Security As A Service: Hidden Treasures For Solution ProvidersSource: Business Solutions Magazine
By Kendra Krause, VP of Americas Channels, Fortinet
Today, solutions providers looking for new revenue opportunities are presented with a set of ideal conditions in which to expand their business. Several market dynamics are at play to support a managed services model for security, which offers a recurring revenue stream for partners who want to do more than sell a product, whether it’s hardware or software.
The worldwide economic downturn has forced companies, big and small, to look for ways to economize. Outsourcing IT requirements is a trend that has seen much acceptance; especially network security due to its constantly evolving nature. In addition, with the popularity and technological advancements of consolidated security solutions, it has become easier and much more affordable to obtain the necessary equipment and expertise to effectively support and maintain a services-based business. Consolidated security solutions, such as unified threat management (UTM) appliances, together with virtualization technologies, can allow partners to easily set up a managed security service for fifty to hundreds to thousands of users.
Managed security services is not a new phenomenon for midmarket and enterprise VARs. Many IT companies have developed robust businesses providing security as a service based on consolidated security appliances. But recently, SMB-focused VARs have also recognized the opportunity found within security as a service, and the current environment makes it easier than ever for them to tap into this new revenue source.
The ability to create predictable and recurring revenue streams is something that each VAR in the security space should consider as a viable business model because customers often do not have the right knowledge or resources to put the appropriate security layers in place. Many SMB customers don’t yet realize that a firewall alone is not enough, while others don’t have enough resources to keep all of their virus signatures up to date, which leaves their networks at risk. In today’s aggressive cybercrime environment, new viruses abound. Thus, customers are inclined to outsource their security requirements, which could prove to be a less costly and more secure approach to protecting their networks. This gives VARs the opportunity to educate customers and tap into the business opportunity available.
Many VARs are not able to pinpoint where to start with managed services and do not realize that the cost of entry to begin can be much lower than expected. By virtualizing all the security functionalities in an integrated security device, VARs can provide comprehensive security to customers with minimal investment. For example, Fortinet’s Virtual Domain (VDOM) technology allows VARs to separately configure policies for up to 250 customers per appliance. By partnering with a security vendor that enables you as a VAR to virtualize all of the core security functionalities within a UTM appliance, you can create a managed security service business with a very low entry point and fast ROI. The services model can be a very margin-rich business, so there is tremendous opportunity for growth.
There are several key areas within managed security services that are driving opportunities for VARs. VARs can either take over complete management of the network security function or take on key management and/or reporting functions for compliance purposes, such as providing comprehensive network security as a service, including continuous updates of the latest virus signatures, with management, analysis, and reporting. Also, additional recurring revenue can be obtained with subset of services: remote management and configuration of security appliances; value-added, business-relevant reports for business owners to understand how their networks are being secured and helping to determine regulatory compliance; and reports that analyze security risks by enabling granular visibility into and analysis of applications that may hinder employee productivity (Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter).
There is also a great opportunity for VARs to conduct network assessment and audits. Many customers don’t fully understand where possible security vulnerabilities exist in their current networks, so VARs can to help customer understand what additional security layers are needed to prevent ever-changing threats, and the most cost effective way to do this.
Although the worldwide economic situation appears to be on the upswing, efficiency of resources and stronger security are still driving customers toward consolidation — whether through consolidating their own security devices or through outsourcing of the security function. For those who choose the latter, managed security services using UTM appliances offer an excellent solution, providing strong protection in an easy-to-manage and cost-effective approach. VARs should take advantage of this trend to increase and diversify their revenue stream to include a services model for network security.
Kendra Krause is VP of Americas Channels at Fortinet and works closely with partners who have transitioned to an MSSP mode or provide managed security services as part of their overall security solutions portfolio.