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November 13, 2017
By Sean Sykes, Managing Director for Avast
The managed-services industry is facing a watershed moment, as new technologies and new ways of working make the traditional hardware-based perimeter security paradigm obsolete. Unfortunately, changing the game by adding new services to an established practice is not easy. VARs, MSPs and consultants of all stripes face a tough choice: Stick with the status quo and compete on price, or evolve the practice to avoid being commoditized.
One way to add major value for clients is by offering a carefully curated bundle of managed security services. As the current threat landscape has shown, there has never been a more critical time to prioritize security in your services portfolio. Cybercrime now represents the most serious threat to business continuity and revenue. The roughly 28 million small businesses in the United States are under attack from a variety of fronts, from ransomware to DDoS to phishing schemes, but these organizations may not realize how vulnerable they are or, if they do, they simply do not have the resources or skills to address the issues. For example, Ponemon Institute estimates that 59 percent of SMBs have no visibility into employee password practices, and 65 percent do not strictly enforce password policies.
This is a significant, untapped market. By adding managed security services, partners can not only deliver real value to their customers as trusted security advisers, they can differentiate their business and create a strategic competitive advantage.
Here are five keys to success:
Stay ahead of new cyber threats. Imagine your SMB customer turns to you after just having been hit by a ransomware attack. How do you respond? If you are not prepared for a security incident as your client’s adviser on all things IT, you will lose their trust and their business. If you cannot protect them, they will find someone who will. It’s that simple. Follow reputable news sources, security bloggers, the FBI, independent testing organizations and institutes like SANS.
Build on your core expertise. You are most likely providing IT services remotely, likely through a remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform. Start with value-added security services that integrate with your existing RMM offering. Your staff will be comfortable with the tech, and the integration will enable you to assess, deliver and monitor security across all of your client sites.
Demonstrate your value with reporting. The more you can more quickly demonstrate your value to customers, the better your bottom-line results. For example, security tools integrated into an RMM can enable MSPs to work from one platform to identify vulnerabilities across endpoints and networks, monitor data and generate detailed reports that track remediation and time frames, and clearly explain how and when issues are being resolved. Make sure customers see these, not only to demonstrate your expertise but so …
… that they know what volume and types of attacks are coming at them.
Land and expand. Effective cybersecurity should be deeply rooted into every piece of a company’s IT infrastructure and policies, including elements such as firewalls, content filtering, password management, backup and recovery, remote working, security training, and more. When you oversee a client’s complete security infrastructure – in addition to other IT services that you manage for the company – you gain the opportunity to strengthen your relationships and become a true trusted partner, making it much harder for your competitors to displace you. For example, helping to write security policies gives you deep insight into the business and often face time with LOB execs. Security training can be offered as a service.
Differentiate your business. The services of traditional VARs and MSPs are becoming commoditized. A robust managed security services program, in addition to your existing services portfolio, makes you not only attractive to your existing clients, but new ones as well. Once you have a full slate of mainstream security products, it’s time to make custom bundles. Consider working with a channel-focused startup (here are ways to engage) or maybe even develop your own products based on internal IP. Open APIs make this a much more realistic proposition.
Today’s cybersecurity climate is creating a sink-or-swim moment for partners, and it is clear that those that are willing to adapt to the changing tides are the ones that will stay afloat. Change involves risk, but we are not suggesting a revolution — just consistent evolution to keep up with the constantly changing needs of IT. Innovative providers see the value in expanding their focus beyond the traditional priorities of availability, stability and performance to include network management and cybersecurity services. Ultimately, they provide SMB execs with the one thing they really want: peace of mind so they can focus on their businesses.
Sean Sykes is managing director for Avast and leads revenue responsibilities for the company’s Avast Business division. For the past 20 years, he has helped technology firms position their offerings and build successful direct and indirect sales channels in North America and LATAM.
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