News Feature | December 27, 2018

The State Of VARs, 2019: Security And Education

By John Oncea, Digital Editorial Director

Government IT News For VARs — December 3, 2014

A coworker was telling me he hasn’t seen a Top Ten Films of 2018 list that doesn’t include Roma. In fact, more than half of the lists have the story chronicling a year in the life of a middle-class family's maid in Mexico City in the early 1970s as the top film of the year.

That same concept can be applied to 2019 VAR predictions: try and find a list that doesn’t include security and education in some way, shape, or form at or near the top. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If Security Is Number 1, Education Is 1A

As with any crisis, in this case cybercriminals, comes opportunity, educating clients. “Through 2021, social media scandals and security breaches will have effectively zero lasting consumer impact,” writes Kasey Panetta for Gartner. “The benefits of using technology will outweigh security and privacy concerns. People generally feel technology companies should be regulated, but despite recent security breaches, most continue using digital services and companies make very limited changes in the wake of an event.”

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You know lack of security awareness is a problem; are your making sure your customers do? In this ITWeb article, ConnectWise senior VP of International Sales and Strategy Greg Lalle writes. “2019 will be the ‘Year of the Customer.’ This year, the differentiator will be in managed service providers’ and value-added resellers’ ability to extract and learn customers’ needs, and how they leverage technology to help solve customers' problems.”

Lalle feels four trends will shape the channel in 2019. First amongst those four trends? Security will become big business and education will be a big part of that.

Software developer Intersog concurs, writing, “Whether it’s AWS, Azure, or Oracle, leading cloud providers and their platforms have generally been safe. These clouds feature the best firewalls known to man while their data centers are protected like fortresses. However, the human factor will continue to be the weakest link. As mentioned before, misconfigurations can happen, and this could lead to systems being down for hours or even days.”

Human error is almost always cited as the number one cause of security breaches and, as a VAR, helping your clients reduce —if not eliminate — human error is an area well worth exploring. SiteLock’s Adam Warner wrote a series of articles about this topic, including one specifically about the benefits of educating clients about security.

In it, he writes, “Educating your clients (and potential clients) about website security isn’t just the right thing for your business, it’s the right thing to do period. Let’s talk about why that is, who’s ultimately responsible for website security, and how a dedicated focus on security can help set you apart from the crowd while increasing your value and revenue.”

The article is well worth the read and offers up some great advice on how to leverage education as part of your business.

One Group’s Solution

The ASCII Group, a group of independent information technology solutions providers, integrators, MSPs and VARS, agrees. It recently announced it was educating members via security awareness training for their clients thanks to a new MSP Toolkit by InfoSec Institute.

Jerry Koutavas, president at The ASCII Group, said, “The MSP Toolkit incorporates the best practices and implementation strategies our members are seeking. This is a welcome addition to an already strong offering by the company and its ability to help MSPs in the ongoing battle against the fraudulent practice of phishing.”

William Chan, founder and president of Syzygy 3, Inc., added, “We have a trusted partner in the education space for technical training. The training is well-received by our clients and strikes the right balance of engaging and educational. It provides a well-rounded offering in terms of cybersecurity services.”

Security Offerings Increase The Bottom Line, But Only If Service Comes With It

ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini, speaking at IT Nation in November, said of VARs, “A lot of their meat-and-potato business is infrastructure, and much of that is now migrating to cloud-based solutions and IaaS and public cloud. They are literally competing with Amazon and others for the infrastructure products that they used to sell under the roof - switches, routers, servers.”

Bellini went on to say that’s where all the high margin was in the VAR marketplace and, as people move to the cloud, the margin's gone. “So they have no choice but to start selling the substitute which is cloud-based solutions, and now they've got to find a way to make money off of it,” Bellini said.

He went on to say the only way for VARs to make money off cloud security solutions is via services. "I would encourage VARs first to build their managed services practice, because a good cybersecurity practice must be built on top of a good managed services practice,” Bellini said.

“It must be built on top of it, and I'm being very declarative there. People think they can do it the other way, but I say no. If I had to tell you what to learn first, what's the 101 version versus the 201, it's managed services, then it's cybersecurity.”

Fortinet's Geoff Kreiling, senior manager for MSSP and Service Enablement, agrees. Speaking at the NexGen Cloud conference in November, Kreiling said, “Customers aren't buying Fortinet, they're buying you. They're buying the services and operations that you bring to the market. They're buying outcomes as a service.

Cybersecurity is poised to grow to a $132 billion opportunity with margins around 50 percent — much higher than on selling products and advisory and integration services. Noting that, Kreiling added, “That's why you see more and more partners want to pivot into that space” from the traditional VAR model they've employed in the past. “Cybersecurity is hot. We make a lot of our partners more profitable by making them more innovative.”