Tomorrowland: Meet the New IT

IMG_1546Innovation in the computer industry is occurring at breakneck speed. With increasing internet capabilities and other technological advances, along with a continually escalating competitive environment, it’s extremely hard to keep track of it all. That is good and bad news for channel companies. MSPs are being asked to do more for the businesses they support each year, which is great. Everyone loves more opportunity. But, with the varying needs of each employee in those organizations, addressing every single issue can be quite challenging. That’s not necessarily bad. If the provider can leverage internal resources and external channel relationships effectively, they can take advantage of a number of these opportunities.

MSPs have to look to the future. Their employees and customers depend on it and, while the effort can be tremendous, savvy providers research all the opportunities so they aren’t caught off guard. They keep an eye on emerging technologies and only invest in those with solid prospects. MSPs can certainly hedge their bets, but only after evaluating the benefits those innovations will have with current and prospective clients.

Those are a few of the points covered in the Tomorrowland: Meet the New IT session at ChannelCon 2016. Moderated by Seth Robinson, CompTIA’s Senior Director of Technology Analysis, this panel discussion included the four main segments of IT: hardware, software, security and data.

John Christophersen, President of Taylor Business Group emphasized the core philosophy change many channel companies are experiencing. “Infrastructure used to be the primary focus for most MSPs, then came data and security. Technology and information systems are no longer separate.” That signals a major shift in how IT is delivered, managed and supported.

Lines are blurring and MSPs have to continually reassess their relationships with key partners, as well as their clients and end users. They may even have to redefine their roles with customers in this shifting tech landscape, regardless of vertical market or size. “We often refer to ourselves as CIOs but, in effect, we are CTOs for our clients,” added Christophersen.  

It’s a multifaceted responsibility that will become even more important as new technologies come online ̶ for those who are properly prepared. Those roles will continue to vary by market and individual business need. “One of the largest companies in Los Angeles is our client, and even they are struggling with the cloud strategies that many channel firms have already mastered,” said Quy Nguyen, CEO of Allyance Communications. “Another has a development team in Tijuana; close enough to LA for the CIO to drive down and back to work on major projects.” The required support levels will continue to vary depending on the needs of the end client, no matter how big or small they may be.

Most prominent among those needs today is data protection. “Our customers continue to ask ‘How secure is my data?” suggested Rob Kischuk, CEO of Converge. “Keeping tablets and smartphones ephemeral is critical, and device-level security tools are getting better.” With IoT and other technological advances coming into play, new issues continue to pop up, including back door vulnerabilities and user inexperience (which increases the potential risks). The panelists were mostly in agreement that hacking is a technological problem with any new IT system and it can be mostly eradicated with the right tools in place and the support of end users. 

The ABC’s of IoT                                                                                                         
One of the most anticipated, though somewhat controversial, tech advances is still in the early stages. Tomorrowland session panelists were all quite positive around the channel prospects for the Internet of Things. “Between all the cloud, security and storage opportunities that IoT will drive, it looks huge,” Nguyen emphasized. Infrastructure and network support demand will surely rise, as should device configuration, implementation and integration services. Some compare IoT opportunities the VoIP transformation. Most small businesses won’t be able to do it on their own. Nor will the larger organizations that bring in specialists for new technologies so that their internal teams can focus on the day-to-day IT operations.   

How will MSPs know when their customers are interested in an IoT conversation? Chances are, some already are and “shadow” solutions are already working their way into their networks. “Look at the devices already coming in,” said Kischuck. “Expect IoT to continue to sneak in through the consumer channel and then really begin to swell. And, while refrigerators are already coming online, watch for the  smaller devices to create a clearer path for businesses.”

Securing the network and applications will vital. “On the consumer and commercial side, there will be risks,” said Nguyen. “Protection services and software will be needed to deny access to pedophiles, cyber criminals and others (cameras and data systems). It could be scary, so you need to take precautions for your clients’ sake.”

Another upside to these innovations is a continued push for bandwidth and new protocols. “We’ll surely see IPV6 happen now because there will be too much to connect,” added Christophersen. That network advance could benefit a host of new and old technologies, and make an MSPs job so much easier.

The Future MSP                                                                                                              
In the next ten, or even twentyyears, the channel professional’s mission won’t change much. They will still support their business clients’ needs. The level of that support and the complexity of their solutions may vary, but their goals should be the same. “Our jobs are people,” emphasized Christopherson. That could mean fixing a wireless problem today or their self-driven office robot in the future.

Is that on your service roadmap? Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but give it a couple years. As the Tomorrowland panelists stressed, each MSPs opportunities will be different. It all comes down to communications and planning. Listening to clients and building an IT services business that can support their changing needs. By spending a couple of hours researching the latest technologies, and evaluating your customers interest and need in such solutions, you’ll be a step or two ahead of the rest. After all, at the speed our industry is advancing, Tomorrowland is just around the corner.

Want the latest research on IoT, purpose-built for the channel? Download the new CompTIA Internet of Things Insights and Opportunities report. 

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