Solutions Granted: How a Master MSSP Was Born

Solutions Granted: How a Master MSSP Was Born

By Erik Linask

When combat vet Michael Crean completed his military service, he figured he would end up with a career in law enforcement or related field.  He started learning the IT space back in 1997 and, after a stint in the government sector, decided he needed something more and started his own IT services firm. 

That was way before the MSP market hit the upswing it’s now experiencing, but it was also long before most businesses had their own IT expertise, and even the most minor issues resulted in a flood of support calls.  By 2010, Crean found he was constantly having to deal with late night and weekend calls about printers being out of toner and other similar “emergencies.  It wasn’t his vision for Solutions Granted, and he became frustrated with what his business had become.  He wanted to be able to deliver more value.

Crean knew there were elements of IT his customers really weren’t well equipped to handle on their own, like security.  At the time, his firm, Solutions Granted, was doing a lot of work with SonicWall, and he came up with the idea of becoming a firewall management company, selling and managing the SonicWall product.  Like that, his venture into the MSP space was launched, and the company grew.  Solutions Granted even was names became SonicWall’s partner of the year in 2011.

But, when Dell acquired SonicWall in 2012, the business took a hit, which forced Crean to look at other solutions to continue to grow the company.  As Solutions Granted continued to diversify its portfolio of security services, Crean came to the realization that most MSPs are good at traditional IT roles and provide exceptional helpdesk services.  They have also built solid relationships with their customers.  But, their security expertise was lacking.

“It was kind of a bedside manner situation,” he explained to TMC.  “I could fix problems very quickly, but my bedside manner wasn’t where it needed to be.”

Solutions Granted CEO Michael Crean

So, around 2015, he saw an opportunity to again shift his model and Solutions Granted evolved from an MSSP into a Master MSSP, delivering security solutions to MSPs, while those MSP partners managed and owned the customer relationships.  It was a win-win, although the vendor community wasn’t entirely on board with it, viewing it as two-tiered selling, but the company grew and, today, it’s become a widely accepted model in many IT segments.

“Some of it was my own arrogance, but all I can say is it worked,” he says looking back on it.  “The Master MSSP is becoming a growing breed and there a lot more of us adding value to the channel and helping MSPs and VARs bring true value instead of just selling licenses.”

Security is complex, and it requires a different skillset than traditional IT – a specific security skillset – which is why traditional MSPs can have a hard time successfully managing security products.  It’s one thing to install a firewall or cybersecurity solution – it’s something entirely different to manage it.

Today, Solutions Granted offers a full portfolio of security solutions to its MSP partners:

  • Endpoint security (Blackberry Cylance, Huntress, Infocyte)
  • Perimeter security (SonicWall)
  • Email security (Mimecast)
  • Device and cloud security (Bitglass, Cyren)
  • aiSIEM/SOC (Seceon)
  • Storage and backup (StorageCraft)
  • Wireless security (Aerohive)

While many providers offer a selection of vendors with similar products, Crean has specifically avoided working with competing vendors as much as possible.  He feels it’s more important to develop relationships with partners that believe in the model, and to give his engineers the tools to deliver comprehensive security services, which starts with the three-pronged approach every company should embrace:

  1. Good email security,
  2. Good endpoint protection, and
  3. Good firewall with monitoring.

He says that most companies buy endpoint protection first, largely because that’s what we have been conditioned to do, and it’s easier for us to understand.  There are also misconceptions about email security, such as thinking Microsoft is delivering that. 

Crean asks those people, “Have you ever gotten a phishing email, or have you had an account takeover?” 

Even if they haven’t, there’s a very high likelihood they know someone or work with someone who has, and even with all the publicly reported breaches, there’s so much security education that still has to happen.  It’s not just stopping attacks, for instance – it’s also training employees to identify phishing scams and making sure they don’t click on links or open attachments. 

“Why was your antivirus supposed to stop your employee from clicking on a phishing link?” he asks.

Even five years ago security was not top of mind in most boardrooms.  Since then, most companies at least understand they need to take security seriously – but most don’t know how to do it.  That includes MSPs themselves, as the security breaches they have themselves suffered show. 

“Last year was a huge wakeup call for the MSP industry,” Crean says.  “It’s no longer about the status quo, and partners are realizing they have to do better they have to take care of their customers better."

Across the business world, security has become a much more up-front discussion, and businesses are asking many more questions about security and realizing there is much more to the security puzzle than they may have thought a few years ago.  There are more people working in remote environments – certainly that’s the case now, with millions of businesses sending employees home during the COVID-19 pandemic – and attack vectors continue to become more complex.  It’s no surprise businesses, including MSPs are having a hard time keeping pace.

It’s why the Master MSSP model is ripe for a major growth spurt, and Solutions General has an open mind as far as its partner relationships go.  It has more than 500 channel partners currently.  Some like having the Solutions Granted name and the brand power that comes with a Top 100 MSSP, while other prefer to leverage their own brand and keep Solutions Granted as a silent partner, so to speak.  To Crean, it doesn’t matter, as long as he is helping companies stay secure.

“For many of these organizations, a breach can be a life-ending event,” he notes.  Larger businesses might be able to weather the storm, but if you are a small business, you can be done and that’s a very scary thing.”

In many ways, the model is a Back to the Future kind of story.  Companies – including MSPs – are starting to realize they can’t do it all on their own, and are starting to rely on experts for individual IT needs, especially security.  The Jack of All Trades model isn’t working when it comes to security.

“History is a great educator,” Crean agrees.  “I don’t know why we so easily forget the things that have worked in the past.”

Growth opportunities, and security services, in particular, for MSPs are the singular focus of MSP Expo, part of the TechSuperShow.  Coming to the brand new Miami Beach Convention Center, June 22-25, 2021 along with ITEXPO and the rest of the TechSuperShow events, MSP Expo 2021 will focus not only on solution and product offerings, but will feature marketing, customer acquisition, benchmarking and metrics, compliance, and other key areas of business growth for MSPs. 

Edited by Erik Linask
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Group Editorial Director

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