One of the biggest problems of the 21st century is IT security. With the Internet of Things having emerged in the last few years and increasingly maturing by the year, the number of vulnerabilities that we are faced with is not only infinite but also constantly evolving.
For example, any organisation today, stands a risk to threats that range from susceptible wireless technology, unsecured mobile devices and networks, cybercrime, data breaches, threats from emerging trends such as cloud and even from social media and related applications.
“It’s a competitive landscape and with the continuous advent of new technologies and emerging niche companies, it is imperative that vendors remain agile and offer the most they can to partners in an effort to remain competitive and also offer end-customers the best value,” says Naji Kazak, Regional Channel Manager, Lexmark Middle East and Africa.
But what’s key to note is that data security has taken over prime importance within the security space especially since organisations depend on it for growth and differentiation.
Ray Kafity, Vice President, Middle East, Turkey and Africa, FireEye, adds, “Today’s advanced attacks are focused on acquiring valuable and sensitive personal information, intellectual property, authentication credentials, insider information and each attack is often conducted across multiple threat vectors, web and email, and across multiple stages, with premeditated steps to get in, to signal back out of the compromised network, and to get valuables out.”
This complicated security risk environment didn’t develop overnight, in fact according to Maya Zakhour, Middle East Channel Director, Fortinet, too many of these concerns didn’t even exist a long time ago and it certainly has dramatically increased over time. But how can the channel partners survive, let alone maintain profitability in this highly dynamic space? Zakhour explains, “We encourage our channel partners to do more business and hence more profit by making sure all our partners are enabled by providing them with a free online training. We are encouraging our partners to be certified and hence being able to leverage a high level of services to the market. We are also pushing our partners for early engagement and deal registration which will ensure more profit for them. Not to forget the marketing fund that we are helping our partners with to make sure they grow their customer base and profitability.”
As complex as it may seem, the opportunities present for the channel is quite vast. In the Middle East region, IT security projects are increasing and the IT security market is growing at a healthy pace in line with global trends, which means huge opportunities for the channel players. Florian Malecki, International Product Marketing Director, Dell, Network Security, says, “For this reason there are significant opportunities for organisations to leverage this trend and expand their businesses. Some resellers have opted to take the Managed Services Provider (MSP) route, offering IT security as a managed services to generate recurring revenue. Other have specialised in professional services which offer high margins. We believe that the market is already conducive to IT security and offer new channels for business growth, increased efficiencies, and improved convenience for users.”
“Channel partners need to come up with comprehensive and innovative topline solutions that address various pitfalls in the security landscape, rather than focus on a product or box-moving approach. This way they can ensure productivity is maintained,” adds Ahmed Hawari, Head of Sales, Channel, ComGuard
Security, according to experts, is still one of the least crowded market places within the regional channel space, and early movers will definitely have the advantage to sell into a less competitive areas as compared to traditional systems integration within networking. Osama AlHaj-Eisa, Channel Director, Middle East & Turkey, Aruba Networks, says, “At present the only real challenge for the channel boils down to educating clients about the latest threats and vulnerabilities and impressing upon them the need to draw up and implement a holistic security policy. This should include approved devices, monitoring of uncontrolled wireless devices, authentication of wireless clients, encryption of wireless communication, access control policies, remote wireless access, client security standards and wireless guest access.” He believes channel partners also need to go beyond the basics of a particular security technology and gain a firm understanding of the key features of the solution. Without it, the partner will not be capable of implementing the solution to the best of its potential. “Not only this, insufficient knowledge may lead to a sub-standard implementation that will ultimately affect not just the partner but also the vendor’s reputation,” he adds.
According to Kazak from Lexmark, the challenge for partners is about strategic planning. “They need to differentiate themselves by offering features such as security solutions, applications and services. This has to be presented as a strategic package and not as a one-off, a-la-carte option.” He adds, “Partners must empower themselves by gaining this knowledge proactively.”
Fady Iskander, Regional Commercial and Channel Manager, Symantec, points out that channel partners also have trouble getting hold of capable and updated technical resources. “Having up-to-date access to the latest emerging trends in securing the customer and having access to business decision-makers and not only IT decision-makers are some other challenges the partners are coping with.”
However, Kazak adds that the stigma is still associated with security, where it is treated similar to travel insurance and it is something that can be done without. “While security concerns are paramount, few companies are reluctant to spend and be proactive about safeguarding their data and assets. As such, the channel needs to play a central role in educating customers about the importance of security measures. Our partners have the ability to deliver a clear message to potential clients that Lexmark offers a secure platform that combine advanced hardware and software security products.”
Because it is a continuously evolving space, channel partners can look forward to a positive future and all that’s required is foresight and the ability to identify opportunities early on. Agreeing, Yassine Zaied, EVP Middle East and Emerging Markets, Nexthink, says, there is a tremendous opportunity for partners to deliver added value to their customers, “Especially in the region where we have some very large organisations subject to APT that could be potential targets for motivated hackers. Organisations definitely need to invest into solutions that can provide real-time visibility and IT analytics of their entire infrastructure and endpoints.” Zaied further suggests, “Partners can provide these solutions to enforce the level of security protection from the head office to the remotest branch location, to prevent and remove malware infections without adversely impacting employee productivity and existing business processes.”
It is clear that with IT Security becoming a high priority for all organisations, the growing need for security and protection against the evolving threats will always create an opportunity for the channel. “Partners need to capitalise on this by ensuring they have the right vendor portfolio and tools available to deliver,” adds Christopher Green, Divisional Director, Westcon Security.