Published: October 17th, 2014

What is the biggest thing in tech news today? It’s not the cloud, and it’s definitely not “managed services.” With the advent of things like Office 365, it’s just not all that interesting anymore to tell a client that you “take care of everything.” So what’s the thing everyone’s talking about that you need to stay on top of?

Security.

Go to any news site you like (or if you’re super old school, open up a paper copy of the New York Times or something), and you’ll see stories about companies who’ve been targeted by some hacker or other to spread info out around the Net.

Security is what people are waking up to when it comes to their IT, and that can be what you can capitalize on.

I talked with Steve Rutkovitz over at Choice Technologies in Maryland, who’s made security the front and center of his business. In fact, Steve’s done so well with IT security for businesses lately that he’s set up a reseller service for other managed services providers (MSPs) to start capitalizing on the same opportunity he has.

“Generic MSPs are getting very commoditized,” said Steve. “The MSP has to find new worlds, or it’s going to be difficult to make as much money. It’s a lifestyle change, more than anything. I’ve been running an MSP for a long time, and I know what’s changing. Just saying we’re a better MSP than someone else just doesn’t work anymore.”

Steve said that he’d seen the writing on the wall two years ago, when it looked like the managed service craze was starting to die down. With the advent of services like Office 365 replacing the need for Exchange servers, and with so many MSPs entering the market, it was getting harder to make as much revenue at the same time as differentiating his business from the competition.

But he saw an opportunity when it came to security. “We have over 300 clients, and I looked across our customer base and the only common thread that kept coming through was that security is a really big deal for everyone.”

And the trouble was that no one had a structured security offering that Choice could take advantage of. So Steve did what a good entrepreneur does: he did it himself.

Choice worked for over a year to develop their security offering, which is a complete security package focused on detection and not prevention. The product is a SIEM partnered with EventTracker that Choice has taken the time to develop as an adaptable security offering that everything a business needs can easily plug into.

The product serves as a central dashboard for IT security, and everything else plugs into it – encrypted email, web filtering, vulnerability scanning… you name it. The SIEM collects logs from all the devices and workstations plugged into it, constantly running those logs against predefined rules that Choice has set up. That means it’s constantly looking for alerts against whatever a business needs to watch out for, whether it’s general problems that any business wants to avoid (like unauthorized access) or specific issues for compliance (like for HIPAA).

“It’s turn-key right out of the box,” said Steve. “It’s an appliance that drops right into a reseller’s client… it’s very simple for an MSP to deploy.”

And Steve has reaped the rewards of thinking ahead. He’s been selling the service to over 90 per cent of his existing client base, and it’s serving as a great differentiator to help get his business in the door of new business. But it wasn’t easy – everyone at Choice had to learn to present security as what a client needed above all else.

“The average MSP needs to step up their sales and marketing skills and learn how to sell security. It’s different from selling managed services or servers. It’s less a technology sale, and more about a client’s data and protection.”

But he thinks (and I agree) that it’s absolutely vital to the continued success of an MSP to take this kind of step. “I don’t think the average MSP is looking several years down the road. [The market] is shrinking slowly, and it’s going to keep narrowing as time goes on. But if you add new products like security, vCIO services, or specialized software… finding avenues that are moving away from commoditization and towards monopoly, toward the higher-margin less-competition products.”

And that’s Business Acumen 101 right there.