“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Benjamin Franklin was a man truly ahead of his time. His message to the inhabitants of our fledgling nation has inspired generations to advance their education and training to better themselves, their families and their communities. That quote should also be the channel’s rallying cry in 2017. Not from a “go back to school, get more college degrees” perspective. But to gain a better understanding of their customers’ challenges and acquire the knowledge needed to better support them standpoint.
The best way for today’s IT service providers to differentiate themselves and provide greater value to their clients is to become true experts in the areas that matter most. IT security is the perfect example. Most small businesses have little, if any clue how to properly protect their data. The smart entrepreneurs look to experts for help; those with the knowledge and skills needed to identify and mitigate their companies’ unique risks. While the tools (and the ability to use them effectively) are important, businesses can get them from a variety of sources today.
The real value today is knowledge. That means knowing which questions to ask business owners, department managers and other employees, as well as the specific regulations they must adhere to. Well-informed security professionals understand the risks and can properly assess all their clients’ network and data vulnerabilities. Those who can pull it all together, reviewing all that information and leveraging their own knowledge to develop a properly fortified IT security program, will likely find a high demand for their services.
The time to build those advanced practices is now. As noted in the 2017 CompTIA IT Industry Outlook report (a free download), the recent DDoS attack on DNS provider Dyn placed security back on the radar for many businesses. The use of connected security cameras as botnet attackers raised some eyebrows, especially with IoT just beginning to gain some traction in the SMB space.
Research studies show that most companies are ill-prepared for these types of threats, and it’s just a matter of time before a major attack boosts the demand of higher-level IT security services. And many MSPs are already seeing solid returns from their investments in advanced protection practices. Those firms will have a leg up on the competition as the market for increased security expertise explodes.
There is one major issue many channel professionals struggle with related to their security practices: moving from simply selling and supporting point products/solutions to building out a comprehensive expertise. That transformation isn’t easy, especially when the typical IT services provider has so many daily responsibilities to begin with. Dedication and a solid plan are essential to success.
One recommendation from experienced channel professionals is to “aim high” with security. During a session at a recent distribution conference, the expert panelists shared their best practices in that area. One suggested IT service providers start out by conducting a thorough assessment of their current and prospective clients’ business goals, infrastructure needs and vulnerabilities (current and future).
What data is most valuable, and what level of protection will they need to secure all the end points? That information can be used to design the proper solutions and systems. Since the weakest link in security is usually the human element, examining their existing policies and procedures is a must. Enhancements are typically needed to ensure a good balance between protection and employee productivity. No company wants all the negatives that come with a data breach, but they still have to provide system access (email, CRM, ERP, etc.) to those working from remote locations. An IT security expert who can strike that balance is invaluable.
Knowledge truly is key. The more you know about security, the greater your value to business. The great news for channel firms is they don’t have to offer everything themselves. Those who provide advanced security options like end user training, penetration (pen) testing and post-breach response services are often open to partnering. Collaboration is the force-multiplier for VARs and MSPs, but they still have to understand how each aspect of IT security works today (especially those supporting the SMB).
If breaches and network intrusions continue to grow and grab more headlines, as the experts are predicting, businesses will pay even for protection expertise. Most won’t care if the delivery is a collaborative effort. As long as they’re dealing with knowledgeable security experts who can offer the insight, tools and training that ensures their systems and data is secure, satisfaction is all but guaranteed.
Ready to take that plunge? Join the conversation in the CompTIA IT Security Community, a peer-lead group of channel professionals who continue to push the data protection envelope with advanced practice-related initiatives and education. Register here to get started.
Brian Sherman is Chief Content Officer at GetChanneled, a channel business development and marketing firm. He served previously as chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at [email protected]