It seems like just yesterday IT analysts were predicting a future of business technology that looks much different than it does today. Hybrid offices and “work-from-anywhere” policies have leapt beyond their previous confines of flexible, work-life balance job perks to become the new normal in which many offices successfully conduct business every day. Device policies have been overhauled, out of necessity, to allow for more personal-use devices than ever, leading to a massive increase of access to corporate information far beyond the traditional cubicle. And direct-access cloud applications have circumvented traditional network protections, creating wider gaps in coverage than ever before.

Frankly, the cybersecurity challenges of this new business paradigm can be overwhelming even to the most seasoned IT provider. Businesses have never relied more on remote access to corporate resources and data. However, they now also recognize that it’s critical to do so in a way that maintains the “onsite” user experience of a connected and engaged workforce.

 From a security perspective, this dynamic is precarious. The stakes are high, and disaster is closer than ever. Secure business environments today are immersed in an ocean of threats, and one leak, gap, or flaw will cause the threats to flood in. Yet with cybersecurity as the top challenge to this new distributed workforce model, according to a survey conducted by the social research technology platform Pulse, more than 70% of businesses invest less than 2% of their revenue on it. The result is an understaffed IT workforce that’s in demand more than ever. Support requests have increased 39% as a result of remote work, and with 76% of businesses understaffed to support their cybersecurity needs, it’s only a matter of when – not if – an incident will occur.

Complicating matters is the reality of the disconnected solution stack in place at most midsize businesses. Currently, these organizations maintain four or more tools for vulnerability management. They also typically lack integration, and therefore cannot share context or analytics necessary to identify indicators of compromise. And what’s more, managing a stack of disconnected point solutions such as these requires exponentially more time and resources to maintain, and their management, training, support, and operations processes are all different and handled by separate external teams.

The evolution of the IT landscape – particularly the security landscape – into such a disconnected, remote, and chaotic environment to manage was unexpected at best. However, necessity is, after all, the mother of invention, and a new strategy is gaining momentum that gives IT providers the solutions they need to provide security to a remote-first organization, which may have nearly as many home offices as employees.

A new approach, beyond consolidation

Just as businesses over the past few years have sought to reduce the number of vendors they are working with, for the obvious financial and operational efficiencies that can be unearthed, so too have IT providers realized that there are massive gains to be found with using a single vendor across an entire solution category. Vendor consolidation is now a trend in the IT channel, and it’s on the rise. But is single-vendor consolidation enough?

 When it comes to the cybersecurity category, the gains from a single vendor can be double-edged. On one side, providers receive simplified management, better financial terms, easier access to support, and more. You might find that solutions from a single vendor are tightly integrated and purpose-built to work together to provide gap-free security. However, on the other side, not all single-vendor solutions are alike, or even comparable. Some solutions from single vendors are bolted-on collections of disconnected products. Some are strong in one aspect of security and weak in the rest. Yet others are simply just built to secure infrastructure and workplaces of yesterday and not equipped to tackle the distributed workforce of today, let alone be prepared for what may come tomorrow.

Clearly, while consolidating security solutions around a single vendor is a move in the right direction, it’s not far enough. There are clear advantages to a single-vendor solution, but the security platform itself must be more than a collection of technologies. It must be designed to have its technologies work together to be stronger and more efficient. It must be able to provide protection anywhere a user connects to their corporate network. It must not introduce additional complexity. In short, it must be unified.

Unified security is a strategy that goes far beyond a consolidated solution, to connect advanced technologies at a fundamental level to enable comprehensive, multi-layered security across the network, users, hosts, and applications. Rather than disparate solutions that only run parallel to one another, a unified security approach has all technologies working in harmony, sharing contextual data and other information.

The contrast is similar to a regatta boat race. With a consolidated strategy, each security solution is a single sailboat, moving forward in its own lane, but it can only go as far or as fast as its sail can take it. With unified security, imagine every boat in the race joined together as a flotilla, to combine the power of every sail and the resources of each boat in unison, allowing it to go farther and faster than the wind can take each alone.

This sort of security orchestration is necessary for aligning the solution to the threat vectors of the remote business environment as it exists today. It closes the gaps found in a disparate security stack while enabling IT providers to elevate and expand their customers’ security posture. Meanwhile, because the technology behind unified security is purpose-built to communicate and work alongside other technology layers, it simplifies management and reduces overhead. For every client under management, IT providers can mitigate risk with greater ease.

There are four pillars of a strong unified security strategy:

A user-centric approach. Unified security uses verified identity as a factor in every security analysis. It goes far beyond traditional identity management to put user identity at the center, using flexible rules to configure users and devices based on risk. Therefore, no matter where the users are and no matter which devices (or how many) they use, unified security will be there, ready to protect them.

Correlated intelligence for a clear view. This important part of unified security brings together telemetry across all security technologies in place. Having this total, bird’s eye view is critical in exposing threats and vulnerabilities wherever they are throughout the network, users, hosts, and applications.

Automation built in to do more. Automation is a key aspect of unified security, an engine of sorts that optimizes network performance and delivers the highest resilience to cyberattacks. It’s essential to what makes this strategy run so smoothly, and simultaneously makes an organization’s security posture stronger while minimizing interventions from a technician, allowing them to spend their time on other projects.

Cloud based, cloud managed, cloud secure. Centralized, cloud-based management is essential for unified security and provides a sole location for organizational security policy management, dissemination, and enforcement.

 These four technologies work together to create a unique approach to cybersecurity that starts with a foundation conceived to tackle the threats of today. Alone, each is an impressive addition to any security solution. Unified into a single vision, a platform emerges that delivers a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity that’s at once more powerful, more efficient, and simpler to manage. The sum is indeed greater than its parts, and the benefits simply can’t be achieved through disparate solutions.

The right security strategy for your portfolio, the best protection for your customers

If you’re an office equipment provider, VAR, or other IT provider and you’re ready to add cybersecurity to your portfolio, a unified security strategy will allow your business to easily deploy total coverage from network to endpoint with simple management and low overhead. According to Pulse, the lack of a unified cybersecurity strategy is the top reason organizations fall victim to a ransomware attack. This simple fact should make security conversations easy, especially after hardware lease contract renewals are out of the way, and can be an important way to displace competition at existing customer sites.

If you already offer a cybersecurity solution, the benefits of adopting a unified security strategy are numerous, and will ensure customers are protected no matter how distributed their business is. In fact, unified security may very well be essential moving forward. Breaches are now more costly to mitigate when remote work is a factor. According to the Ponemon Institute, these breaches cost an additional $1.07 million per incident.

With so much on the line, including reputational risk, relying on a disconnected security stack that lacks integration, introduces gaps, and invites threat actors to do their worst is not an effective security strategy for the future. Providers who are currently evaluating their security solutions should consider how a unified security strategy can supercharge their efforts to provide risk mitigation to their customers. In doing so, they’ll have a secret weapon in their portfolio that can lead to increased cross-sell opportunities and a stronger security posture for every customer under management. 

Joe Tavano
Joseph Tavano

Joseph Tavano manages channel marketing at WatchGuard Technologies, Inc., and is responsible for the channel content strategy and communications to WatchGuard’s partners worldwide. His primary focus centers on WatchGuard’s award-winning partner program, WatchGuardONE, where he drives new program adoption while helping existing partners grow their business through the various resources available to them. He brings with him years of experience in the IT channel, and he sees his role through the lens of service, helping connect hardworking partners with the solutions they need to be successful. He lives north of Boston in a quiet seaside town with his family, and thinks about the best wire choice for networking his home far too much