In the wake of a global pandemic that has caused a fundamental shift in how companies approach the work environment, the role of MSPs in the business landscape continues to become more essential.
To survive and thrive in the new “work from anywhere” business model of remote work and physical offices, MSPs need to learn how to make deliberate decisions about the services and security they offer in order to be able to standardize, secure and scale their business both now and when the next major technological disruption hits.
Recently, Liongard CEO and co-founder Joe Alapat sat down with Brian Sherman on the IoTSSA Secure Connections podcast episode Making Deliberate Decisions to talk about how MSPs should think about the future of their business and how they approach managed services in light of the ever-changing security landscape.
A Challenging Year for MSPs
Most businesses were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and forced to quickly adapt to fully remote operations. The rapid speed of the adoption of new digital technologies to accommodate a distributed workforce has been a test of resilience and responsiveness for MSPs.
“I think MSPs globally have felt like they are drinking from a collective water hose with every customer looking to go remote,” says Alapat. “And if an MSP had set everything up right for remote work, the transition was much easier; but if they weren’t as proactive, then there was a lot of work to do. Any MSP that has survived this year and been able to build their business past those challenges has achieved an amazing milestone.”
But what happens post-Covid? Now that businesses and office buildings are starting to reopen, what does the new hybrid workplace look like, and how can MSPs support their customers in this new environment?
The Hybrid Workplace
The shift to remote work is likely going to have a major impact on what a typical business environment looks like going forward. While many employees enjoy working from home, there is still value in having physical office space for teammates to gather and collaborate for meetings, to whiteboard ideas or just to have social interaction with colleagues. But what does a hybrid remote/on premise office environment look like, and how can MSPs help their customers get there?
“This change doesn’t happen overnight. Hybrid workplaces are akin to other hybrid solutions like data centers and the cloud. When cloud technology was introduced, all data didn’t just suddenly get migrated to the cloud, instead we developed hybrid IT departments using both on-premises and cloud technologies for better outcomes. And the same will happen in the workplace—employers who have invested heavily in in-person office environments might transform traditional office spaces into more collaborative areas and create more fluid schedules to accommodate remote work.”
Your Service Offering and the Hybrid Workplace
As an MSP, you may be focused on becoming your customer’s trusted advisor. What Joe likes to call a “digital sherpa,” an MSP is essentially a digital transformation service provider that is helping their customers incorporate IT in ways that help them grow their business. With the influx of new technologies brought on by remote work, MSPs need to decide how much of the technology burden they’re willing to bear.
The new remote work environment brought to the forefront many platforms and technologies that were never fully utilized at most companies, except as optional software. Applications like Slack, Teams and SharePoint have gone from nice-to-have tools to essential business continuity technology. With the move to a hybrid office environment, businesses need to keep supporting that instant collaboration, but will also still rely on traditional applications, like email, to conduct business. For example, many businesses are using email for external or business communications and then using applications like Zoom, Teams and Slack for real-time, internal team collaboration.
“Building the right hybrid environment that enables more communication, faster, and with greater ease of use is something that MSPs are well positioned to advise [their customers] on. And as an MSP the fundamental question is: do you want to be involved in helping your customers manage these new systems and applications, or do you want to be on the sidelines and focus on other aspects of IT? This has to be a deliberate decision.
“For me, when I ran an MSP, we made the deliberate decision to incorporate all these new technologies in our service. Why? Because it drives up monthly recurring revenue. By expanding our service offering, we not only increased our MRR but became integral parts of our customers’ businesses.”
Cybersecurity in the Hybrid Workplace
The biggest change in cybersecurity management now is how large the digital footprint has become for each organization. Instead of just managing office networks and traveling employees, MSPs now need to think about every remote employee as an individual office with its own network, which introduces a number of complications in terms of new processes and threat management. Companies with remote workers need comprehensive cybersecurity protection, and the challenge for MSPs is to provide secure service without sacrificing end user experience. This deliberate focus on the end user experience can also result in increased MRR by taking on the management of upgraded security and services for remote workers.
“There are multiple opportunities to detect and disrupt breaches before they happen, from initial point of entry through reconnaissance and execution and sometimes it’s easier to examine threats in part rather than a whole so you can make deliberate decisions about which solution is best for each customer. Should you segment networks to reduce the threat of outside access? Does the core WiFi need to allow for lateral movement?
“When you start thinking about these pieces separately and deliberately, it becomes easier to identify opportunities to increase security without sacrificing user experience. And with the right safeguards in place at each point of vulnerability, monitoring performance becomes crucial for early detection and mitigation of threats before they affect your customers.”
Liongard Enables Unified Visibility in the Hybrid Workplace
The number of technologies MSPs manage has moved far beyond the endpoint. The number of systems to manage continues to advance, and the last year sped up digital adoption of these new technologies exponentially. At Liongard, we focus on providing MSPs with Unified Visibility—bringing all of your systems together for a simplified view that enables faster insight and business decisions based on historical data. The Liongard platform continually inspects all of the customer systems and automates the documentation so MSPs can capture all systems information in one view. Unified Visibility provides a complete picture of what systems your customers currently have so that you can make informed, deliberate decisions about what upgrades are needed, new security, and other services.
“When there’s such a big change that happens in the world that then prompts everyone to adopt digital technologies at such a pace, it has an impact on the MSP business model,” says Alapat. “And [companies] are going to rely on MSPs to be that trusted advisor ten times more.”
To learn more about how Liongard can help you get full visibility into all your customer systems so you can make deliberate decisions about your service offering, schedule your demo today.