In the film Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) saves his ailing farm by making a baseball ground, after hearing a ghostly voice that tells him to "build it, and they will come".
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I believe the security market is in a similar position at the moment. If you prove you can secure it, customers will come. Even in these lean times, customers will pay for solutions that are effective, and deliver a clear return on investment. This means the demand for security is still strong.
How do we know? Because in December 2008, we surveyed hundreds of SMEs in the UK, to get an insight into their security budgets, pain points and plans for 2009. We questioned senior IT staff in both the public and private sector, to find what security issues mattered to them. The results could help you to target your sales efforts in coming months.
Budgets stay buoyant
First, the good news. The majority of respondents to our survey (68%) said that the current economic climate would not affect their IT security spending. A modest 5% said they expected spending to increase, and just 27% expected a decrease. So there is cash waiting for the right solutions.
The survey also revealed security spending priorities for the coming year. Virtual private networks and remote access security came out highest with 43% naming it as their top priority, with data encryption close behind at 35%. Securing virtualised environments was expected to be a focus (27%), while intrusion prevention and perimeter security weighed in at 28% and 25% respectively.
Cracking it with encryption
I believe that encryption, in particular, is set to be a fertile area for the channel. About half (49%) of respondents said they had encryption deployed in their organisations, 38% said they did not, and 13% did not know if they had encryption at all.
What is really interesting is that encryption deployments have hardly risen in the past 13 months - despite the high-profile data leaks and losses in that time. When we asked a similar survey sample in November 2007 the same question, 48% said they had encryption, and 40% said not.
So this is one of the strongest sales opportunities in the coming months. And now is the right time, as 60% of respondents to our latest survey said data security compliance was their top security priority this year. It is even better if you can show that complete, integrated endpoint protection can be supplied by one vendor, and managed from a single console.
This type of solution stops many of the key modern attack vectors - from hacking to malware and insider threats, making it highly cost-effective, with demonstrable benefits.
Second-highest on business security wish lists (with 47% of respondents) is the need to improve monitoring, reporting and management. This highlights the desire amongst organisations to do more with what they have, by using it more efficiently.
Value-added resellers (VARs) can use this to their advantage by choosing to work with vendors that offer full, open interoperability between devices, with unified management features and scalability.
Security information and event management solutions also give VARs the chance for incremental sales, especially with larger corporates as these can quickly show a return in reduced management costs and time, and deliver additional benefits by ensuring compliance and delivering closer security control.
What's more, it is an opportunity to offer unified threat management appliances, as they simplify management and can replace multiple point products with a simpler, more robust and more secure solution.
Field of dreams
In the film, Ray Kinsella had only a ghostly voice to advise him. Here, you have got the opinions of senior IT staff to guide you. Those opinions show great opportunities both to target new customers, and up-sell existing ones. So by partnering with the right vendor, and by pushing the hot buttons indicated here, you can secure it. And they will come.
Nick Lowe is managing director of Northern Europe for Check Point