Insight, Opinion

How partners can be a catalyst for modernising SMBs

Jon Bove, vice president, Channel Sales, Fortinet, on how partners can minimise cyber risk for SMB customers offering digital experiences.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are experiencing increased pressure to provide digital experiences for their customers and end users due to changes in today’s evolving, competitive landscape. By providing digital experiences and services for their clients, SMB customers are able to compete with similarly-sized businesses, and can even take on larger organisations in the digital marketplace. The tools and technologies that enable digital engagements allow SMBs to improve communication efforts and build loyalty to meet the growing demands of online consumerisation.

This is not just a nice addition to their current business models. SMBs who do not adapt to these changes will fall behind. Therefore, partners must be able to advise their customers on how to modernise their business while still avoiding risk.

SMBs need new technology to compete

In order to provide the best service for clients and win market share, your customers must modernise in accordance with current consumer demands. In fact, 82 percent of SMBs are already undergoing digital transformation.

Concerning digital investment, key focus areas for your customers should include cloud, mobility, and customer relationship management (CRM).

Cloud: According to a recent survey, 48 percent of small to mid-sized businesses cite cloud computing as a priority investment for the year 2019. Cloud computing has become crucial as it offers significant processing power at a lower initial cost, enables greater productivity and accessibility for employees with productivity suites, and allows businesses to quickly scale to keep pace with the demands of their customers.

Mobility: SMBs are investing in mobile business to improve accessibility across a range of devices for customers, employees, and partners. Many SMBs are developing mobile apps and websites that allow their audience to engage from IoT devices. In fact, about half of all SMBs currently have a mobile application as part of their digital strategy. For some SMBs, increasing mobility may also include providing access to data on their network. 88 percent of consumers do research online before purchasing in-store, so this growing online presence is becoming imperative for survival.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM): SMBs are also incorporating third-party tools such as CRMs to enhance customer engagement. These tools collect and organise customer and prospect information, making it easier to provide personalised digital experiences. Close to 40 percent of SMBs note CRMs as a priority investment. As your customers continue to leverage and store sensitive customer data, however, they must also ensure it is secure.

Successful modernisation requires a plan to reduce risk

Modernisation introduces a number of benefits to SMBs, but also opens the door to many security risks. Taking shortcuts with strategy can be detrimental to the success of digital transformation. It’s essential to develop a well thought out approach to ensure that you are protecting against potential security and customer data risks. Start by considering how you are planning for regulatory requirements, security, and data privacy.

When compared to larger organisations, though many do not realise it, SMBs are at equal risk of cyberattack. Cybercriminals are looking for high-value customer data, which is stored by both SMBs and larger enterprises. However, adversaries are also aware that SMBs are typically less equipped to defend against attacks – making these organisations an easy target.

At the same time, as your customers enable digital engagements with new tools and technologies, they also continue to add complexity to their networks. These efforts can easily result in a disorganised infrastructure that can not only harm productivity across locations and hinder visibility into data storage and usage, but also complicate establishing the visibility and control necessary to secure their infrastructure. Take for example distributed cloud and multi-cloud environments. Without due care taken beforehand, these new networking trends can ultimately complicate your customers’ ability to identify abnormal behavior and detect breaches.

When adopting new tools, your customers must also account for regulatory standards that accompany their use, such as GDPR. In the instances of cloud computing or CRMs that store consumer data, security must meet even more stringent standards in order to remain compliant. Non-compliant tools leave your clients at risk for penalties and fines.

Partners need to ensure that customers have the resources in place to protect consumer data and secure the technologies they use for digital engagements. Additionally, your customers must have the ability to support operations and performance should digital efforts be disturbed, while continuing to meet regulatory requirements.

How partners can reduce the risk of customers’ digital efforts

By offering the tools needed to secure new technology deployments, as well as services and expertise, partners can assist in areas where SMB customers lack resources. For the year 2019, 47 percent of SMBs have noted information security as a priority investment. Partners stand to earn a share of this investment if they can successfully reduce risk along their customers’ path to digital transformation.

Secure digitisation by providing necessary tools

SMBs need to keep their networks secure as they deploy cloud technologies, integrate third-party CRM tools, and allow for accessibility from IoT and mobile devices. Fortinet partners can offer unique coverage in each of these areas by providing customers with integrated tools that offer security-spanning endpoints, LAN, cloud, and other environments with single-pane-of-glass visibility.

The fact is, many SMBs have turned to the cloud because it offers speed of growth and digitisation at low upfront costs. Partners can aid in their deployment of cloud environments by assisting customers with their understanding of their cloud exposure and by demonstrating the right tools and processes necessary for security. This effort should begin with a strong identity and access management process, and incorporate the use of web application firewalls (WAFs) and CASBs where necessary.

Extend services and expertise

In addition to providing tools, partners can help SMBs by offering enterprise-grade services and protections from FortiGuard Labs as their customers shift to a service-oriented business model. These services include customisable offerings such as cloud sandboxing, mobile security, application control, antispam, intrusion prevention, and more.

Offering valuable insight, partners can support SMB customers to minimise downtime in the event of a security incident by ensuring that they can maintain productivity. Partners can also help by providing guidance and actionable insights to assist in regulatory compliance.

Fortinet helps our partners meet the needs of SMB customers by crafting specialised contracts and offering support and expertise. Additionally, partners can provide a wide range of resources including product training, technical support, and more.

Final thoughts 

SMB organisations are using new tools to support the digital transformation efforts of their customers to expand their networks. While these efforts present real value to small to midsized businesses, taking shortcuts in relation to deployment and security can create unnecessary risks for these organisations. By leveraging the right tools and services, partners can play a key role in enabling SMB customers to modernise their networks while simultaneously reducing complexity and mitigating security and compliance risks.

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