CRN Exclusive: TekLinks Expands Into Security With Launch Of Dedicated Cybersecurity Consulting Group

TekLinks has already made a name for itself in the IT channel as one of the top solution providers in the country, especially in cloud and managed services. Now, the company is looking to take that expertise into the cybersecurity market with the launch of a new, dedicated practice.

The launch of the new Cybersecurity Consulting Group started about eight months ago when the Birmingham, Ala.-based company decided it needed to have more strategic conversations with clients around security, TekLinks President Don Monistere told CRN. He said TekLinks recognized an opportunity to help its clients mitigate their security risk with a new consulting offering.

"We decided we needed to be focused on having conversations with our clients that are more strategic, as opposed to product and services conversations," Monistere said. "It's about what their overall risk management looks like and how they are going about handling cybersecurity as a component of a much bigger conversation about risk."

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"This is one of those strategic decisions that wasn't difficult to make," he said. "All you have to do is listen to customers."

The new group includes more advanced security services to help customers identify gaps in their security postures, said Nick VanGilder, one of the leaders of the new group. That includes having conversations around things like developing a security program, assessing program maturity, as well as services like penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, and social engineering engagements. The services are offered à la carte, he said, so customers pick and choose the services that they want.

"We've done a great job with other stuff in our portfolio … While that's all good, we wanted to have a different type of security interaction with our prospects and our customers," VanGilder said.

TekLinks did previously offer security solutions to its customers, but it has primarily been around areas like threat detection, managed firewall, and security product resale to date. The company would offer some more sophisticated security services to clients but would partner with other organizations specializing in those areas to do so.

While the opportunity around security is large – with the market expected to grow 7 percent to $86.4 billion by the end of the year according to Gartner – the investment required is also significant, Monistere said. He said the new group requires substantial labor cost and effort to get up and running, a push that required the buy-in of both the executive leadership team and the company's private equity owners at a strategic meeting in May.

To drive that commitment, TekLinks has brought in dedicated security resources for the new group, Will Enochs, another leader of the group, said. It has also appointed Monistere to focus on the group as a priority in his role as president of the company. Enochs said having qualified people with a proven track record in consulting assessment type offerings is key. He said TekLinks has already brought on two dedicated resources and the company has "aspirations to grow" the group.

VanGilder said TekLinks has received a "good response" from clients around the new group and has already begun engagements with at least two customers. He said he doesn't anticipate demand slowing down anytime soon, as security is a pain point for most businesses.

"With all the breaches that have been happening, a fair amount of the companies we talk to acknowledge they have cybersecurity challenges … Everyone is in a spot looking for people to help them with it because they can't get a handle on it themselves … That is what our group is really trying to do," NICK said.

Monistere said he thinks TekLinks is in a unique position to capitalize on the security market. He said TekLink's background in other areas of the channel, as well as its overall scale, will help it gain ground quickly in the security market.

"This says a lot about our brand. We have done a great job of being a leader in the industry, and even though I wouldn't consider us a leader in this area of business today, everyone can see this makes a ton of sense. TekLinks can make a play at this that no one else can because of their scale on the managed side and professional services side," Monistere said.

That being said, Monistere said TekLinks is very "deliberate" to treat its Cybersecurity Consulting Group as a third-party practice. He said TekLinks wants to ensure the group is "truly agnostic on the cybersecurity side," providing customers with consulting and services to discover their cybersecurity risk areas, but not necessarily pushing services offerings from other areas of its business to repair those areas of risk. However, Monistere said the group is expected to drive some demand to other areas of the business, saying it is allowing for more strategic conversations across the board with customers.

"What we're finding is ... it actually starts conversations we may not have had before," Monistere said. "It's touching pretty much every aspect of the business … It's one of those decisions that was easy to make, and I see this as a huge growth engine for us. It's also one of those things that would have impacted overall growth if we didn’t invest in it."

TekLinks' biggest challenge now, Monistere said, is making sure it can staff enough experts to scale the Cybersecurity Consulting Group. With the current cybersecurity skills shortage, recruiting senior cybersecurity engineers will be a challenge.