DNSFilter articulates value to smaller MSPs at ASCII Toronto event

DNSFilter provides content filtering and threat protection at the DNS level, with a solution designed to challenge Cisco Umbrella through an MSP Go-to-Market model.

Rustin Banks, DNSFilter’s CRO

TORONTO – DNSFilter came north from its headquarters in Washington D.C. last week to the ASCII IT SMB Success Summit here, to bring its message to smaller MSPs in Canada. Formed in 2015, DNSFilter uses artificial intelligence to provide DNS-based Web content filtering and threat protection. They take their tool to market through an MSP channel.

This market has been dominated by Cisco Umbrella, the rebranding of the OpenDNS solution that essentially defined this space, and which Cisco acquired in 2015.

“Our one-sentence elevator pitch for MSPs at ASCII is that we block 50 per cent more traffic than Cisco Umbrella, 24 hours sooner, and at half the price,” said Rustin Banks, DNSFilter’s Chief Revenue Officer.

Like many – perhaps most – startups who bring an offering to market for MSPs, DNSFilter started as an MSP themselves and originally built their tool in-house for their own use. They were actually a happy OpenDNS user – until OpenDNS was acquired by Cisco.

“We started as an MSP, which still exists in South Carolina, and which  does a lot of wireless for large hotels and apartment buildings,” Banks said. “We were OpenDNS users – until the acquisition by Cisco. At that point, we were sent a new price, which was triple what we used to pay. The old road map was also cancelled. We looked at competitor products from Webroot  and WebTitan, but OpenDNS was the best. Their acquisition created a hole, so we built our own tool.”

The DNSFilter name was designed to be ultra-simple in terms of describing its functionality.

“We wanted it to be very obvious what we did,” Banks noted. “The caveat is that people think that we just provide content filtering. We do, but we actually do more threat protection now at the DNS level than we do content filtering.”

The threat protection market led to a key differentiator for DNSFiler – their AI capability.

“We thought that the big niche in this market was Day Zero threats, so we merged with an AI company on the east coast who has a team of engineers doing that,” Banks said. “We have built a system that can user the AI to determine if a site is a phishing site. Without any plug-ins, we can stop a user from visiting the site, even though we have never seen it before.”

Coming out of the MSP space themselves, DNSFilter targeted the MSP channel for their Go-to-Market strategy.

“MSPs are our sweet spot,” Banks said. “We were designed to be white-labelled, and they can do that. We do not reach out and sell direct, although we have had some small enterprises come to us directly. We just got our first Fortune 500 customer, who came to us looking for a solution that competed with Umbrella. However, we focus our Go-to-Market on the MSPs. We don’t want channel conflict.” In addition to lower pricing, they also offer monthly billing without contracts or commitment.

DNSFilter has global scalability, with an intelligent, global anycast network that has over two dozen points of presence across the globe to route requests to the best location for 100 per cent uptime. However, they were originally designed to be sold into the SMB space – because that was where they saw the biggest opportunity. It is the sweet spot for MSPs, and it is where the price differential with Umbrella will have the most resonance.

“We are now in the low thousands in terms of the number of MSPs we work with, Banks indicated. “The average MSP partner does $500,000 a year in revenue or less, but we go up to ones with $4-5 million a year. It’s a huge market. We are beginning to move upstream more as well, because like the Fortune 500 customer, people are beginning to look at us head to head against Umbrella.”

As they appeal to larger customers, DNSFilter is also beginning to draw the attention of MSSPs with SOCs, a channel that they have not used until recently.

“We are starting to work with a couple of MSSPs who ae integrating us into the SOC, which is easy because we are very easy to integrate,” Banks said. “This is a nascent market for us. With the MSSPs, our messaging is a little different from the MSPs. We are the tip of the spear for them. We can take the load off by preventing 98 per cent of the problems from even reaching the endpoint.”