The days when customers relied heavily on their value-added resellers (VARs) to inform them of the new elements and innovations that could be added to their networking capabilities have been clouded by an ever-growing reliance upon the internet. With the internet at everyone’s fingertips, we are always kept up to date on what is going on in the world of IT, the latest innovations and product launches.
Dealing with better-informed customers can be both a blessing and a curse for VARs. If a new technology looks attractive, the chances are high that sooner or later, customers will ask for it, whether or not they fully grasp how the addition of emerging technologies to their network would pan out.
For those tied to a traditional networking solution that requires on-site management and manual connection of new hardware, each new wave of technology is a fresh challenge. Site visits, scheduled downtime and trouble-shooting give resellers headaches.
However, there is no such problem for the reseller offering a cloud-based management solution. These VARs are much better placed to use emerging technologies to add value to their clients, mainly due to two factors. (1) VARs of this type can implement solutions much less intrusively and disruptively, in a more tailored way, so any new implementation is much less of a burden and (2) the growing trend for cloud-based computing means that emerging and innovative technologies are increasingly likely to have been designed with an assumption that network managers are in the cloud.
What’s more, because resellers of cloud-based systems can quickly implement new technologies with minimal disruption in this way, they have the freedom to review any requests or suggestions their clients bring to the table, confident in the knowledge they can accommodate and implement those ideas wherever they add value. This helps resellers to build strong, productive and long-term relationships with customers.
Focus on the opportunities
Artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, the Internet of Things (IoT), ‘smart’ devices, robotics, quantum computing, and blockchain all rely heavily on the cloud and some cannot function outside it. And this characteristic is increasingly shared by IT elements that were previously ‘offline’, reflecting a general migration towards remote control and access. When was the last time you bought software on a disc, rather than via online subscription?
New technologies, and technology generally, are migrating to and emanating from the cloud. But for some resellers and many of their clients, this transition is not straightforward. Legacy infrastructure, lack of resource and low confidence in, or understanding of, new technologies have led some VARs and their clients to cling to the old ways. A generalised fear of cybercrime is another factor that keeps some away from the cloud.
All of this is understandable, but frankly misguided. If cybercrime comes from the cloud (and it does) then it takes a cloud-based solution, driven by AI and responding to threats in real-time, to fight it. It simply isn’t practical to keep everything locked down on local servers any more.
People desire new technologies and are increasingly accustomed to the convenience, creativity, accuracy, and choice that technology gives them outside work. Most want to introduce the same qualities to their working lives and it’s illogical for VARs to hinder this. There are many aspects of emerging technologies that can prove invaluable to clients and thus offer forward-thinking VARs the opportunity to add substantial value to their offerings.
Blockchain, which operates as a shared ledger across multiple sites and is often used to automate financial and other transactions, has great potential in many businesses and sectors. Particularly if they strike early, VARs who add blockchain capabilities and/or blockchain support to existing or planned ecosystems will make a profit.
This advantage can be scaled up even further when it comes to IoT. Companies of all sizes want to integrate smart devices, sensor-driven lighting and heating systems, even mundane items like new routers and hubs, with their networks. VARs that can ship items pre-programmed are immediately more appealing and convenient for customers. This is since they can connect to the network as soon as they are installed, so customers can install them whenever they want, and then manage them remotely.
The savvy VAR also provides IoT clients with cloud-based, gold-standard security and protection from malware: it is surprising how often customers forget their smart devices are online and connected to the Internet and therefore vulnerable to cybercrime.
The IoT also lets resellers efficiently demonstrate ROI and/or value-add, because the benefits of integrating smart technologies into high-spend areas like energy or heavily-monitored elements such as customer service can be seen and measured within a short time.
Further approaches to network management, such as separation of traffic streams, network monitoring automation, and workflow automation can also help VARs to ensure that their clients get the best value from their network through improved productivity and performance.
But perhaps the most crucial benefit of cloud-based and remote network management has a criminal source. With cybercriminals now leveraging the powers of AI to attack businesses of all types and sizes, it takes an AI-driven, real-time response to defeat them. If a cybercriminal is trying to break down your defences and steal your data (and they will, probably more than once), you don’t have time to wait for a manual update or for your IT manager to visit. You must be vigilant and ready to act instantaneously 24/7.
With the use of in-cloud sandboxing to isolate questionable files, network segmentation and segregation, geolocation of IP addresses and constant, real-time updates to malware protection that respond to emerging threats before they become widespread, cloud-based cybersecurity is now the gold standard for businesses that care about their data and their networks.
What are the next steps for VARs?
Simply put, developing technologies can assist resellers to generate extra profit and impress clients. By listening to customer requests and through maintaining an open dialogue, VARs can gather intelligence vital to create and supply solutions that meet their customers’ needs. To do so, VARs must work in the cloud to ensure they can respond quickly and less intrusively.
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Thorsten Kurpjuhn – European Security Market Development Manager, Zyxel