Sophos Central & XG Subscription: Service immediately discontinued
It’s already over after a year. For various reasons, we have decided not to offer any more monthly Sophos licenses in the future.
This decision has no direct influence on our existing customers. Sophos Central accounts already opened and billed monthly can still be used. We just don’t open new accounts anymore and refer to the annual licenses instead.
For those who want to know more about the background, this blog post gives a detailed insight into the problems we had to deal with.
Our original idea
With our Sophos Licensing Portal we offered our customers a Sophos Central & XG subscription on a monthly basis. The advantage of this was that billing was based on the “pay-as-you-go” principle every month. At Central, for example, you could start with one user and gradually increase the number. At the end of the month, only the licenses that were in use were paid for. With the annual model, you would have to order a new license for each new user, which is a much more complex process.
Even today, we still think that monthly billing should be the future. Unfortunately, however, the Sophos model is not compatible with our ideas.
The MSP Flex model from Sophos
Our Sophos Central and XG subscription were based on the official Sophos MSP Flex model. To become a MSP or Managed Service Provider you only had to complete a few certifications and were then authorized to sell monthly licenses.
Sophos introduces an MSP as a partner who is solely responsible for and manages the customer’s security. The partner is then free to put together his own “service package” and offer it to his customers at a monthly price. The license costs of Sophos can then somehow be mixed in.
As a great supporter of transparent prices, this type of “service” was out of the question for us. We saw the only advantage of selling monthly licenses in this MSP model and created the Sophos Central & XG subscription. This only included the monthly prices for the licenses and anyone who wanted an extra service could take advantage of it at any time in the form of a workshop or individual support services. For recurring questions, we had also built up a knowledge base for our customers.
However, this model did not meet Sophos’s expectations. For Sophos, we should always be the MSP between the customer and Sophos. We later found out that Sophos did not even allow an end customer with a monthly license to contact Sophos directly for support. Only we as MSP were allowed to open a ticket for the customer. Since we still wanted to give our customers independence, this support topic was of course already an absolute No-Go! However, we have not yet found a solution with Sophos, although we even traveled to Germany especially for this purpose.
Now, don’t get us wrong. We are always happy to support our customers and earn our money with services. We also want to be perceived as Sophos experts and not just as an online store. At MSP, however, customers are forced to pay our support in case of a problem, so that in most cases we will have to open a ticket directly with Sophos either way. In such a case, a customer with an annual license can place a ticket with Sophos independently and free of charge. It has to be said that many of the initial problems were a bug that we could not have solved either.
The characteristics of the MSP Flex model
What we can blame ourselves for afterwards is the fact that in the MSP Flex model we only saw the possibility of monthly licenses and simply ignored everything else. We simply thought that everything was exactly the same as with the annual licenses, only on a monthly basis.
That was exactly a big mistake, which finally became our fate!
In the following list you will find a few peculiarities of the MSP Flex model that have caused us to despair:
- Support requests must always pass through us first. A customer with an MSP account does not benefit from Sophos Free Support!
- There is no 30-day trial license for MSP. MSP accounts will be charged from the first month.
- A normal Sophos Central account cannot be converted to an MSP account. So if you already have an account, you have to uninstall all clients and reinstall and configure everything with the new account. If someone wants to switch back to the annual licenses later, the account cannot be converted even in this case!
- Mobile Standard and Mobile Security are not available separately. Mobile Advanced must always be paid at MSP!
- Email Standard cannot be used. The customer must use Email Advanced and pay more, even if the standard functions would suffice!
- MSP installs Endpoint Advanced by default. If the customer wishes Endpoint Standard, this can only be adjusted manually by us. In the past, it was at least still possible for the customer to change to “Standard” as Super Admin. This function was also simply removed without informing us!
- New Central products and features are delayed for MSP accounts. As a recent example, our MSP accounts will not benefit from the fact that Sophos has now included the Endpoint Advanced Features in the standard version.
- An MSP account cannot be activated for the “Early Access Program”. With the “Early Access Program”, you can already test features that will be released for others much later.
- The Enterprise Dashboard is not available for MSP accounts.
- There are always Sophos promos for annual licenses that are extremely competitive with the MSP program.
More reasons to quit the MSP Flex program
The above list already offers enough reasons why we decided to bury the idea with the Sophos Central & XG subscription.
Reason 1: Incorrect bills
The rules regarding billing are unusual, but actually relatively simple. With the MSP Flex program, the current use of all accounts is always drawn and charged on the 22nd of each month. So it doesn’t work like Amazon or Microsoft, where billing can be done hourly or daily.
The billing on the 22nd of each month was communicated to us by Sophos and of course, we gave these rules to our customers. But it happened that at the end of the month Sophos charged for licenses that were installed on the 23rd or even 24th of the month! One could not even rely on this 22nd, which then led to incorrect billing. Definitely not usable for us if we have to carry out a manual check every month!
Reason 2: The battle with prices
Our goal from the beginning was to offer monthly licenses competitive to annual licenses. As a result, we have foregone a large part of our margin. The MSP prices are divided into levels. If you have reached a certain number of installations, you will automatically slide to a higher level and get better prices. We also applied this model to our customers and adjusted prices as soon as we reached a new level.
With the monthly prices, we were of course always in competition with the annual prices. With repeated promotions from Sophos for the annual licenses, we became more and more difficult to explain to existing customers. With certain promos, we had no chance to keep up with the monthly prizes, even if we had passed the prize on one to one!
Another point concerns special project prices that do not exist for MSP accounts. For larger volumes, Sophos always has some room for flexibility with annual licenses. This allows us to ask for project prices in certain cases.
Reason 3: Arbitrary decisions and bad communication
What scared us most in the end was the volatility of the MSP model. Suddenly something could change from one month to the next without us being able to influence it. We just had to live with the decisions of the Sophos MSP team and somehow explain this to our customers.
Price increases at Intercept X
By upgrading Intercept X with machine learning technology, Sophos announced in February 2018 that the price of Intercept X will be increased. In April we still had no more detailed information on this. When we asked Sophos, we got the answer that the plan was postponed for the time being. However, existing customers of the Central Subscription should already be preparing for the fact that we will probably have to adjust prices in the near future.
Abolition of email standard
When the decision was made to abolish Email Standard and only offer Advanced, we were even asked for our opinion in the MSP XING Group. The Sophos MSP team wanted to know if we would like to offer both versions in the future, or if the advanced version would be sufficient. About 90 % voted clearly that Email Standard will be maintained and that both variants will be offered in the future. On Friday 29 June 2018 at 12:06 pm, we received an email from Sophos. It summed it up:
Email Standard will be replaced by Email Advanced. The changeover would take place from 30 June to 1 July.
We were therefore informed 5 hours before the weekend that our customers were now forced to use the advanced version and pay a higher price for the next billing!
The decision to waste six months of development work on our Sophos Licensing Portal was not an easy one. However, Sophos has made too many decisions for our taste that we simply cannot support. The MSP model stands for us on shaky legs and is like a sail in the wind. It is simply not sustainable for our business model and that’s why we’re rowing back and relying on the tried and tested annual licenses. Then we will no longer have to be annoyed about the promos, but can let our customers benefit from them.
Whether we will bring the service back to life in the future remains to be seen. While we can imagine this with the XG licenses, the probability of Central is practically zero. From our point of view, Sophos should look at Amazon or Microsoft. At Amazon, EC2 instances are even billed per second. But as this article shows, it does not only fail because of the billing model but much more because of the blatant limitations and differences to the annual model.
Existing customers of the Sophos Central or XG subscription can continue to use the service. However, we advise you to recalculate the annual licenses and change them if necessary. In terms of price, there are practically no more advantages and the disadvantages listed above have then disappeared.