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IT Nation 2018 drills into managed security opportunity

At the IT Nation 2018 conference, ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini bid attendees to embrace the fast-growing managed security market and abandon their generalist approaches.

ORLANDO, FLA. -- MSP software maker ConnectWise has taken several steps to boost its cybersecurity capabilities and make it easier for its users to develop managed security offerings.

At IT Nation 2018, ConnectWise's annual user conference, the company highlighted several factors making managed security the fastest-growing segment of the IT services market. According to its commissioned market research, managed security is growing at a 17% compound annual growth rate, while the traditional managed services space is growing at about 12%.

The increase in managed security demand is undoubtedly tied to the ever-widening IT security skills gap, in combination with cybercrime becoming more of a reality in the small and midsize business segment. Whether or not MSPs answer the call for cybersecurity services, their customers will inevitably look to them for protection and hold them accountable when something goes wrong. 

"If you are a managed services provider, guess what: You are totally on the hook for cybercrime on [your customer's] network -- unless they are hiring a second guy to do that. ... It's your responsibility. It's your liability," ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini told us in an interview.

It's time to specialize

Arnie Bellini, CEO at ConnectWiseArnie Bellini

The demand for MSPs to adopt cybersecurity services played into a broader message that Bellini delivered at IT Nation 2018: The days of technology generalists are dead. MSPs must pursue specialization on top of a baseline of managed services. That could mean focusing on technology areas like cybersecurity or IoT. It could also mean digging into a vertical market, such as financial services, he said.

"Being that horizontal player isn't going to work. What is going to change in this industry is you are going to see much more specialization. I would say about 40% of our partners are still offering just a very horizontal technology services layer. ... Everybody can do that now. It's not hard. They are going to have to specialize," Bellini said.

"Now, the smart ones are already specializing," he added. "So, you are going to see people say, 'Hey, look: I'm a managed services provider because I need to be if I want to be a good cybersecurity provider.' ... You have to have the two together."

ConnectWise bolsters security capabilities

If you are a managed services provider, guess what: You are totally on the hook for cybercrime on [your customer's] network -- unless they are hiring a second guy to do that.
Arnie BelliniCEO, ConnectWise

Bellini told ConnectWise partners at IT Nation 2018 that the company is helping its partners rise to cybersecurity on several fronts. On one front, he said, ConnectWise is working on deeply integrating its platform with a number of vendors' security technologies.

In addition to security integrations with Cisco, ConnectWise has piloted integrations with vendors such as Perch Security -- a company that ConnectWise invested in this year -- Infrascale, managed security services provider Sienna Group, StorageCraft, Webroot and Acronis.

"The whole idea here is to provide a better force field of security," he said of the technology integrations. "What we are going to do with this is we are going to create a security orchestration and automation response system" -- abbreviated as SOAR. SOAR will create "an open concept [to] allow all security products to interact in [ConnectWise software], so we can automatically respond and automatically take action" against security threats.

Bellini noted that ConnectWise is also focused on hardening its security internally through frequent penetration testing. He said ConnectWise is SOC 1-certified and will earn SOC 2 certification in 2019.

"This is a process that never ends. We just keep trying to harden, harden, harden, and that's what we are asking [our users] to do, as well."

IT Nation 2018 showcased new tools to help ConnectWise partners on their managed security journey. The first offering, a cybersecurity risk assessment tool, was developed in partnership with Sienna Group, based in Tampa, Fla.

The tool is available for ConnectWise partners to use on themselves and their customers for three months free, Bellini said. Additionally, ConnectWise and Sienna Group will provide users with a new agent-based vulnerability scanner, he said.

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