Learn how partners can play an active role in assisting their SMB customers with risk reduction while modernizing through digital engagement.

6 Min Read
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Today’s competitive landscape is putting increased pressure on small and midsize businesses (SMBs) to provide digital experiences and services for their clients. Doing so not only allows your SMB customers to compete with businesses of similar size, but can also level the playing field with much larger organizations. This is because the tools and technology that enable digital engagements allow SMBs to more effectively communicate with their customers, building loyalty and meeting the demands of consumerization.

If your customers do not adapt, they are going to fall behind. But shortcuts can introduce new risks. The question, then, is: How can partners advise their customers on modernizing business with less risk?

SMBs Need to Adopt New Technology to Stay Competitive

Your customers know that modernization in accordance with current consumer demands is imperative to provide service for clients and win business and market share. In fact, 82% of SMBs are already on their digital transformation journey.

Specifically, some of your customers’ key focus areas for digital investment are cloud, mobility and customer relationship management (CRM).

  • Cloud: A recent survey shows that 48% of SMBs note cloud computing as an investment priority for 2019. Cloud computing has become crucial for several reasons. First, the cloud offers substantial processing power at a lower upfront investment. The cloud also enables greater productivity and accessibility for employees through the use of productivity suites. Finally, it enables businesses to scale to meet consumer demands.

  • Mobility: SMBs are also investing in mobile business, making themselves more accessible to customers, employees and partner ecosystems across a range of devices. This can mean a variety of things. Many SMBs are creating mobile applications and websites that enable consumers to engage from IoT devices, with about half of SMBs offering mobile apps today. Depending on the business, this may also include providing access to data on their network. This online presence has become increasingly important, as 88% of consumers do research online before purchasing in-store.

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM): SMBs are also bringing in third-party tools such as CRMs to enhance digital engagements with consumers, by collecting and organizing customer and prospect information. Thirty-eight percent of SMBs note CRMs as a spend priority. This means that your customers are increasingly leveraging and storing sensitive consumer data–and therefore must ensure its security.

Modernization Without a Plan Introduces Risk

There are many benefits to following through on modernization for SMBs, but there are also risks. Taking shortcuts with your strategy can be detrimental. Taking a thoughtful approach is essential to ensure that you aren’t opening your business up to risk–from a security/customer data perspective.

Consider, as you begin to get the benefits of cloud infrastructure and related services, how are you planning for regulatory requirements? Though many do not realize it, SMBs are at equal risk of cyberattack as larger organizations. Cybercriminals are after valuable consumer data, which SMBs store just as larger enterprises do. The difference, which cybercriminals know, is that SMBs are less equipped to defend themselves.

Furthermore, as your customers add new tools to enable digital engagements, they are adding complexity to their networks. A disorganized infrastructure can harm productivity across sites and locations, and can minimize visibility into how data is stored and used–think of distributed cloud and multi-cloud environments. This ultimately makes it harder to identify anomalous behavior and detect cyberattacks.

Finally, when adding new tools, your customers must be aware of any regulatory implications that accompany their use. For example, cloud instances or CRMs that store consumer data will have to be secured in a way that meets various standards. Otherwise, your clients risk receiving penalties from regulatory bodies.

Your customers need to ensure they have the resources in place to protect sensitive data and secure the new tools they use for digital consumer, employee and partner engagements. Additionally, they need to have the ability to maintain operations and performance should digital abilities be interrupted and meet regulatory rules.

Partners’ Role in Reducing Risk of Your Customers’ Modernization Efforts

Partners can play an active role in reducing SMB customers risk, while modernizing with digital engagement. This can be done by offering the tools needed to secure new technology deployments, and offering services and expertise in areas where SMBs lack resources. Furthermore, 47% of SMBs note information security as an investment priority in 2019; partners stand to earn a share by reducing the risk on the path to digital transformation.

Provide the Tools Necessary for Secure Digitization

SMBs need to secure their networks as they deploy cloud environments, integrate third party tools, and allow accessibility from mobile and IoT devices. Fortinet partners can offer unique coverage in each of these areas with integrated tools that offer protection spanning endpoints, LAN, cloud and more with single-pane of glass visibility.

For example, FortiGate Unified Threat Management can be installed on networks in 20 minutes to stop attacks before they can enter the network. FortiAP and FortiSwitch further enable the digitization of SMBs by extending security to the edge of the network, prioritizing applications for optimal traffic flow and adding extra switch ports for offices with more devices.

To speed up growth and digitization, many SMBs have turned to the cloud due to its fast deployment and low upfront costs. Partners can assist in the successful, secure deployment of cloud environments, such as productivity suites, by helping SMB customers to understand their exposure in the cloud and demonstrating the correct tools and processes for security. This should begin with a strong identity and access management process, and incorporate CASBs and web application firewalls (WAFs) where necessary. To enable mobility, FortiClient endpoint security secures the growth of IoT devices by maintaining visibility into various endpoints, protecting devices both on and off the network with high-impact threat prevention.

Offer Services and Expertise

In addition to providing tools, partners can assist SMBs in shifting to a service-oriented business model with enterprise-grade services and protections from FortiGuard labs. This includes customizable service offerings such as cloud sandboxing and mobile security, in addition to application control, anti-spam, intrusion prevention, and more.

Partners can also offer valuable insight and support to SMB customers around minimizing downtime in the event of a security incident to ensure they can maintain productivity, as well as guidance and actionable insights on remaining compliant.

To meet the specialized needs of SMB customers, partners can count on Fortinet to help craft correctly sized contracts, and offer support, expertise, and a range of resources including product training, technical support and more.

Final Thoughts

SMB organizations are expanding their networks with new tools to offer digital engagements to their customers. While this presents value to their businesses, taking shortcuts when it comes to deployment and security can create many risks. Through tools and services, partners can play a key role in allowing SMBs to modernize while reducing complexity and mitigating security and compliance challenges.

This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.

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