Our world is changing. We are facing an environment where we have to be more than managed service providers (MSPs). We have to understand all the specialty practices that interface and integrate with our services. If we are unable or unwilling to do it all, we must be open to forming partnerships to meet the demands of our clients. If we do not, we run the risk of losing our clients to those who better understand the changing landscape and volatility of our market.
Most of us have added services through the years. We have upgraded software and products as technology has changed and improved. We are more concerned about our customers’ data as well as their uptime. We have implemented antivirus protection and backup programs. We have established strong, lasting relationships built on service delivery and trust. This model has been serving us well for over 20 years. The old adage is true, change is inevitable, and it is pushing our clients to ask for more. They need a full portfolio of services, including advanced technologies and integrated security.
How to compete in a rapidly changing environment
As MSPs, we make up a very diverse group. We include everything from one-person shops to large firms with global enterprise clients. For most of us though, we are small businesses. As small- to medium-sized business, we have limits. The ability to take on new products and services to meet our client needs is not always feasible. Many times, the advanced technologies required to meet the needs of today’s clients is beyond our reach from a bandwidth, personnel, and financial perspective. Building infrastructure is expensive and time-consuming. For many of us, a lack of resources makes it almost impossible to compete in this rapidly changing environment.
So how do we compete? How do we retain our clients? How do we meet the need for advanced technology solutions and security? How do we keep our businesses viable and moving forward? These are real questions we must answer. If we don’t, time will not be on our side. Our clients will slowly dwindle as MSSPs and larger more financially capable MSPs slowly infiltrate our client bases.
This is the reality of our business. It is in transition and it is moving fast. We can no longer wait and see where it is all going to go. We must prepare for what is coming. We must understand that business security and data protection is a major part of our mission going forward. We must become security-aware in everything we do. It’s not just about keeping a client up and running anymore. We must keep them safe and secure as well. This is the future of our business.
Introducing the hybrid MSP
The answer to our future may lie somewhere between being an MSP and an MSSP. Let’s call it a hybrid MSP. A hybrid MSP understands the need for security and data protection. They understand the basic principles behind cybersecurity and what it means to be cyberaware. They have undergone some cursory training and are able to talk to their clients intelligently about cyber-risks. They are able to discuss and understand solutions that are available for their clients’ protection. Hybrid MSPs invest in knowledge and partnerships. They understand that knowledge is the key to move forward and strategic partnerships are the answer to both the financial barriers to entry and customer retention.
The tools we need as MSPs to provide advanced solutions are typically designed for enterprise clients. They are expensive and cumbersome to integrate, implement, and administrate. Most of these tools are far beyond the financial and technical reach of most MSPs and too expensive for SMB clients. In reality, the cybersecurity business has been designed specifically for enterprise clients. It has not been until recently that new ideas and technologies have been designed for the SMB market, which is under siege from cybercriminals.
It is a simple premise to understand. It is far more efficient to attack a large number of unprotected small businesses than it is one large, highly protected enterprise. In addition, cybercriminals understand that attacking SMBs is almost risk-free. It is almost impossible to find a case where a small business was attacked and the infiltrator was caught and prosecuted. It is also clear that many enterprise attacks start with an attack on a small subcontractor only to infiltrate the larger company through a network connection. Hence, the Target attack, where the company was breached via one of its HVAC vendors (Krebs on Security). It is only a matter of time before enterprise companies require their subcontractors to implement certain security protocols.
While all of this sounds daunting, there are security providers that also understand the dilemma for SMBs. They see the gap in the market between security solutions for enterprise clients and SMBs. They know that there is huge market potential in the SMB space and they are creating products to solve security issues that are affordable and scalable. These are the companies that will bring cybersecurity and data protection services to MSP providers and their clients. They will provide the hybrid MSPs with their solution sets.
Unfortunately, these solutions are disparate. Most of them are built in silos only addressing part of the problem. They must be integrated into full-scale layered security solutions to be effective in the SMB market. The emergence of security integrators is the missing link between security solutions providers and the hybrid MSP. Security integrators investigate, research, and integrate multiple security platforms into a single solution specifically designed for hybrid MSPs to provide comprehensive security solutions for their clients.
Our world is changing. Ignoring the change will result in lost business and revenue. Embrace the change and prepare for the future.
For more information on security integrators and how to leverage their solutions to retain clients and win new business, stay tuned for my next blog… Security Integrators, Creating Hybrid MSPs.
Rick Miller is COO and Partner of The Tek, an MSSP specializing in risk assessment, risk mitigation, protection, and education to SMBs. Rick is a long-term veteran in the IT industry. His success has been founded in propelling start-ups and turnarounds to success and profitability. His experience has helped to grow multiple companies from start-up to profitability.