Cofense is a cyber security organization that works to empower their customers to recognize phishing attacks and stop them in minutes. Their suite of products not only teaches customers how to spot phishing incidents, but it also helps incident response teams manage them. Their end-to-end phishing defence solution combines cutting-edge technology with collective human intelligence to protect organizations with a total security operations center (SOC).

“With Vanilla, the traffic to our community has increased by 100%! It’s incredible!”

-Senior Manager of Customer Education, Alex Siedsma

The Challenges: When Small Things Begin to Add Up

Initially, the Cofense community seemed to be acceptable for the SaaS product they were using it for. A few months later, however, when Cofense introduced a hardware product, their community wasn’t able to scale. The problem, explains Alex, was due to the issue with the community platforms’ SSO integration. “Anytime a user would register [with the new product] for the first time, it would not grant them full access to the community,” says Alex. As a result, every time a new user registered, Alex had to manually grant them permissions, which was frustrating.

Additionally, because the Cofense product suite was both offline and online, the community platform experience was not as seamless as they wanted. The process to get customers to login was very different based on the product they were using; essentially, something that should have been as simple as a click of a button turned out to be confusing and time-consuming. “It was like this whole process,” says Alex, “and so we were missing this entire segment of customers, which was a problem since our product was trying to grow bigger and bigger, and we were trying to get more people into the community.”

While this huge frustration alone might have been an issue that Alex could try to live with, once other issues started piling up, it was almost too much to bear.

One such issue was the fact that making even the smallest change in their community solution was nearly impossible. In fact, Alex even hired a full time developer with the skills necessary to make their community vision come true, only to find that their platform wouldn’t allow it. “A lot of the things we wanted to do,” explains Alex, “wasn’t possible—not because we didn’t have the ability to do it, but because [the platform] didn’t allow us to do it.” Additionally, every time they tried to do even the smallest change, there would be some sort of issue on the vendor end. 

As their contract was coming to and end with the vendor, they began having discussions about creating a better user experience, and what it would look like. As would anyone, they first reached out to their vendor to see if they could fix the login issues with their current platform. What Alex found, however, was that even if it was possible with this vendor, these were not the people they wanted to continue to work with. “We had been talking to [vendor] about it, and it was like pulling teeth,” says Alex. “I mean, just absolutely impossible to get straight answers and to have any customer service help with anything. We had a special integration made for our ticketing system, which broke shortly after launch; they were nickel and diming us to get it fixed, and honestly, it was the last straw.”

At that point, Alex knew that there would not only be a better solution out there for Cofense, but there would also be one with a responsive and efficient customer service team.

Pain points

And so, in 2018 and at their wits’ end, Alex initiated the process to search for a new community vendor.

The Search: When Great Minds Think Alike, It’s a No-Brainer!

Once Alex had decided that they would start to explore other options, she tasked her team with finding some other vendors that could get the job done. And right from the beginning, the ease of her search was quickly foreshadowed by the fact that both her Analyst and her Lead Developer independently identified Vanilla. Subsequently, Vanilla was put at the top of the list for possible vendors. 

“We went through a list of about 5-6 organizations and chose to take a closer look at 3 of them,” says Alex, “and the main reason why we chose to take a closer look at Vanilla was because of the flexibility and freedom it offered.” The flexibility and freedom offered by an open source platform like Vanilla certainly warranted interest by Alex and her team, but they weren’t fully sold just yet—they needed to learn more.  

When Alex and her team connected with Vanilla, their aim was to initially discuss the range of possibilities that the platform offered, however they left convinced they’d found “the one,” due to a variety of other factors. One of the biggest, says Alex, was the people she interacted with. “We had some weird questions and big asks for a small company,” laughs Alex, “and all of our questions were answered almost immediately, and the team made us feel comfortable and confident.”

Cofense Checklist

Vanilla was not only able to scratch off all the items on their wishlist, but it was also able to offer a type of partnership that Alex and her team had not had before. And with that, Alex and her team came to a unanimous decision; “every single one of us was like this is the way we need to go; it was really a no-brainer as we went through the vendor search process.”

At the end of the day, it was the people and the customer service that put the cherry on top of a big, delicious Vanilla sundae.

The Migration: When Your Expectations Are Low, But The Results Are High

Migrations are always stressful because it’s natural for people to expect the worst; this was no different for Alex. It was especially stressful because this migration was a huge undertaking that was set to be completed in a very short amount of time. Further, Alex was so used to being disappointed with her previous community vendor that being weary and anticipating a disaster, unfortunately, came naturally.

Little did Alex know, however, that she really had nothing to worry about; the team at Vanilla was confident and knew exactly how to handle it.

“When we went live that first day, we were all holding our breath thinking what trainwreck is about to happen,” says Alex, “and as it turned out, it was the smoothest thing we’ve ever done.”

The migration was as easy as pie, and restored Alex’s faith in community vendors.

The Results: Sign Me Up For More!

The decision to move to Vanilla was not only beneficial to Alex’s sanity since she no longer had to deal with issues related to SSO, but also to the thousands of members within the community. Moreover, Alex enjoys regular contact with Vanilla’s CSM’s and notes that the partnership to help Cofense reach their community goals is something she never expected, but now couldn’t go without. “Vanilla is just a breath of fresh air, and has been since we made the switch in 2018,” says Alex. 

With Vanilla, Alex was finally able to shape and customize the community, and make the changes necessary to create her vision. And now, the community is thriving so much that other departments have noticed; the numbers they’re seeing are unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. The community usage has increased dramatically and members are more engaged than ever.

Dramatic results

With the Cofense community drawing so much attention, other departments have begun to see it in a more strategic way. “Now, we’re in a position where other parts of our organizations are seeing the value that the community provides,” says Alex, “and they’re actually coming to me to have conversations about how the community can help them achieve their goals.”

Sufficient to say, Alex is beyond happy with their decision to move to Vanilla. But the secret sauce? It’s the positive and communicative relationship; as Alex explains, “having a great relationship with your vendor makes the product; it really makes a huge difference, and Vanilla’s team is one of the best I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.” 

In fact, Cofense was so satisfied that when Vanilla announced the release of our newest product, Vanilla Knowledge, in 2019, Cofense was among the first in line to grab it. While something similar to a knowledge base had existed on their previous platform, as Alex puts it: 

“Vanilla Knowledge offers a unique and clean user experience, which is something we’ve never had before.”

“I love that you can breeze through the knowledge base within the knowledge base itself,” says Alex. “You can click to the next article immediately and you don’t have to go out and click back; it sounds silly, but especially with product documentation, it makes a world of a difference.”

The functionality that Vanilla Knowledge provides is also something that Alex appreciates since it provides her with the ability to move content super quickly and easily. “It makes life so much easier from an admin side of things because changes can be made on the fly,” explains Alex.

Ultimately, Cofense found its forever community in Vanilla and hasn’t looked back since.