Australian MSP Leverages Key Partnership with WatchGuard, Uses Firebox with Every Client
Founded in 2007 by former IT systems manager Brendan Gibson, Answers IT is a thriving Brisbane-based managed services provider. Its full-time team of more than 12 people works with around 30 small and medium sized organisations in and around Queensland, across the professional services, logistics, hospitality, manufacturing, and sporting sectors. Some clients have been with Answers IT since its inception and all rely on the company’s expert advice and support to keep their IT infrastructure secure and their operations running smoothly.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping people find solutions to their problems and exploring different ways they can achieve a better result – that’s what motivated me to start a company to help small- and medium-sized businesses deal with their IT challenges,” Gibson explains. “We’re discerning about the organisations we choose to work with – customers and suppliers alike – because we want to ensure we’re a good fit and can deliver real value for the long term as a trusted solutions provider.”
Rising threat levels have made cyber-security a hot issue for Australian SMEs in recent years. Answers IT has been a WatchGuard Gold Partner since 2018 and “mandates” the use of the WatchGuard “Red Box” Firebox at all of the sites it manages.
In the past, the company worked with a range of security vendors, including Sophos and Cisco, but the ringing endorsement of WatchGuard’s technology by an employee who’d used it in a previous role encouraged him to make the switch, according to Gibson.
“We kept hearing about ‘WatchGuard this’ and ‘WatchGuard that’ so we decided to look at its technical background and how its products stacked up against the ones we were supporting,” Gibson says. “We were very quickly sold, not just on the products, but on WatchGuard as a company. What they protected against and stood for fitted in so nicely with our offering.”
Lacklustre support from a former competitor vendor helped reinforce his belief it was time for a change. One of Answers IT’s clients overhauled their gateway infrastructure to the “latest and greatest” from this vendor and Gibson was underwhelmed by the effort the vendor was prepared to expend on helping remediate the situation.
By contrast, Gibson’s ad hoc test of the WatchGuard technical advice line, early on in the relationship, resulted in a very different experience.
“One of the concerns when you call a vendor for support is the length of time it can take for them to resolve an issue,” he says. “I personally called WatchGuard and hit them with a curly one and they were wonderful.”
Answers IT subsequently launched an equipment buyback plan to assist customers to transition their sites to WatchGuard; a process which was completed in August 2020.
Two years into their partnership, WatchGuard has become one of Answers IT’s most important partners. The vendor’s dedication to cooperation and collaboration with resellers has helped it achieve this favoured standing. “WatchGuard recently hosted a roundtable for their Australian partners and the company’s CEO joins us to talk about what’s going on and to hear our feedback,” Gibson says. “That shows the commitment they have, not just to selling product but to helping their partners to succeed. They’re large enough to be able to invest in developing solutions that are world-class but not too large to take notice of the resellers that represent them on the ground.”
WatchGuard has helped Answers IT win new business and strengthen its relationships with existing customers via its lunch-and-learn program. The vendor’s focus on education, rather than hard-sell, is in tune with Answers IT’s approach to doing business. “They regularly offer to support us to host a lunch for our top clients where they send along one of their technical experts to talk about the trends that are emerging,” Gibson says. “SMEs are very interested in that – whether they’re properly protected. In recent years, that’s become a real focus.”
Meanwhile, the WatchGuard Partner Portal is a useful source of marketing collateral, particular for niche resellers like Answers IT that are too small to employ a dedicated marketing person. “They produce a great range of that are designed to link to social media; it makes it easy for us to get that material out to clients,” Gibson says.
Looking ahead, Answers IT may broaden the range of WatchGuard solutions it offers, following the vendor’s acquisition of endpoint protection provider Panda Security. “We’re keen to see how that technology will be incorporated – and keen to keep selling as many red boxes as possible – to ensure our clients have the protection they need to operate with confidence,” Gibson says.