CRN Exclusive: Autotask Finds MSPs Grappling With More Endpoints, Data Security Challenges

A rise in ransomware and an increased number of connected devices in the workplace are driving higher security spending among IT service providers, according to Autotask.

The East Greenbush, N.Y.-based IT service management vendor said the transition to virtualization and the cloud and the increased prevalence of users with multiple devices have significantly boosted the number of endpoints under management, according to Pat Burns, Autotask's vice president of product management.

Nearly two-thirds of users surveyed on behalf of Autotask said the total number of endpoints they're managing increased between 5 percent and 50 percent over the past year, according to a study of more than 1,000 service providers around the world. And in just four years, the number of respondents citing data security as a major business driver has skyrocketed from just 6 percent to 44 percent.

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"There's a lot of opportunity, and business is growing," Burns told CRN exclusively.

End users need help managing and locking down the interface between endpoint devices and the cloud, Burns said, meaning that channel partners need to invest in the scale of their monitoring engine to obtain additional information. Autotask's PSA and file sync and share products can help MSPs address the complexity of the network and the relationship among devices, according to Burns.

MSPs can also use Autotask's tools to build their own artificial intelligence and machine learning tools and grow their data, which Burns said will enable them to provide expertise and guidance around specific business outcomes. Autotask's RMM product generates more than 45,000 monitoring metrics per second, Burns said, allowing partners to customize programs that address specific use cases.

In fact, Burns said Autotask is working on its own machine learning capabilities within the RMM tool to automate some analysis. Given the level of similarity among devices, makes and models, Burns said this will enable Autotask to add more strategic value once the requirements of a particular use case have been identified.

As far as the Internet of Things is concerned, Burns recommended that MSPs look at activities or municipal functions that, just by collecting operational data, can be mined for intelligence. However, the channel is still in the early stages of deeply managing smart devices, Burns said, and high levels of risk continue to be associated with traditional workstation and machine endpoints.

The digitization of business and dominance of software-based management have delivered massive benefits to end users, Burns said, but also has some vulnerabilities associated with it. Security vulnerabilities stem less often from malicious attacks than honest mistakes, Burns said, such as an employee wrongly emailing a payroll file.

Autotask's sync and share tool allows files to be managed in a more centralized way by qualified stakeholders, which Burns said mitigates risk while enhancing the benefits associated with the information. The company sees security as a really important category with big opportunities, Burns said, and therefore plans to focus on developing more offerings in the field going forward.

The biggest security threat Autotask's MSP customers are having to deal with is ransomware, Burns said, since it's prolific and the barriers to perpetrating an attack are low. No matter how good an MSP's anti-virus solution is, Burns said the bad guys will always find a temporary way around the barriers, making data backups vital.

Burns recommended that MSPs take an environmental-based approach to security with capabilities around virus scanning, web filtering and network monitoring, as well as attack prevention, detection and remediation.

LAN Infotech has, in recent years, evolved from focusing on server and network infrastructure to managing the entire infrastructure, including endpoints, according to company President Michael Goldstein. The number of endpoints under control of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based solution provider has increased dramatically over the past one and a half years as security concerns have escalated, Goldstein said.

As a result, Goldstein said patching has evolved from something done on an as-needed basis to a "necessary evil," with capabilities spanning across Microsoft, Adobe and Java. Without a management platform in place, Goldstein said this patching would be almost impossible.

Autotask's file sync and share product has been great from a security standpoint, Goldstein said, as the synchronization of mobile devices and laptops has aided business continuity and made it easier for users to share data. Having a single console for management and billing is also a big deal, according to Goldstein.

The company's RMM product has also come a long way, Goldstein said, as Autotask has developed more relationships with security vendors that tie into that. Going forward, Goldstein said he'd like to see Autotask focus more on developing integrated security solutions and a Security-as-a-Service offering.