AVG: Moving beyond antivirus

Audience attending summit

“This is our coming out party.”

The statement, made by AVG Technologies’ (NYSE: AVG) exec David Haadsma at the security vendor’s first global Cloud Summit last week in Arizona, referred to the firm’s 12 month-long restructure of its channel business and go-to-market strategy – with the event providing the first glimpse for many of the ‘new AVG’.

AVG’s “pivot to cloud and mobile” has seen the firm extend its portfolio well beyond its traditional antivirus business to now offer a comprehensive managed service that enables SMBs to manage their entire IT estate, under the banner of protecting “data, devices and people”.

“Our vision internationally of being the complete, remote monitoring and management, online backup, email security services, content filtering, NOC and helpdesk solution provider is resonating tremendously across the marketplace,” said Marco La Vecchia, AVG’s VP of channel sales for North America.

AVG’s acquisition of Canadian RMM software vendor, LPI Level Platforms, in June 2013 was a catalyst for the company’s new direction – as was the arrival of new CEO, Gary Kovacs a month later, who has overseen the changes.

“I joined a year ago and the number one priority that I set was to make a clear focus on the online security company, providing software and services across devices, data and people,” Kovacs – former CEO of Mozilla – told partners during his keynote.

LPI’s cloud-based RMM platform, Managed Workplace, provides visibility and management of the customer’s devices, applications, networks and cloud. AVG has added Managed Workplace to its cloud-based administrative platform, CloudCare, integrating products such as RMM and Mobile Device Management (MDM).

The acquisition saw the vendor add more than 1,500 active LPI MSPs to its roster of 10,000 channel partners worldwide, and has since signed up a further 1000 over the past 10 months.

“Today we have more IT service providers wanting to partner with AVG. The strategy’s working,” La Vecchia told partners, adding the firm is also seeing more interest from new and unexpected areas of the channel such as VoIP resellers, and copier and POS dealers.

Haadsma, VP of product management for SMB, revealed it was AVG’s partners that prompted the changes. “We thought the world revolved around security, so we formed this tighter team, we did surveys, we talked to partners one-to-one and we found out [security] was important to your world, but it wasn’t central to your world.”


The change in go-to-market strategy has been reflected in greater investment in field marketing and engineering.

In addition, 12 months ago AVG introduced a partner development programme, hiring Mike Byrne – former director of field & managed services at Dell – to head up the efforts. Byrne and his team have been busy developing a raft of new partner enablement tools, as well as more additional content to support partners, which it aims to rollout the first phase in Q1, 2015.

The vendor says it is also investing more in relationships with other vendors, such as Centrify, with which it has partnered to offer partners Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS), providing secure sign-on (SSO) for control over their customers’ cloud applications and mobile data.

AVG GM Mike Foreman says the deal with Centrify helps put partners “back in control of your customers’ data.”

He comments: “We know that with the rapid adoption of mobile, BYOD and cloud applications customers will require additional expertise from partners to help control and manage all their users’ applications and data. We are listening. That’s why, for the first time in this space, AVG is combining Centrify’s IDaaS capability with our existing RMM platform to provide a single, secure access layer to all our cloud services as well as more than 2,500 of the most popular cloud-based business apps for partners and their business customers.”

Mea Culpa

However, a significant part of the execs’ keynotes at the Summit focused on addressing criticism from partners, both surrounding its technology, and that it has previously neglected its SMB business in favour of consumer division.

Kovacs threw his hands up to partners, admitting mistakes had been made before he joined the firm.

He agreed that AVG’s commitment to SMB has “been unclear” but added “we are changing that. Going forward, you’re going to see a very different AVG, and a much greater commitment to SMB... We’re working hard at it.”

He also admitted that the firm has to do a better job at marketing and branding – a promise bolstered by the firm’s recent hiring of Joanna Brace, a previous senior marketing director at Skype, as its VP of marketing & product marketing for SMB.

From a technology standpoint, the integration of Managed Workplace hasn’t been without a few hiccups along the way – in particular a 19 hour outage at an AVG datacentre in April caused more than a few headaches for MSPs.

Describing the outage as “painful”, AVG’s VP of engineering, Greg Mosher, explained the outage was caused by multiple hardware failures. He said the main Managed Workplace cloud had grown too large, with too many partners in one environment.

“It did not failover well. We didn’t move fast enough as a company and that has coloured some of our future thinking,” he said candidly. Since then Mosher says AVG has improved its infrastructure, and started to horizontally scale into smaller, more resilient clouds.

Foreman also said the vendor was working to iron out other “niggling” issues, especially around the online backup product and is looking to simplify its billing system – he said the firm is currently in the process of selecting a new SaaS invoicing service – and creating a dedicated SaaS operations team to ensure applications are running.

Kovacs said partners had demanded greater choice and better products. “I hear you,” he told attendees, adding that AVG had made “significant investments” in engineering and paying off what he calls “technical debt”, fixing problems in the backend to offer greater uptime and simpler UIs.

As such, partners attending the Cloud Summit were given a preview of key new features in AVG Managed Workplace 9.0, which include increased automation, enhanced reporting and alerting and boosted patch management.

Changing the mindset?

AVG is attempting to move away from what one spokesperson described as “a myopic view of security.” The direction it is taking, and particularly the LPI acquisition, has prompted questions from channel partners from both the managed services quarter and its traditional antivirus resellers.

According to one US-based MSP attending the conference: “Customers think antivirus. It’s going to take them a while to get away from that stigma.”

However, AVG appears dead set on its course, and need the channel to get to where it’s heading. Says AVG VP of engineering, Gary Mosher: “SaaS is a long term strategy of AVG. We’ve had problems but we’ve learned from our mistakes. Not saying we won’t have problems in the future, but we will try better – high availability and there when you need it.”

Adds Kovacs: “There’s been lots of discussion – is AVG going to go direct? Is it going to get rid of its channel? We can’t get there without you. We’ve done some great things, and sucked at some things but we’re going to work very, very hard to be much better, and make a stronger commitment to you, the channel.”

Christine Horton

Christine has been a tech journalist for over 20 years, 10 of which she spent exclusively covering the IT Channel. From 2006-2009 she worked as the editor of Channel Business, before moving on to ChannelPro where she was editor and, latterly, senior editor.

Since 2016, she has been a freelance writer, editor, and copywriter and continues to cover the channel in addition to broader IT themes. Additionally, she provides media training explaining what the channel is and why it’s important to businesses.