Digital transformation and security – strategies and tips for the channel

Challenges and opportunities for service providers in today’s digital age

As digital technologies enable better ways of working, there are more devices connecting to networks and more employees working outside the corporate office than ever before.  One look at the exploding Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) market — expected to reach $366 billion by 2022 — is even more evidence of digital transformation at work.

In fact, even the phrase “digital transformation” is gaining more relevance. SMB Group’s 2019 U.S. Small and Medium Business Digital Transformation Study revealed that nearly 60% of SMBs are now familiar with the term and understand its meaning. This has nearly doubled from two years ago. Implementation of digital transformation initiatives also increased, growing from 36% in 2017 to 46% in 2019. There are also more SMBs changing business models and reshaping processes, an 8% increase since 2017 (now 81%).

For Chris Mathison at ClearSkyIT in the UK’s Wiltshire county, keeping pace with advances in security technologies is a critical focus for a managed service provider. “As an MSP in today’s market, if we don’t stay ahead of the curve, we risk becoming irrelevant. Securing small and mid-size enterprises requires new security strategies and solutions. This is where your solutions partner can bring massive value by helping you offer the best and most up-to-date services to your customers.”

As the team at ClearSkyIT is experiencing in real-time, the digital era brings both challenges for SMBs to maintain and secure cloud services, systems, and networks — and also opportunities for the channel, with the right strategies and solutions, to add expertise and support.

Opportunities for MSPs and resellers to shine

The channel can not only support SMBs with the digital shift, but at the same time, deliver new value and generate revenue. 

According to SMB Group’s research, small businesses still face the same challenges transitioning to digital technologies as they experienced two years ago, including:

  • Integrating new technologies with existing systems
  • Determining the best solutions that will help their business
  • Finding the IT skills and staff to support new technology

Bill Cochrane, MSP and founder of Cincinnati-based Cochrane Technology Support, sees this firsthand. Bill says the ultimate challenge is finding smart ways to apply new technologies within limited budgets.  “I’m always trying to find ways to not only help customers adopt cloud-based tools, but do this economically. It’s really about helping businesses use new services that will align with their needs without disruptions,” he explains.

While Bill still supports on-premise servers, many of his customers are now using applications like Office 365 and other cloud services. He says cloud-based security has solved a lot of challenges in terms of helping customers make the digital shift while staying secure.  

A few years ago, he turned to Avast Business CloudCare and continues to experience benefits of the integrated services. “The cloud-based functionality of CloudCare and range of services are really key because I can log in from anywhere and gain the visibility and tools to manage my clients’ security.”

Securing the new network perimeter

As Chris and Bill are experiencing, SMB networks require a different security approach — conventional antivirus and firewalls are no longer enough to protect users working outside the walls of the corporate office. 

Presenting more challenges, using legacy security hardware and multi-point solutions to secure endpoints and networks may add even more complexity to the security stack, and often, does not deliver the level of web protection needed.  Unified threat management (UTM) solutions solve for some of this, but can still be too complicated and expensive, or lack performance. UTMs also complicate Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) inspection, which is required for complete protection against web threats. The constant monitoring required for this type of inspection can be disruptive or impact system performance — users often choose to turn it off, leading to additional vulnerabilities in the network.

For example, SSL encryption is necessary to keep data private and secure, but attackers are also leveraging it to hide malicious content. Attackers build their own websites with SSL encryption, hiding malicious content into SSL-enabled sites. This makes inspection of SSL traffic critical, yet because of performance issues, SSL inspection in security solutions is sometimes turned off.

There is no question that SMBs need the expertise that the channel can offer, yet how do you effectively protect web traffic beyond the network perimeter, and at the same time, simplify security and scale your service reach?

Smart, simplified endpoint and network protection 

After completing a security review of all his clients, Bill at Cochrane Technology Support recently added the new Avast Business Secure Web Gateway (SWG) service, delivered through the CloudCare platform. “I had been reading news about the recent ransomware attacks on MSPs and small businesses and believed it was the right time to review my customers’ state of security,” he explains. “For smaller clients that don’t have a dedicated firewall, a service like Secure Web Gateway has been a very smart sell because the price is right and it offers an extra layer of security beyond just antivirus protection.”

Products like CloudCare and its Secure Web Gateway service also strengthen his client relationships. “Secure Web Gateway was a very easy sell to my clients, not only because they trust my recommendations, but the capabilities are amazing for the price point.  Almost everyone I pitched the service to, said yes. I can deploy this remotely so there is no disruption to them — the pain points for my customers are really nonexistent.”

Following the release of Secure Web Gateway service, Avast Business also introduced its new Secure Internet Gateway (SIG) service. 

An immediate outcome for Chris at ClearSkyIT has been the ability to create new security packages for customers. “We are currently working on a package of managed security services for our customer base — and for a company of our small size, this can be difficult to impossible to deliver efficiently, and at the same time, profitably,” he shares. “But now that Avast Business has added network security services like Secure Web Gateway and Secure Internet Gateway, we can provide a very high-end robust security package very easily, without having to take on extra staff.”

Chris is trying both services in a trial run now and says, “The Avast team is helping us stay on top of it all, as well as help us bridge the gap between the SMB and the larger enterprise space.”

It’s time to start protecting today’s SMB networks without the complexity and high cost. To find out more about our Secure Web Gateway and Secure Internet Gateway services, visit

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