Security—the hottest market in an industry currently full of them—figured prominently at the ASCII Group Inc.‘s first SMB IT Success Summit of 2019, which took place last week in Orange County, Calif.
Held at the beginning of the Bethesda, Md.-based partner community’s 35th anniversary year, the conference included presentations by both channel pros and vendors on the ever-multiplying vulnerabilities faced today by businesses large and small, and the ever-expanding range of solutions for mitigating those risks.
“It’s an important topic, obviously,” says ASCII Group President Jerry Koutavas, noting that it’s an important opportunity for IT providers as well. Indeed, global outlays on security-related hardware, software, and services will climb at a 9.9 percent CAGR through 2022 to $133.7 billion, according to IDC.
SMBs will account for significant hunk of that spending, Koutavas notes, driven in part by increased access to more powerful solutions. “Technologies that were typically only geared toward the enterprise are now coming down market, and if you’re a small business you can effectively afford to have stronger protection for your business,” he says.
Speakers at the conference included ASCII member Robert Boles, president of BLOKWORX Inc., a managed security service provider in Reno, Nev. “He’s made a successful transition to become an MSSP,” Koutavas says. “I believe that a lot of MSPs feel that they may be there and truly are not there, because there’s a lot of work involved in making that transition.”
Boles shared some of the lessons he’s learned on his path to becoming a security specialist, including the importance of developing a thorough incident response plan. “Be proactive,” he said, adding that the time to find out you’re unprepared to remediate successful security breaches isn’t after one occurs. Boles also urged his peers to embrace defense-in-depth threat prevention strategies.
“There’s no silver bullet,” he said of today’s security solutions.
Sponsors at the conference showcased some of the newest such solutions in the event’s expo hall. Calyptix, Comodo, Duo (a Cisco subsidiary since last year), ID Agent, Mailprotector, Passportal, RocketCyber, Sophos, and Webroot (soon to be a unit of Carbonite) were among them.
“They see the opportunity, we see the opportunity,” Koutavas says of security vendors. “We feel that if we can present some of these tools and allow the members to move in a direction that’s going to help them get to be more of that MSSP, that’s definitely going to help.”
Speakers at last week’s show discussed more than just security. Angel Rojas, CEO of DataCorps Technology Solutions Inc., a provider of cloud and managed IT services in Brandon, Fla., discussed best practices for developing a service practice tailored to the needs of plumbers, electricians, and other end users in the home services market.
“Managed services have been around for a while,” he observed. “A lot of what we do is commoditized.” Specializing in a seemingly obscure vertical like home services can help channel pros differentiate themselves and collect higher margins. Be patient though, he counseled. Cultivating industry expertise takes time.
“You’ve got to stick with it,” he said.
Indeed, ASCII included Rojas among its speakers, and plans to present similar content in the future about specializing in the law enforcement market, precisely because launching a vertical practice is time-consuming. “The shortcut is to allow these people to see their peers, hear from them on what they’ve done successfully in those marketplaces, and use it as sort of a jumping board, if you will,” Koutavas says. “It definitely helps influence their decision to go after new opportunities.”
The keynote speaker at ASCII’s 2019 events, by contrast, doesn’t address new opportunities or have any direct experience in IT. Instead, NASA engineer Adam Steltzner (pictured), who led the team responsible for safely landing the Curiosity rover on Mars in 2012, provided advice on tackling complex, technically demanding tasks. That’s a topic most MSPs can relate to, Koutavas notes.
“They have their challenges to make everything work,” he says.
Steltzner, summarizing concepts outlined in his book The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation, stressed the importance of open-mindedness, humility, and collaboration in his presentation. “A collaborative, curious team of individuals can do anything,” he said.
Koutavas and Shannon Mayer, ASCII’s vice president of channel development, honored the winners of the show’s audience awards at the conclusion of the conference:
Best Education: ID Agent
Best Partner Incentive: Solutions Granted
Best Presentation: RocketCyber
Best Keynote: Datto
Most Innovative Solution: Mailprotector
Best Market Opportunity: ConnectMeVoice
Best Partner Support: Datto
Best Channel Program: Pax8
Best Revenue Generator: Microsoft
Best Rapid Pitch: GreenLink Networks
Best of Show: Datto
Top Distributor: Pax8
Best Partner Involvement: Datto, Pax8, ID Agent
ASCII’s Orange County show was the first of nine this year. Future stops on this year’s tour will take place in Dallas, Washington D.C., Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, Denver, Toronto, Iselin, N.J., and Boston.