence, being a powerful woman and modelling that for the folks at Datto, for our partners — I do view that as part of my job.”
She — and the company as a whole — are excited to see an increase in women taking part in tech peer forums, as well as those attending the DattoCon keynote: “It’s something that Datto is very passionate about pushing forward as well.”
Mark Simon — Managing Director, EMEA
Next, Richard catches up with a relative newcomer to the MSP space: Datto’s Mark Simon, who has been with the company for about six months and is enjoying only his second DattoCon experience.
“It’s been really thrilling actually to be part of what has been an event that has far passed expectations so far, just in terms of numbers, the engagement, the networking…I’ve really enjoyed it and my sense from talking to dozens of partners is that they’re hopefully feeling the same way.”
In fact, he’s fast becoming a fan of the MSP industry in general.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know and learn about the MSP community; their curiosity, their willingness to help each other, I’ve never seen it in any other industry. The MSP community is unique in that respect and I really enjoy that.”
Building a world class team
Mark’s focus so far has been on building a world class team, hiring new people and making sure the right people are in the right jobs, that they’re trained and supported and really clear on what their missions are.
But, while the UK is the largest part of Datto’s EMEA business, Mark’s focus extends beyond Britain.
“We have very robust businesses in the Benelux and we actually just opened a new office in the Nordics. So all of those are really important to us.
And then we have a considerable partner base through our distribution network in Southern Europe, France, Italy, etc. I’m really enjoying seeing the different phases of the MSP community in different countries.”
Datto’s biggest challenges in Europe
Mark knows that with so many partners, in so many European countries, he’ll face a wide variety of challenges.
“It’s about where is that particular market in terms of its adoption of the managed services model. Some countries, like France, are very much at the beginning of that journey. So things that we in the UK or US, might take for granted, like the idea of business continuity and disaster recovery is just less well known.
In some other areas, where Datto is not a well-known brand, the challenge is going to be brand building, building trust and credibility and about sharing what we stand for. But whenever we talk to partners about setting up in Copenhagen, for example, or investing more in France, the reaction is overwhelmingly positive that a large North American company is taking EMEA seriously.”
Christian Nagele — Director, Commercials (Senior Director EMEA strategy)
After talking to Christian Nagele almost a year ago at DattoCon Barcelona, (take a listen here: From CentraStage to Datto: One Cloud-based RMM’s Journey – TubbTalk #46) Richard was keen to catch up and quiz Christian on Centrastage, Datto’s RMM product, about how it has grown over the past 12 months.
Centrastage, while not quite ubiquitous (yet) is being used by more and more MSPs, and the feedback has been overwhelming positive.
So is Christian happy to rest on his laurels?
Not a chance.
“We set out to make Datto RMM the leading MSP focused RMM on the market by the end of 2020. So we have this project called Datto RMM 2020. That’s a fairly bold statement — to achieve market leadership — but I think the investment that’s going into the product is testament to the fact we’re serious about it and so from a product lead perspective, there have been huge improvements, enhancements and acceleration in the last 12 months, which is reflected in the numbers.
Every month, hundreds of MSPs are joining the Datto RMM platform. It’s a technology that is challenging to design, build, deliver and support for all the RMM vendors, so we have a lot of respect for our competition but I think where we started the company all those years ago has put us in a really good spot to both deliver world class RMM but also to start looking beyond the traditional RMM genre into what does RMM look like in 3-5-7 years.”
The future of RMM
One of the key trends to emerge, explains Christian, is that it’s as much about the end user now as it is about the device.
“The management of network devices and windows, laptops and servers is a very well-defined requirement. It could always be done better, quicker, with more automation, but I think now the end user who is sat behind the Windows laptop, the MacBook Pro, or the mobile device is becoming far more important. The MSP has to educate, to support, to secure that end user.
That’s clearly an upside within our RMM tool; it gives you a footprint on that end user’s machine. It gives you a window into their world and almost a two way communication channel. So we’re already starting to think: how does an RMM tool move beyond the device into helping MSPs engage with their end user for feedback, support and all the usual things.
And with the explosion of internet connected devices, our ability to plug millions of internet enabled devices into the Datto RMM platform is also going to be a key part of our differentiation going forward.”
If Datto’s RMM platform started off as Christian’s baby, he says it’s now a teenager, “about to take a driving test and head out into the big wide world!”
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