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Business Doesn’t Stop for COVID

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Businesses depend on value-added resellers (VARS) and managed IT service providers (MSPs) to complement their IT staff. However, the emergence of COVID-19 has impacted the VARs and MSPs that support customer business IT operations. These challenges make it much harder to ensure that clients remained functional during the lockdown and the shift to WFH while remaining productive and secure. The reaction of the VARs and MSPs was just as complex and confusing as their customers anticipated.
 
I discovered that some aspects of the MSP and VAR responsibilities have been modified in response to COVID-19. They have:
  • Increased network monitoring
  • Greater social engineering and phishing training
  • Expanded client communication about security and attacks
 
To learn how VAR and MSP companies have taken action, I contacted Paul Kozak, COO at MNJ Technologies – a technology and managed services provider that focuses on helping mid-market companies increase productivity and simplify IT systems.
 
GA: What is your customer base?
PK: Our client base is quite diverse, from county and city governments, local and private universities, as well as Fortune 500 companies stretching across the entire country.
 
GA: What were the drivers for your customers before COVID-19?
PK: Pre-COVID, our drivers were to assist our clients in showing value from IT and services, whether that be enhanced security to prevent and stops threats, improve data flow with upgrading infrastructure, assisting operational needs, and looking at OPEX vs. CAPEX models. We also provided consulting and education on where the cloud can help with our client’s business goals.
 
GA: Has your portfolio changed with COVID-19? If so, how?
PK: Not really, we have some customers that have shuttered operations with the hope of re-opening when the COVID storm passes. Our portfolio has added a few COVID specific products, but for most part, it has remained the same. The difference is what our clients require from the portfolio that has changed or changed in priority.
 
GA: What are the drivers of satisfaction for your customers since COVID-19 began?
PK: With COVID, our focus has stayed the same, with telecommuting, networking infrastructure, cloud migrations being our primary focuses. We help our clients show a value in IT. Being honest, showing value is somewhat easier now because technology has never been more important. Also, working remotely and assisting our clients in getting the most productivity out of their employees with telecommuting, video calls, and moving applications to the cloud for easier access and increased infrastructure speed.
 
GA: Has your customer base changed?
PK: Our base has largely stayed the same. Everyone is experiencing many of the same issues, problems, and questions. We’ve seen some markets do better than others, and we’ve made some pivots to work more closely with them. Transportation, supply chain, finance, and e-commerce are a few where COVID has put more pressure and demand on these markets.
 
GA: What challenges do your customers face now?
PK: In the very beginning, the main challenges surrounded getting our clients to run and be productive with a remote workforce. Making sure communication, data, and access to important files were available while being off-site. There had to be a mindset shift in thinking because it wasn’t always done this way. Educating our clients has been a big part of our success during COVID, and showing them there’s more than one way we can attack their business needs.
 
GA: Has customer security interest expanded?
PK: Yes, security to protect users off and on the network when connecting as WFH has expanded, but business survival is taking precedence. 100% security has always been at the forefront but now even more so. Our clients are asking how to protect themselves when most, if not all, of the workforce is remote? Not only against threats but also how do you identify, detect, and eliminate a threat that might have gotten inside. There are more holes now, and if everyone is looking outward, they might miss a threat internally that snuck in. Data is the new currency, and we’ve seen a larger push to increase or improve security in 2020.
 
In summary, with COVID hanging around longer than most expected, MNJ Technologies is addressing the challenges of how to make the remote workforce stable and scalable for the future. At the same time, they need to make sure the new solutions are flexible to address whatever is coming next.

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