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Exclusive Interview with John Pagliuca, CEO, N-able

With participation of Stefan Voss, VP product management

John Pagliuca is president and CEO of N-able, Inc. since 2021. He joined the company from SolarWinds where he spent more than 4 and half years as president and EVP for the MSP business. Before that, he was CFO for LogicNow and occupied several finance positions at GFI Software, TeamViewer, Airvana, Sandburst and Arthur Andersen. In his free time, he does lots of family trips and the outdoors – camping, fishing, skiing, and exploring other countries and cultures. He loves sports and coach his kids’ soccer teams. Being from Boston, MA, he’s a big Sox and Pats fan.

StorageNewsletter: N-able spun off from SolarWinds in 2021, well recognized in the MSP market segment. It is even traded on NYSE. Could you share with us a few figures to get a sense of your company, like revenue, number of employees, partners and customers.
John Pagliuca: As of 1Q23, our trailing 12-month revenue was $381 million. We have approximately 25,000 managed services partners who rely on our platform to deploy, manage, and secure the IT environments of over 500,000 SME customers. We have more than 1,400 employees around the globe who help to support those partners and their SME customer base.

What did you do before N-able?
I caught the “IT bug” early on in my career via a finance track with a special focus on assisting start-up and hypergrowth companies in software and SaaS to bring new groundbreaking technology to market. Later on, I was a CFO at a tech company that was acquired and became the president of a division that was spun off to become, what is now, N-able, where I currently serve as CEO.

It’s been great to see how things have evolved in both tech and the companies I’ve been honored to serve over the years.

Good, in terms of strategy, what was the reason for the spin-off from SolarWinds? Did you have difficulties addressing market needs or segments or SolarWinds lost its agility?
One of the key drivers for the spin-off was the “F” word – Focus. The strategy behind the spin-off was to allow both companies to focus on their respective core competencies and markets. 

It wasn’t an issue of being able to address market needs or agility. We felt that by forming two independent public companies, we could allow both organizations to focus on and align more closely with each entity’s respective market, better serve their customers, and provide solutions that complement their respective customers’ needs.

Our ≠1 goal then and still today is to enable MSPs to grow their businesses by managing and securing the IT environments of the SMEs they serve. We have a strong partnered model that means we grow together and as demand for these services continues to increase, we are focused on helping our MSP partners break down barriers to fully leverage that growing market opportunity. 

So, what is the mission of N-able?
Our goal is to help our MSP partners keep up with the pace of change in a rapidly changing threat and IT landscape and provide the tools and business advice to allow MSPs to scale their business.

Our mission from day one is to provide a monitoring and management, security, and business solutions platform that empowers our MSP partners to solve the IT challenges of today while equipping them for the IT challenges of tomorrow. But it’s also more than that. Going beyond the technology, we provide our partners with industry expertise, training programs, and business support that helps take their business to the next level.

And how do you deliver this in terms of products and solutions?
We offer what we call “purpose-built technology” to help MSPs win. We offer robust, secure tools and the infrastructure to simplify complex IT ecosystems.

Simplification could mean providing a backup solution that significantly reduces admin time or the “breadth and depth” of our monitoring and management capabilities.

Our MSP partners have access to a full stack of technology solutions and the ability to build a custom portfolio that meets their respective customers’ needs. In turn, our partners can not only expand their business, but enable their customers to expand their own.

Our customer base has over 8 million users across the globe who depend on our solutions. We don’t take that dependence lightly. It’s why our technology is purpose-built. These users and our partners depend on us to protect their data, secure their environments, and provide solutions that keep up with the pace of change.

Cove Data Protection is your SaaS backup solution, where does it come from? I heard it was originally an IASO product.
Stefan Voss: Cove Data Protection is the modern version of a product called IASO that was originally developed in the Netherlands. IASO is the Greek goddess of recovery, which is where that name came from. Through a series of acquisitions and ongoing development and enhancement, it grew into the product today known as Cove Data Protection. It’s 100% our technology, and we’re proud to continue enhancing it.

What are the main features of Cove, and what differentiates your solution from your competitors? Any unique capabilities and last ones?
Voss: Cove offers comprehensive backup and DRaaS, with an extremely efficient underlying architecture that supports direct-to-cloud backups of servers, workstations, and Microsoft 365 data. 

Our unified multi-tenant dashboard, built-in automation, and fully managed cloud storage reduce administrative time and costs by orders of magnitude. 

Our partners tell us Cove is a game changer, saving them time (one of the most expensive and scarce resources for an MSP) and the ability to deliver higher service levels at a lower TCO features is Standby Image recovery in Microsoft Azure. 

This new feature delivers smarter DRaaS, helping MSPs and IT professionals provide full recovery services to end users – from fast, straightforward file-level restore to flexible, affordable disaster recovery, now including recovery in Microsoft Azure.

As a SaaS solution, it seems obvious to protect SaaS applications, do you do that and which environments do you cover?
Cove protects Microsoft 365 data related to the cloud. It also protects server workloads running on public cloud environments like Azure and AWS. Since Cove runs as a service, it’s fast and easy for partners to get up and running. 

We take tedious things like patching and updating applications off their plate while protecting their full estate (physical & virtual devices, M365, cloud-hosted servers) via a single web-based interface.

Beyond backup and DR, do you provide Archive or plan to?
Voss: Cove offers long-term backup retention, and our partners can choose how long they wish to keep data to meet regulatory and compliance requirements. Our 20+ data centers WW let them keep these archives in the region without having to manage cloud storage.

Ransomware is a real nightmare for everyone today, do you provide any specific mechanisms to prevent disasters initiated by such an attack?
Voss: Cove is particularly strong in this area, as our architecture reduces the attack surface on the local network. Many types of ransomware target backup applications and backup storage first to cut off that avenue to recovery. 

Because Cove is a SaaS application, the application is out of reach of malware on the local network, and because our primary backup storage is in our cloud, it is isolated by default. 

Cove also provides flexible recovery, allowing partners to restore the most critical applications and data types first, with the rest to follow once business operations are resumed. This differs from image-based backup products that make you wait to restore the full image before you’re back in business.

I see you also do security and remote management, among other things. Any details on those lines?
We are in the business of helping MSPs secure their clients by using our products and knowledge sharing. Our remote monitoring and management platforms allow MSPs to remotely monitor and manage their clients’ equipment. They can keep that equipment patched with the latest software to help ensure there are no vulnerabilities. 

Securely accessing that equipment is also an important capability when it comes to fixing issues. Then we have a list of cybersecurity products that help a wide range of tasks: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover from bad actors. 

In the event of a breach, these products help MSPs prove they have done their due diligence to secure their clients infrastructure.

What is your cloud strategy? How do you work with cloud giants?
We’ve been going big on the cloud. We acquired Spinpanel last year to accelerate our cloud strategy and what MSPs can do to manage and optimize their Microsoft 365 cloud stack. Part of that strategy also includes helping them to be more efficient in managing the cloud, with cost optimization, and with controlling or owning the cloud.

And it’s not just controlling or “owning” the cloud; it’s about owning the future and seeing the opportunities despite the challenges. Those opportunities are in the cloud. 

We also decided to invest in helping MSPs better facilitate around the cloud because the workplace is getting far more dispersed, change is happening so quickly, and technology and the security landscape are getting more, pardon the pun, nebulous.

As far as the cloud giants, our Cloud User Hub is a unified Microsoft CSP portal that lets you automate common tasks across all Microsoft 365 apps without switching consoles or customers. The majority of our MSP partners are helping their customers migrate to M365. Others are helping with Azure and with AWS. 

Then, of course, we have our cloud-first offering with Cove Data Protection, which we discussed earlier.

How do you sell your products, MSPs seems to be your preferred go-to-market model? Any other channels in mind or active?
Yes, MSPs are our primary customer base, but we also serve internal IT departments, and engage with VADs to help achieve scale and provide support to our channel partners worldwide.

How do you see the competition?
Competition is healthy. It keeps us on our toes. We know if we are not at the forefront of technology and keeping up with the pace of change, then our competitors will, so we maintain a focus on “forward together”. 

We always have to keep our eye on what will give N-able and its MSP partners a competitive advantage, whether it’s focusing on enabling cloud adoption, regulation and compliance, or disruptive technologies such as AI and automation.

What are the next steps for N-able both in terms of company but also in terms of products? What can we expect for the rest of 2023?
The cloud will continue to be a key focus through 2023, as will regulatory and compliance, automation, and AI. 

We’ve always been focused on our MSP partners and helping them grow their businesses, but also on how they provide stability in the face of change. They are the ones who guide the ship during uncertain times. 

I said in another interview after Empower, our partner conference in Prague, that MSPs need to be that technologist. Be that IT advisor. Be that business advisor. And that’s the torch we’re carrying for our MSP partners in 2023.

And of course, cybersecurity, which goes back to compliance. We are seeing a shift from cybersecurity being solely about risks, hacks, and breaches to being about compliance, and N-able intends to provide products and solutions that support that shift.