Planet Technologies may not have been the most obvious choice for a finalist in the security category for Microsoft's 2018 Partner of the Year Awards.
The Germantown, Md.-based solution provider has a staff of about 200, making it far from one of the larger members of Microsoft's partner community, which numbers in the hundreds of thousands worldwide.
But Planet Technologies has stood out by developing and deploying new security services, which are closely tied to Microsoft's security technologies. As a firm focused on clients in federal, state and local government, as well as education and commercial customers, cybersecurity is among the biggest concerns for clients right now, said Planet Technologies federal senior cloud strategist Jeff Fowler.
"We do a ton of work with Microsoft technologies with customers across Azure, Office 365, Windows 10 migrations. Rather than trying to bolt on cybersecurity, it needs to be baked in," Fowler said. "In these engagements, we try to put cybersecurity front and center in what we discuss with clients."
Significantly, Planet Technologies has only needed to look to security vendors beyond Microsoft in very rare cases in order to deliver a solid cybersecurity foundation to customers, he said.
"There's just so much Microsoft brings," Fowler said.
He cited Microsoft's Intelligent Security Graph, which combines security intelligence, machine learning and behavioral analytics, and underpins Microsoft's products and services. Fowler also pointed to the security capabilities available in the Azure Security Center and Office 365, as well as Microsoft's threat intelligence and analytics offerings.
"They're the biggest security company that people don't realize [is a security company]," he said. "They're investing $1 billion a year into cybersecurity, and it shows. They've come leaps and bounds."
Part of the opportunity for solution providers lies in the fact that so many customers already use Microsoft products, so it's often easy to add other offerings such as advanced threat protection for an additional revenue stream, Fowler said.
One key recent move by Planet Technologies was to launch a security assessment "as-a-service" program in the first few months of this year.
The service offering involves analyzing the security of a client's Office 365 tenant, providing education to the client's staff, evaluating opportunities to improve the client's security posture and helping to develop a security roadmap, according to Fowler.
The service turns Planet Technologies into an "ongoing trusted security advisor," he said. It includes on-site workshops that can last up to three days, as well as a monthly webinar and monthly emails to keep clients aware of emerging threats.
Once a quarter, Planet Technologies will revisit where the client is at and check their current Microsoft Secure Score.
"We find out what is going well, whether there are adjustments to make in the roadmap. We help them make a full transition from where they are today," Fowler said. "It's built upon the foundation of what we've been doing for a while now. It's a logical extension to make it into an ongoing service with customers."