Blog | October 3, 2012

4 Takeaways From The GFI MAX Conference

By Jay McCall

One of my favorite parts of any trade show or conference I attend is to hear what the keynote speaker has to say about the most important trends they’re seeing in the channel, as well as hearing their advice to the VARs and MSPs in attendance about capitalizing on those trends. So far, just about every event this year has listed cloud computing and BYOD/mobile device management as top trends you need to be aware of, and rightfully so. However, at a recent GFI MAX trade show I attended in New Orleans, they listed a few additional trends that were different from other events I’ve attended. Here is a highlight of the top 4 trends that Dr. Alistair Forbes, general manager at GFI MAX, a managed services vendor that boasts more than 6,500 MSP partners worldwide, thinks you need to know about.

1.  Platforms  (Unix, Linux, Windows, Mac) Matter; Here’s Why
I was surprised when I saw this topic listed as #1 on GFI’s list because I usually here the opposite, touting that virtualization and remote access make platform distinctions irrelevant. What I wasn’t thinking about is the fact that not all RMM (remote monitoring and management) solutions support all the major platforms. GFI MAX announced that is does -- or will by year’s end. Why is this important? Even though Microsoft Windows comprises 92% market share of the platform space, Microsoft’s decision to stop supporting Small Business Server (SBS) was viewed by several MSPs I spoke with as a threat to the channel.  Some are even changing their business strategy and planning to move their customers to other platforms, such as Unix or Linux. Even if this fear turns out to be all for naught, you will run into customers running non-Windows platforms, and requiring them to switch will be a losing proposition.

2.  Security: The Threat Is Shifting
A quick look at the top 20 malicious programs on the Internet reveals an interesting point: As problematic as adware and Trojans are, they’re a miniscule threat compared to malicious URLs, which comprise 85.8% of the overall malicious online programs. Also, according to GFI’s research, the software that’s most susceptible to exploits, includes: Adobe Acrobat Reader (40% of exploits), Java applications (27% of exploits), generic/other (24% of exploits), Android Root (8% of exploits), and Adobe Flash (1% of exploits).

3.  Cloud Computing: Are You Ready For The Next Wave?
If you attended 50 trade shows this year, I’m convinced the one common thread among them all would be a focus on cloud computing. GFI had some interesting insights on this topic that I thought were worth sharing. Here’s a summary of the most important points:

  1. Understanding of Cloud Computing Continues to Grow. CompTIA’s 3rd Annual Trends in Cloud Computing study revealed a significant uptick in understanding of cloud computing, comparing this year to last year, among the following groups: small firms (up 51%), medium firms (up 36%), large firms (up 26%), executives (up 32%), IT staff (up 24%), and business staff (up 47%).
  2. Big Cloud Opportunities Are Happening in Small and Midsize Businesses. According to an Edge Strategies survey commissioned by Microsoft, titled, “SMB Business in the Cloud 2012,” (Feb. 8, 2012), the number of very small companies (2-10 employees) using paid cloud services will triple in the next three years, and the number of companies with between 11 and 25 employees will potentially double. Half of the SMBs surveyed agreed that cloud computing is going to become more important for their businesses. What’s driving this adoption? The number one driver for SMBs (no surprise) is the desire to cut costs. Also, more than 70% require technology that enables their staff to work anywhere at any time, and 56% prefer a single source for their IT, and many want a mix of application and infrastructure sources.

4. The World Is Going Mobile
According to a February 2012 report released by Canalys, worldwide shipments of smartphones (488 million) overtook PCs (415 million). This year, in the United States, Apple’s iOS claimed 37.4% market share (up 8.7% over last year) and Android claimed 50.2% (down 6.8% over last year) of the mobile platform market share. The biggest opportunities for VARs and MSPs, according to CompTIA’s Trends in Enterprise Mobility study, reveals that end users’ biggest need (25% said this was a heavy focus and 40% said it was a moderate focus) is support for employees in the field. The next two biggest needs include support for traveling employees and mobile connections with customers. It’s also important to note that many companies have serious concerns over mobile security. In fact, 48% listed downloading unauthorized apps as a top concern. And, 42% said that device theft/loss was a top concern, followed closely behind by mobile-specific viruses/malware (41%) and open Wi-Fi networks (41%).

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