ChannelTrends: Is IoT a Viable Tech Business Practice?

IoTBuzzword or business opportunity? That’s a common question when channel professionals bring IoT (Internet of Things) into a conversation. Is there real money to be made by MSPs and solution providers?

It doesn’t help that the term is so vague (what exactly is a thing?) and the technology options are so vast. Most of the early offerings have targeted consumers with basic apps and little or no management options for a third-party provider. Without channel programs and massive business demand, the “value-add” opportunities for tech firms have been somewhat sketchy.

Up to this point, many in our community continue to answer the IoT opportunity question with an unqualified “maybe.” While channel professionals may like what they see from a technical perspective, many of their clients haven’t asked for nor seen a need for these technologies. Yet.

But with IoT projected to infuse $7.1 trillion into the global information technology market by 2020, according to research firm IDC, MSPs and solution providers have undoubtedly contributed to its rapid growth. With 50.1 billion ‘things’ expected to be connected in the next three years, the channel will need to play a continually larger role as these solutions move downstream into the SMB space.

CompTIA’s Internet of Things, Insights and Opportunities report lists out the technical aspects, including connected computers, mobile phones, tablets, printers, televisions and monitors, media streaming devices, watches, security and fire systems, HVAC, vehicles, appliances, and lighting. Smart Cities and other IoT-related initiates will drive demand and expand channel firm’s solutions potential.

1.       Network is the backbone
The critical part of IoT is the “connected” environment. How many small businesses have enough bandwidth to support their short and long-term IoT aspirations? SMBs will likely need network assessments before investing in expensive projects that need robust online connections to operate properly. Those with subpar networks will require upgrades̶ meaning project and management opportunities for MSPs and other service providers.   

2.       Proactive management
With so many possible links, devices and applications, a minor network or power issue can cause severe problems for IoT solutions. Uptime is essential. Managed services are the perfect fit for customers implementing next-generation connected technologies. MSPs can be that guardian angel watching over their networks and devices, ensuring those systems are operating optimally at all times.  

3.       Security, security, security
Every new thing a business connects to its network is an access point for cybercriminals. When they add in a multitude of untested applications and cloud solutions, the risks escalate exponentially. That’s where security experts earn their premium: assessing current and potential vulnerabilities and helping their clients build defensible IoT platforms.  

4.       Integration opportunities loom large
Not all connections in the IoT world will be “plug and play.” Channel firms with integration expertise will find plenty of opportunities in the future. That may involve low-hanging projects such as linking pre-developed apps to a client’s devices, or headier ventures, like designing custom connections for unique solutions. Creativity is the only limit.  

5.       Virtual CIO
Whether you love or hate the term, small and mid-size businesses need someone they can trust to develop their tech strategy. IoT is a complex concept to those with little technical knowledge. Channel professionals can and should be the adult in the IoT relationship‒taking the lead, outlining the potential problems, and making it happen. In other words, they can fill a crucial client business need and drive larger margins.    

What could IoT mean for your channel firm? Check out CompTIA’s Six Steps to Success in the Internet of Things.

Brian Sherman is president of Tech Success Communications, a channel-related content and social media development firm. He served previously as the chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com