The Smart money is on Security

It's hard to feel safe and sound during an economic slowdown - unless you specialize in security services. The survey data shows that savvy solutions providers are pushing security services to unlock more profits.

It's hard to feel safe and sound during an economic slowdown - unless you specialize in security services.

Just take a look at the results from our second-annual Smart Security Survey, conducted jointly with DataWorld Research Inc. The data, culled from 400 Sm@rt Partner subscribers, shows that savvy solutions providers are pushing security services to unlock more profits.

No industry is completely immune to the current economic slowdown, but the security sector should hold up particularly well. Indeed, survey participants expected their security-related revenue to grow nearly 40 percent, on average, this year. That's awesome performance in any type of economic climate.

So, how can you get started in the security market? Take a look at the following report, and you'll find highlights from our survey, along with nine myths you'll need to overcome as you push into this rapidly growing market.

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1. Where the Money Is

Myth: There's no way to beat the economic slowdown. Every market segment - including security - suffers negative growth in a recession.

Reality: Even as the economy slows, selected business niches will continue to grow. Security is one such area. Solutions providers expect their security-related revenue to grow nearly 40 percent this year - an incredible figure, given the current economic uncertainty.

2. Sky's the Limit

Myth: I can't build a security practice because businesses aren't willing to pay for such services until they've had a major security scare.

Reality: If you apply our survey findings to our entire readership, it's safe to say that nearly 3,000 of Sm@rt Partner's subscribers generated more than $1 million in security-related revenue last year. Big players include Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC), which has had a security practice since 1970. The company recently launched an Information Security and Operations Center to cross-sell security across existing and new customers, says Jack Trotter, director of strategic business for CSC's security unit.

3. In Partners We Trust

Myth: My customers won't trust me when I make security recommendations.

Reality: Nearly 90 percent of survey respondents say their customers are turning to them for security advice. Instead of charging a premium for low-margin goods like antivirus software, you should be billing customers for the free security advice you're already offering.

4. Find the Easy Answers

Myth: Security is too complicated for my company to address.

Reality: Even if you're not prepared to offer high-end managed services, security should be part of every desktop sale you make. Viruses, after all, remain the No. 1 security problem. You won't make much money selling desktop antivirus software, but you can use it as a first step toward gaining more security expertise.

5. Inside Attacks

Myth: Hackers and external forces cause the vast majority of security problems.

Reality: Sure, hackers are a big threat. But in many cases, your customers have a bigger security problem - their own employees. Helping a customer to design a corporate security policy (for passwords, employee network access, employee departures, etc.) is one of the easiest ways to get started in the security field.

6. Whose Mess Is This?

Myth: You can bluff your way into the security market.

Reality: Roughly half of your competitors are causing security problems at customer sites. That's a blessing and a burden: Customers could come running to you for help, but they'll work hard to make sure you know your stuff. Only offer advice on the topics you know, and don't be ashamed to refer your customer to a more skilled security expert or a managed service provider. Your customers will respect you for it.

7. I Need a Vacation

Myth: If I get into the security market, I'll always be on call.

Reality: In reality, most of your customers rarely will experience security problems. Most solutions providers receive security-related calls on a monthly basis. Or, you can partner with a managed service provider like METASes, which specializes in security services. You'll still have your hands full when the next big Internet virus strikes. But those calls are few and far between.

8. It's Too Crowded

Myth: There's no room for me or my business in the security market.

Reality: Sure, most of your rivals offer firewalls, antivirus software and backup systems. But there are emerging niches worth exploring, most notably biometrics, disaster-recovery services and smart cards. Exodus Communications, for instance, recently pushed beyond its core data-hosting specialty and now offers optional security services to its customers.

9. Don't Get Cocky

Myth: Once I'm in the security market, money will grow on trees.

Reality: Sure, security-related sales are rising fast. But you'll face plenty of competition and some pushback from selected customers. Many businesses still don't budget for security-related products and services. Put this report under their noses, and maybe that will change. If not, give potential customers a call when the next Internet virus strikes.