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F-Secure charts growing importance of channel to SME customers

Security player has seen its channel become more important during the pandemic to those customers looking for trusted advisors

Security has been top of mind for many customers this year as they reacted to the pandemic and moved to mobile working, and for SMEs it has firmed up an existing trend to use managed service providers.

Last month, F-Secure released findings from a CIO survey that found that for many, SMEs working with the channel was the main way they got their security cover, and there was a close working relationship between users and partners.

That situation was largely driven by the cyber skills gap but it has been exacerbated by the coronavirus.

Dean Porter, channel manager at F-Secure, said that the relationship between partner and customer was becoming closer as more customers looked to external help to manage their data protection needs. “For smaller businesses, it’s probably a lot easier for them to outsource their security, rather than pay the heavy salaries and retraining staff,” he said.

“The channel has definitely over the past few years turned into more of a trusted partner to the end customer,” said Porter. “If we look at the close working relationship between the in-house teams and the outsourced security providers, it's become more of a consultancy kind of arm if you'd like, to advise and recommend on security postures.”

There are also emerging opportunities because the customer base is showing signs of being prepared to change their supplier choices, resulting from moves to consolidate their security tools.

“A lot of businesses are looking to actually change vendors in the next six to 12 months,” he said. “They’re looking at reducing labour intensive tasks and investing in new technologies, and are looking at partners who can provide those kind of technologies, and offer tools that can consolidate management overhead and reduce those labour intensive costs.”

F-Secure findings

Research of CIOs issued last month found that those firms with 25-199 staff were leaning heavily on the channel for their security support, in the form of a managed service. Only 38 percent of the smallest businesses have cyber security personnel, compared to 59 percent at the largest.

A significant number (81%) viewed the IT service provider or reseller as a ley or strategic partner and many relied on them for advice.

However quickly the vaccine returns life to some sort of normalcy next year, Porter expects many of the current customer challenges to continue along with the strengths of the channel relationships built up over the course of Covid-19.

“Over the last few years security has become a board level conversation and it’s something that people have taken seriously,” he added. “But I think in terms of this year especially, security has actually also become an enabler for organisations to change the way they work.

“If you look at organisations that maybe have a certain way of working but want to interact with their customers who are now going to be at home or in remote locations, then they’re going to have to adopt more cloud services to allow people to interact with their infrastructure or with their with their data,” said Porter.

“How do you do that well? You have to first and foremost think about your security posture and what you’re doing for security to enable you to be able to work in that way to retain or increase your customer base,” he said.

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