Name: Scott Paul
Title: Strategic Account Executive, Microsoft

RCP: What do you call your program?
Paul: AppRiver Partner Program. Since we've been channel-centric from Day 1, we didn't perceive a need to create a separate branded identity for our two-tiered Office 365 practice. Instead, we simply streamlined Microsoft cloud into our familiar Gold Reseller program as an additional set of cloud services partners could take to their clients with our help.

What do you call the CSP resellers in your program?
They are typically managed service providers focused on SMB clients, but we call them partners. That label tends to help us stay very clear on the nature of the relationship.

What requirements does a partner need to meet to be a reseller for you?
Basic partner onboarding consists of reviewing and signing our partner agreement, and participating in a one-hour live partner onboarding call with one of our Channel Account Managers. In the first 30 days, we also look for partners to begin using our free, on-demand partner certification training, and to engage our sales and technical people in co-selling and team onboarding of a live customer or two. MSPs who follow this strategy ramp quickly to revenues and run rates they find meaningful and scalable.

Is there a cost involved?

One of the attractions of the CSP program is that Microsoft does not own the customer billing. But has a reseller substituted Microsoft owning the customer billing for you, the CSP distribution partner, owning the customer billing?
AppRiver partners who resell Office 365 have full control over the billing terms and rates they employ with their clients. Now that the CSP program provides for Digital Partner of Record (DPOR) control, we can also ensure that our partners' MPN IDs are attached to their clients' Office 365 subscriptions.

Of course, AppRiver partners who want to maintain an agent-style relationship (AppRiver provides client onboarding, support and billing, and pays a commission to the partner) can do so. However, nearly 100 percent of our Office 365 partner growth since the start of our two-tier pilot in January 2014 has been under the reseller model. They price it, sell it and bill it -- that's what MSPs want.

What protections or assurances have you put in place to reassure the reseller that they own the customer relationship?
During partner onboarding, AppRiver establishes a commitment to partner account ownership. We explain and demonstrate protections that eliminate channel conflict, and we deliver Office 365 two-tier capabilities in a way that leaves no doubt in the minds of our partners that they are in control. Over the past decade, we've learned a lot about what MSPs want and need in a reseller program -- and how hard those things can be to find. We're always working to make sure our reseller program stands out for its simplicity, flexibility and partner-friendliness, and the addition of Office 365 has been no exception.

Do you offer a white-label billing option or white-label support options? Is there a fee or different participation requirements for partners to use a white-label version?
In response to interest from firms that often prefer advanced white-label partnering options, such as telecoms, SIs, and ISVs, we're preparing our systems and teams to support higher levels of billing and support customization. The commercial model around such white-label relationships is being developed in consultation with existing and prospective AppRiver partners.

In addition to distributing Microsoft cloud keys and billing, what benefits are you providing to the resellers that they can, in turn, offer to their customers?
As a born-in-cloud service provider with a focus on messaging and security, AppRiver offers resellers a single source for an array of cloud services that snap on to Office 365 and help make clients more secure, more compliant and more resilient. Advanced e-mail encryption and delivery control, e-discovery and compliance archiving, and cloud-based Web protection are some examples.

As an original syndication partner and the proof-of-concept for two-tiered Office 365 distribution, we also bring a wealth of experience few others can claim. Our free trial ("try/buy") experience is unique in the Office 365 ecosystem, and it helps give our partners some of the highest conversion and retention numbers in the business.

What differentiates your CSP distribution offering from the other CSP indirect partners?
Since the CSP indirect model is still in the early stages, it's not easy to know the ins and outs of the programs a partner might want to compare. The experience factor is one differentiator that partners can literally take to the bank, and our try/buy experience may be another. Phenomenal Care for Partners means direct access to a dedicated Office 365 escalations team, Office 365 Internal Use Rights licensing, expert pre-sales and onboarding support, and other partner benefits. It will take time to see how the newer indirect CSP offerings coming out now compare to the model we've developed over the past two years or so.

How much demand are you seeing from resellers?
Resellers account for the majority of AppRiver's Office 365 volume, and both our total Microsoft cloud volume and the percentage coming from resellers are growing. We expect to see continued strong growth in partner demand for AppRiver-powered Microsoft cloud products as new services like Dynamics CRM and Azure come online.

How many resellers have you signed up so far for your CSP program (United States and worldwide)?
More than 1,200 AppRiver partners have been activated under our indirect Office 365 partner program, the vast majority of those being in the United States. We're adding more than 50 new partners per month, and 80 percent of new partners activate the Office 365 option within their first 30 days.