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MSP business leaders resign from MSP Consortium board

The original MSP executives serving on the MSP Consortium board have resigned, but the group's key backer said work on the consortium will continue.

The vigor that launched the MSP Consortium (MSPC) back in April seems to have fizzled with all of the original MSP business members now gone from the board.

Up until this morning, the organization's board of directors' page on the MSPC website showed the board intact, despite the fact that Amy Rutt, MSPC board president and chief cloud fanatic at Ciracom, Inc., a cloud service provider in Alexandria, Va., stepped down more than a month ago.

Two other board members, John Lazo, president of LazoTEK Computer Solutions, based in Ketchum, Idaho, and Steve Ferman, president of Compunite Computers, Pine Brook, N.J., said they also stepped down from their board positions some time ago, as did MSP board members Matt Johnson, CEO of Raven Data Technologies, Inc., Reisterstown, Md.; and Jay Hamilton, president and CEO of Presage Solutions, Inc.; and Bill Yagiela, owner of TCG: The Computer Guys, Inc. Johnson, Hamilton and Yagiela couldn't be reached for comment despite numerous attempts.

In a nutshell, the excitement and purpose that brought together the board members to launch the MSPC, which uses the tag line, "Built for MSPs by MSPs," was never realized, according to former participants.

"The intention of the board in creating the MSPC wasn't being met as it was intended to be, so most of us ended up leaving," said Lazo.

MSP business mission: Provide tools, support industry

Comodo had other ideas that didn't align with ours.
Steve FermanPresident, Compunite Computers

The mission of the original MSPC board member was to create an organization that would fill a hole in the MSP industry by providing the kind of tools and support that would lift up the entire industry.

The organization promised to offer a free and robust remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform and professional services automation (PSA) applications for MSPs to run their business, as well as provide training, marketing and sales support, launch an app store and an online referral network for MSPs to partner with other MSPs.

In an email exchange with Ferman, he wrote, "I'm off the board as I resigned, as well did the other original founding members. Comodo [Group, Inc.] had other ideas that didn't align with ours." When pressed on specifics, Ferman only noted that he didn't think it was a good idea to discuss it further but that there were many reasons why he left.

In a phone conversation with Rutt, she said that she stepped down because she got busy at Ciracom and couldn't provide the time to the MSPC board. When asked if she would remain a member of the MSPC, she said, "Not now."

Considering that the MSPC was launched as an organization built by and for MSPs, millions of dollars in funding was provided by Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO of Comodo Group, Inc., an Internet security software company.

He also sat on the board of directors and back in April was very upfront about his intentions for the MSPC: to create a channel for his company.

The RMM tool that the MSPC hoped to create was supposed to be based on feedback from MSPs. It was to be a modified version of an existing RMM product developed by Comodo. "The tool modification wasn't being done as we originally thought with MSP input. It seemed that he [Abdulhayoglu] changed his mind," Lazo said.

Not at all, according to Abdulhayoglu, who noted that 2,600 MSPs have registered to use the Comodo One platform since the MSP-customized RMM tool rolled out at the end of April. "It's beyond anything I would have imagined," he said.

Modifications to the RMM software were made based on feedback from MSPC forum members with the first major revision rolled out in July. Additional version upgrades will roll out every three months. The MSPC forum is a venue for MSPs to talk to one another.

"It was amazing collaborative teamwork," Abdulhayoglu said.

The CEO provided some numbers: There are 2,600 registered Comodo One MSPs; 340 registered MSPC members; and 512 MSPC forum registrations (forum members are not necessarily MSPC members). All MSPs are allowed to download the free RMM tool. Abdulhayoglu said that most MSPC members are from the U.S., with some members from Europe, Africa and other geographies.

"We will begin the process of introducing the MSP Consortium to the registered Comodo One users so that they'll take part in it," he said.

So what does he have to say about the entire MSPC board of directors stepping down within months of the organization's launch?

"The board did an amazing job, and I can respect their decision. This was going to take a lot more time than they thought it would," said Abdulhayoglu, who admitted that the consortium's mission is a long-term play.

For example, some MSPs wanted leads from Comodo. "We can't provide leads to MSPs yet because it hasn't been built into the platform yet, but we will build it," he said.

Additionally, he said that MSPs who signed up for the forum or as registered Comodo One users need a lot of handholding. "I think that board members -- and rightly so, I'd probably do the same thing -- didn't have the time to deal with that amazing number of people," he added.

Nurturing an MSP business

Apparently, MSPC board members were supposed to be responsible for nurturing the Comodo One registered MSPs to help them with their problems, business growth and to get them to the next level -- and ultimately as MSPC members. In other words, MSPC board members were responsible for onboarding the 2,600 Comodo One MSP registrations.

Abdulhayoglu admitted that it wouldn't be fair of him to ask the board members to put in the same time and resources that he's putting into meeting the MSPC's objectives. Comodo has since added staff to the company's customer care department to help onboard these MSPs, and a new office in Atlanta will have some responsibility for handling the new influx of MSPs.

"Without them [board members] we wouldn't be here so I'm grateful to them," he said.

The Comodo CEO said he's still on track with some of the initial resources the MSPC touted. For example, the first version of the app store is up and running and includes some basic software, but, by September, Abdulhayoglu said there will be additional third-party apps that with the help of a free API will integrate with the Comodo One platform. In addition, a free mobile device management app was developed by Comodo and launched at the end of July. Still to come are lead exchange and skills exchange where MSPs can exchange skills with other MSPs.

"Everything we said this platform would have it will have. It's just a matter of time. Nothing has changed," he said.

MSPC members can also expect to see a new board of directors sometime in the future, although Abdulhayoglu couldn't say when. He did say, however, that MSPC forum members would select the next board.

"It takes at least 12 months to build the MSPC. It's not easy, and it takes time. I think at that point we'll be at a steady state from my past experience," he said.

The Comodo CEO is no stranger to organization building. In 2005, he founded the industry standards organization CA/Browser Forum to provide Internet security industry standards for browsers and certificate authorities.

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