Linksys has also strengthened their support for the channel selling this Business Division offering by strengthening support for partner business motions and improving its optimization for MSPs.
Today, Linksys is releasing its Linksys Cloud Manager 2.0, their cloud-hosted WiFi Management Platform designed for SMB environments and sold through their Business Division. The new version of the platform changes the licensing from five years free to lifetime. The lifetime free technical support has also been improved. A Captive Portal Designer has been added for businesses or MSPs to design custom guest access portals and splash pages. Support for the partners who sell the product has also been enhanced, with improved zero touch provisioning for MSPs, and a renewed focus on commitment to channel partners, which includes removing retail and direct channels which competed for sales.
Linksys first introduced the Linksys Cloud Manager in 2018. It was a new type of product for them then, combining enterprise grade technology with functionality and complexity more suited to SMBs, and they expected it would take the market by storm. Luck, however, was not on their side.
“It was very unfortunate from a timing perspective,” said John Minasyan, Linksys’ Director of Product Management. “It came out just as Linksys was going through the acquisition by Foxconn. That created some uncertainty and staff turnover, and it took some time to settle down and get back to normal. But we now have had three consecutive quarter records for APs shipped per quarter.”
The 2.0 version is now being launched in the middle of the COVID pandemic, which Minasyan says has both positive and negative elements for this kind of product.
“Linksys has both a consumer side with home routers and the business side, which I run,” he said. “The consumer side is going gangbusters during COVID, and can’t keep enough inventory in stock as people try to buy a better network.”
The business side is more complex, as increased demand for remote connectivity competes with truncated demand from natural customer segments like hospitality and retail which have been hard hit by the pandemic.
“On the business side, the core networking and wired switches is down year over year,” Minasyan indicated. “On the other hand, WiFi for touchless transactions is doing really well. So the business side has seen both a lift and a decrease in demand, but the lift has been better. COVID has also made TCO a more critical vector than it was before. We believe that our low-cost quality hardware, where we have not cut costs by using cheaper components, combines with our free cloud to deliver the lowest possible cost.”
When Linksys Cloud Manager was introduced in 2018, it featured five years of free management, to differentiate it from competitors that could charge $100 or more per AP per year. That has now been extended to lifetime free management.
“When we launched it with five years of free licensing, the problem is that everyone asked what would happen after five years,” Minasyan said. “So we extended it to deal with this uncertainty. APs tend not to be in the field more than five years, but it was a sticking point.”
Linksys Cloud Manager also launched with free dedicated technical support from CCNA certified technicians for the life of the product. That support has been improved.
“The idea here is to be the easiest company to do business with,” Minasyan stated. “We now offer free lifetime technical support from 5 am to 11 pm PT, Monday through Friday. Before, the technical support was not through a dedicated line for business users. You had to go through our consumer support line. This removes those steps to provide automatic access to Level 2 support for business customers.”
With this version, Linksys also becomes the first cloud network management vendor to offer a captive portal with an advanced splash page editor built into the platform, to build custom guest access portals. It lets customers create a fully customizable, mobile-ready splash page in under five minutes with no HTML experience.
“The captive portal lets you capture information about users, create metadata, and use that to serve user-specific ads back,” Minasyan indicated. “Initially, the focus is on that brand-centric experience. Over time we have aspirations to turn it into a marketing vehicle and allow the business owner or MSP to monetize it.”
Cloud Manager has also been re-architectured from a hybrid design to native cloid management.
“The architecture was originally built in a hybrid model and cloud bridged into it,” Minasyan said. “It worked, but it was slow, and it made our lives more difficult as we rolled up new updates. We had to do a lot of firmware updates to make sure worked. So we rebuilt the entire firmware stack so it is natively cloud based. That was a major undertaking for our engineering teams. Eliminating local UI and pushing all the configuration details to cloud is much more responsive and eliminates some customer pitfalls.”
One design change is the elimination of the seven day snapshot from 1.0.
“We found that no one used it, and it cost us quite a bit for storage,” Minasyan noted. “Removing it eliminated 30% of the cost in running cloud infrastructure, which paid for the move from five year licenses to lifetime licenses.”
One technical change further optimizes the product for the MSP market.
“We have really enhanced the Zero Touch provisioning,” Minasyan said. “Now all the MSP has to do is set up the customer Wi-Fi virtually, and ship the box to the end user. Once they scan it, it appears as an inventory item , to provide remote access to advanced network and Wi-Fi radio settings without having to configure access points on-site. This is something MSPs will find very useful.”
This added MSP enablement is part of what Minasyan emphasized is a broader commitment to value-added partners.
“Two years ago we were omnichannel, and we led with a retail mindset instead of commercial,” he said. “You could buy on our website or on Amazon or from many resellers. We have pushed to contain our business model to eliminate distractions and to focus demand on channel partners. We will be a loyal vendor for our loyal channel partners. We also have now a dedicated networking sales team instead of leveraging the broader Belkin organization, and we are using the partner program to reward partners for demand creation ad loyalty.”
Linksys Cloud Manager 2.0 will be available on October 21st at https://www.linksys.com/us/cloud-manager/. Existing Cloud Manager users will be able to upgrade to Cloud Manager 2.0 for free.