Collaboration is a must to provide the right security as an MSP

It is clear that MSPs have a clear future in the IT channel landscape. But what is important and necessary to make that future as positive as possible, and what paths should be taken to it? Cybersecurity provider WatchGuard Technologies and the Dutch IT channel hosted a roundtable discussion on this multifaceted topic on Tuesday 17 May at the Amsterdam Maritime Museum. In any case, it turned out to be important that any MSP should focus on the vital topic of security as a service. By internally acquiring knowledge to support customers in the continuous fight with cybercriminals, or by seeking cooperation in this regard.

Sven Janssens, regional director Benelux at Watchguard, at least emphasized at the beginning of the sometimes heated discussion that this security provider does not have a monopoly on the truth. He therefore hoped to go home with a number of insights from the market (and was not disappointed by this).

“We are working hard on an as-a-service portfolio that will enable MSPs to help their customers with everything from ransomware protection to proactive monitoring to prevent potential contamination early. We see a development in going to the market at MSPs. This is very much a model where we can help customers move forward together, a clear transition to managed services. Everyone looks at cloud solutions, but often a hybrid model is the best solution. Let’s tackle it together . “

Together in the transition

Janssens stated that Watchguard itself is also in a transition. “We are known for perimeter defense, the ‘box in the data center’. But in the last decade, we have expanded our product portfolio considerably with Secure WiFi 6 Access Points, a Multifactor Authentication solution and Endpoint Security in the form of an EDR solution. By bringing the management of these security services together with a simple but powerful management platform, the Unified Security Platform, we go much further than just offering firewalls and antivirus. That’s how we want to ensure business continuity. ”

The development of an MSP portfolio is also a transition for Watchguard. Janssens: “We want to simplify complex cases and bring it to the middle market / SMEs. Companies from this segment have the same security needs as large companies, but less capacity to realize this themselves. MSPs are the missing link there and are ideally located to help those kinds of businesses. Therefore, we have optimized our portfolio for MS (S) Ps and enable them to deliver enterprise quality security quickly and easily.

According to Witold Kepinski, editor-in-chief of the Dutch IT Channel, there are many security challenges that also provide opportunities. “There’s a huge need for automation to relieve customers, a huge opportunity for MSPs to really help customers with much more than just delivering technology. The related services are becoming increasingly important: employee training, increased cyber – resilience, cloud – security, identity management. Customers want to be protected and SMEs in particular are still extremely vulnerable. “

Clear acceleration

The future certainly belongs to the MSP, according to one of the guests present. However, it is going a bit slower than all market researchers have predicted. “You always have forerunners and parties sitting behind the wheel. There are still many cashiers. They want it harder, but it’s much slower than predicted. ” One can now see a clear acceleration in the shift from box to service, partly caused by two years of digitization during and now after the corona.

Another MSP present that it is particularly important that a technology provider does not sit in the chair for an MSP. Working together to adapt a portfolio to market needs is fine, but the focus should be on collaboration between MSPs themselves. And in doing so, they have to look much further than what is now often seen as security, but which is only a piece of prevention.

“I do not think in competition and prevention alone. I want every MSP to look beyond prevention now. Together, we must reverse the evolution of cybercrime. Cybercriminals and hackers work together, why do not we? There are a lot of big problems to tackle. ”

Eggs vs onions

Organizations often think they are already secure with a password, MSP says. But then you work with security, as if it were an egg. “You have a hard shell, but once it’s cracked, the hacker is inside. And it’s just going to happen one day. You should see security more as an onion with many layers. If the hacker is through one or two layers, you can stop him in the third or fourth layer. That is why it is so necessary to go from prevention to proactive monitoring and rapid response. ”

Working together to serve customers better is fine in itself, says an MSP in response, but it is a shared responsibility. “Those customers also need to increase their security with security. Of course, we also have a task to create awareness on that point. Many IT parties are now failing in this regard. And then a customer finds out that he is not adequately protected when he is hacked, while he thought that his MSP had provided his security adequately. ”

Minimum level of basic hygiene

All the more reason, moderator Danny Frietman believes, for MSP to take responsibility for getting customers to a minimum level of basic hygiene as soon as possible when it comes to safety. Something that those present certainly agree with, but where a provider of security tests at companies does come with a comment.

“Cybersecurity is really an expertise, more something for an MSSP. It also falls, but much less. An SME leader often struggles already with his regular IT. An MSP can help with this, but security is often not a core focus. If we trying to break in as a hacker, we are often already in the fifth or sixth layer of the aforementioned UI model before the security administrator discovers anything. “

Ultimately, it is important that an organization has a good overview of its vulnerabilities and that an MSP or MSSP shows the possibilities of tackling them. “Then the customer can work with you to determine what an acceptable risk is and what is appropriate, based on a good cost-benefit ratio.”

It’s really about managing risks, says an MSP. “To this we attach the type of technology that is best suited. But security is more than technology with us: it’s a combination of things. It includes awareness and communication about risks. As an MSP, we want the customer to be able to do his job with a smile. It also means that security is in order. But we also choose not to make certain elements. We are not actually a security party. So we do not have our own SOC. It is a completely different discipline, you have to leave it to a third party that specializes in it. ”

Legal danger

But choosing acceptable risks can be a legal danger, some participants say. There are more and more court decisions that place the responsibility for the consequences of a security breach on the IT provider, even if it is the customer who has determined that he does not want to buy certain security components – usually because of the price.

The courts are increasingly ruling that the ultimate duty of care and therefore the responsibility lies with the MSP. We are working on an audit ourselves to determine the extent to which a customer has already mastered his cyber security. But it has a limited capacity, so we can not get everyone through so quickly. And then again: a customer can take over a party, whereby we have absolutely no insight into its security level. ”

Clear choices

An MSP advisor emphasizes the need to make a clear choice about what one as an MSP offers or does not offer, and to communicate this clearly. “Too many MSPs still do ‘you ask, we drive’ and can not always deliver. Some MSPs have a clear offer in, for example, gold, silver and bronze, but then the sales manager still offers customization because he wants to “win a deal. There is a big pitfall. Sometimes you also have to dare to say no to a customer.”

Then the discussion again revolves around the need to work more together as MSPs to arrive at an overall picture of cyber awareness and security and disaster recovery, a good mix of people, processes and technology. But also to prevent a mistake on your part in getting a colleague MSP in trouble with a customer through collaboration. In this context, the Dutch IT Channel editor-in-chief Kepinski mentions the possibility of a sourcing model where different MSPs per. customer work together in different roles to offer a total solution.

Good financing model

One of the guests suggests that Watchguard not only develop a good as-a-service portfolio for MSPs, but also a good financing model around it. For the technology, but also for the management, if something goes wrong. Just think of recent examples like (but certainly not only) Kaseya.

There’s nothing an MSP can do about this, but he needs to clean up a mess with a customer who’s in trouble because he’s been hacked. Rely on no longer supported programs written 20 years ago on a ceiling.

“It’s great that Watchguard facilitates the transition to genuine recurring models, such as paying for hardware over three years instead of in advance. But how do you tackle the problems that occur when there is a bug in the software. It can easily cost us thousands of man-hours, and you do not have to knock on the door of the seller for that. ”

In fact, a good point to consider as a salesperson, Janssens agrees. Like the comment that shoemakers have to stick to their last: Watchguard does not have to decide what is needed for MSPs, but it can mean a lot by providing the right tools. Good education, training, certification projects, available and not at a top price, so that even smaller parties can benefit from this.


Transparency and good communication to the end customer; see cybersecurity as much more than just prevention. To make a choice between what you can or cannot offer as an MSP in the field of security and work with competitors on this – because the cake is big enough. There are still plenty of steps to be taken on the road to the bright future that lures too many MSPs.

But with the right support from vendors in areas where they have the expertise – such as awareness training, certifications or a 24/7 SOC as a managed service – and by offering the right financial facilities – the transition to a fully recurring revenue model will be the case. much easier.

Watch video report: Round Table: What does the MSP of the future look like?

By: Martijn Kregting

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