Microsoft Partner Guardian Computer Invests In Security, Cloud Offerings
‘We’re not predicting a bad year. But it’s going to be a flat year,’ Guardian Computer President Jean Prejean tells CRN in an interview.
Microsoft cloud and security offerings, upgrading customer license types and growing a practice with cybersecurity vendor Cynet are some of the areas where Guardian Computer is investing in 2023.
Jean Prejean, president of Metairie, La.-based Microsoft partner – a member of CRN’s 2022 Managed Service Provider 500 – told CRN in an interview that her company is still plenty busy despite feeling some of the effects of the economy.
“We had great growth from ’21 to ’22. But our forecast for ’23 is pretty flat,” Prejean said. “We hired three people in ’22. If we hire anybody, it’ll be at the end of the year. We just don’t see big growth this year. … We’re not predicting a bad year. But it’s going to be a flat year. … But we feel lucky. ’23, if we can get through just flat, we will take it. You’re never going to have all good years.”
Microsoft, Cynet Partner Guardian Computer On 2023 Investments
There are multiple signs of IT spending slowing in certain areas. A recent Wall Street Journal poll put the odds of a recession in the next 12 months at 61 percent. Gartner projects worldwide IT spending to increase 2.4 percent year over year – to $4.5 trillion – less than half of the growth forecasted the previous quarter. And the recent news of layoffs of more than 40,000 people from Amazon, Microsoft and Google looks like proof of a slowdown in technology demand.
Still, Prejean sees opportunity in speaking with customers about the value of using the entire Microsoft product suite. She still comes across customers paying for Zoom when they already pay for Microsoft’s Teams collaboration application, she said.
Upgrading customers to E3 license types from lower level licenses is an opportunity for Guardian, as is educating customers on where they need to invest more in their security posture, she said.
Prejean herself has invested in getting members of her 11-employee staff more Azure and security training.
“A company came to us, one of their doctors had left a laptop in the back of their car while they ran into the store,” Prejean said. “Well, the car got broken into, and the laptop was gone. And now they’re faced with (six digits) … in legal bills and stuff. And it’s like – how easy is that to prevent? I mean, just putting encryption on the hard drive, which is easy peasy. So many don’t have encryption.”
Here’s more of what Prejean had to say.
What are Guardian Computer’s goals for 2023?
What we‘re trying to do is to really focus our clients on, ‘Hey, let’s get back to strategy.’ With the pandemic, we all had to go into reactive mode. Almost back to that break, fix, get creative thing. And we lost that strategic piece.
So we‘re having some serious business reviews with our clients. And not just looking for what they need in the next three months, but longer. … We’re trying to integrate IT with the business instead of one just telling the other what to do.
What Microsoft products are proving popular with customers lately?
We are looking more and recommending that people dig a little deeper into O365 (Office 365).
Maybe depending on their business needs, step up to E3 (licenses), especially in order to maintain HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance. Which features are turned off? … (We talk to customers about the potential) breach or the HIPAA fine. … They have the official HIPAA assessment that the government provides so that we can go through with them. We use software on the back end to plug that in. … A company came to us, one of their doctors had left a laptop in the back of their car while they ran into the store.
Well, the car got broken into, and the laptop was gone. And now they‘re faced with (six digits) … in legal bills and stuff. And it’s like – how easy is that to prevent? I mean, just putting encryption on the hard drive, which is easy peasy. So many don‘t have encryption.
(We’re also looking at) Azure. They’re throwing out new features all the time. How do you make the cloud environment more palatable to people? And then some people need the hybrid environment. … And Teams, staying ahead of the features that they’re adding is a big one. So a lot of our guys are going through Azure training. Security training. Just how to do better risk assessments. … With Teams, we have some clients – especially new ones – come to us, and they use Zoom.
And they pay for Zoom. And then you’re like, ‘Why are you paying for that? You have Teams. You‘re already paying for Teams.’
Businessman working using laptop computer with strategy and growth of business on screen
Where is Guardian growing its business?
PE (private equity)-backed firms that are wanting to know before they buy something, they want to know – what does the IT look like? Are they up to speed?
And then they want to jump in there and as fast as they can improve it because they want to turn around and sell it (the company). So that‘s been crazy. … It brings us into a lot of verticals. A lot of it is health care.
We are (staying busy), but the economy – we see it.
The economy has impacted it (business). We had two clients leave, and they brought IT in house. You then become a real break-fix shop. And how you grow – one person or two people can‘t do that.
And oftentimes they want them to do something else, too. Or they pulled somebody from accounting to do it. Would you get a doctor to do the books? Would you get an accountant to do your HR (human resources)? … We pack them up and wish them well. …We had great growth from ’21 to ’22. But our forecast for ’23 is pretty flat.
We hired three people in ’22. If we hire anybody, it’ll be at the end of the year. We just don’t see big growth this year. … We‘re not predicting a bad year. But it’s going to be a flat year. … But we feel lucky. ’23, if we can get through just flat, we will take it. You’re never going to have all good years.
How are things going with your Microsoft partner capability score and new commerce experience (NCE)?
We’re not even right now attempting to keep up with the score. It seems like a waste of our time. … We don’t necessarily see the value. … With the NCE stuff, the annual licenses that we administered in March, we‘re turning around and telling the clients, ‘Pay in advance or pay the monthly fee.’
That‘s been too scary to take on the responsibility of paying monthly and then having them possibly walk away. … (Customers) are not thrilled about it. I wish they phrased it the other way. It’s monthly, and then you get a discount if you pay annually. That’s just more palatable. … And we‘re also going to be honest with them.
If they want to go buy it from Microsoft (directly), go ahead.
Are you still dealing with the NCE issue of license portability – the inability for a Microsoft customer in an annual commitment with an MSP to change MSPs before the commitment ends?
Still an issue. … If they come with the annual, we just make a note with the other MSP.
We make a note of, in March, we‘ll get with you and swap you over.
Any vendors beside Microsoft that you’re growing your business with?
We’re really doing great with Cynet. It’s been an easy sell. But then it also has just found stuff that regular … antivirus can’t. And it also provides us with a seven-by-24 SOC (security operations center). That‘s a sticking point for a small company. … (We became a Cynet partner) last year. … We’re going to do Cynet and Windows Defender. … (Cynet has) a really good product. They have really good prices. … As an MSP, we don’t really want to become an (MSSP, a managed security services).
But it gives us that meet, that place to go to be able to at least offer it.