How to Add Security to Your Managed Services Offering

I’ve been working at a security vendor for the past 12 years and focusing on the service provider market for the last five, with a specific focus on small and medium business-focused MSPs. Over the years I’ve met with, worked with, collaborated with and, most importantly, learned from MSPs just like you. I’ve often day-dreamed about starting up my own MSP business, but have never pulled the trigger. What I have done, though, is imagine how I would do things from a security perspective, if I ever did decide to start my own MSP business. For my own future reference, and in the spirit of sharing my security-specific knowledge with you, I present to you my managed security blueprint.

Today’s threat landscape is exponentially more complex and sophisticated than it was even two years ago, as evidenced by the almost daily news of data breaches. So, relying on a single solution isn’t really practical–or the best option for your customers. Given that, I would make sure I built a comprehensive, multilayered solution offering to provide maximum protection (and to reduce any potential costs on my end for cleanups) for my customers.

The three areas I would focus on are:

1. Endpoint security

This is really the core component of a managed security solution. Every customer has endpoints that need protection.

Here are my requirements for picking an endpoint security solution:

  • Due to the proliferation of mobile devices and increase in OS X market share, the chosen security solution must support all types of endpoints—including server, desktop, laptop, tablet and phone (Android and iOS)–to maximize per-customer recurring revenue.
    • Free solutions don’t generally work on servers.
    • Low-cost solutions generally only work on Windows.
  • The solution must provide a comprehensive set of security features, and not just basic anti-virus.
    • You’ve probably heard (or even think) that anti-virus is anti-virus is anti-virus. Unfortunately, you couldn’t be more wrong. The level of sophistication the bad guys have these days is so high that it’s not just about anti-virus anymore. A multilayered approach combining pattern-based detection, real-time analysis, heuristics, reputation analysis and other features is critical for providing maximum protection to your customers (and reducing your clean-up costs).
  • The solution must be centrally managed.
    • Free solutions can’t be centrally managed, and, in most cases, it’s actually a violation of the terms of service to use them commercially.

2. Mobile/Roaming security

This is the double-edged-sword category. On the one hand, the ability to be productive when not in the office provides tremendous benefits to businesses, worker productivity and quality of life. It probably benefits your business just as much as it benefits your customers. Unfortunately, this breaks the old security paradigm where you were responsible for protecting customers only inside the walls of their offices. Some endpoint security solutions include protection for mobile devices, but generally these revolve around basic security or mobile device management functionality. This is a good start, but it leaves something to be desired.

Here are some things I would look for in a complementary solution to protect my customers:

  • Hosted solution
    • On-premise solutions aren’t very effective once someone leaves the confines of the office with his or her device (phone, tablet or laptop). A hosted solution is maintained 100% by the vendor, eliminating any associated maintenance time and costs for your managed service business.
  • Application visibility and control
    • Application visibility and control solutions are useful not only for monitoring and auditing Internet usage habits, but also for enforcing any company policies your customers may have regarding Internet usage.
  • Web reputation
    • With most threats originating on the Web these days, being diligent about protecting users while they surf the Internet is critical. In addition, when users infect themselves through their Web browsing behavior, it comes out of MSPs’ bottom lines since remediation would generally be part of a fixed-fee offering and not a billable activity.
  • URL filtering
    • Most business owners I know would rather their employees spend their days working instead of browsing Facebook or their fantasy football line-up. URL filtering gives you the ability to offer that service to your customers and keep the owners happy.

3. Email security

Email is another popular vector for threats and annoyances like spam, so email security is the third part of the security puzzle. On any given day, hundreds of billions of emails are being sent around the world. Even if a small percentage of them are malicious, that’s a very high volume of threats that could impact your customers.

Some features I would look for in an email security solution:

  • Hosted solution
    • Thanks to the architecture of SMTP, it’s really easy to re-route mail through a hosted solution for pre-filtering before it arrives at your customers’ mail servers (whether hosted or on-premise). A simple MX record changed in DNS is all that is necessary to add an additional layer of security for your customers. Additionally, a hosted solution is maintained 100% by the vendor, eliminating any associated maintenance time and costs for your managed service business.
  • Industry-leading spam detection
    • Regardless of which data source you refer to, spam makes up a shockingly high percentage of overall email traffic. (Some estimates are 90% or higher.) While spam detection capabilities have generally improved across the board, it’s still important to go with a proven vendor. A 1% difference may not sound like much, until you realize it’s 1% of hundreds of billions–and that’s a pretty big number.
  • Encryption
    • This one is pretty self-explanatory these days, thanks to Edward Snowden. Or, your customers may have regulatory or compliance needs that demand email encryption. Having the option to enable/disable per customer gives you maximum flexibility to cater to your customers’ needs.

So that’s how I’d do it if I were to ever become an MSP. What are your thoughts? What do you look for when building your managed security offering? Am I missing anything that I should add to my list for future reference? Let me know in the comments section below.

This guest blog post was contributed by Trend Micro and originally appeared in MSPMentor. The author, Ryan Delany, has more than 15 years of experience planning, designing and implementing security products in a variety of enterprises. Ryan has been with Trend Micro since 2002 and is currently a Global Solutions Marketing Manager responsible for planning and carrying out global marketing strategy for Trend Micro’s managed service provider partners. He was awarded Sales Engineer of the Year in 2008, has published multiple white papers highlighting deployment and configuration best practices, was listed in the MSP Mentor 250, and has represented the company at industry events and trade shows to educate and inform customers about Trend Micro solutions.

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