Mike Awford talks through how the cybersecurity vendor has supported partners through the migration to remote working
1. What is the biggest challenge that your partners (VARs, MSPs, etc) have faced during the mass shift to remote working, and how have you helped them combat these?
Whilst remote working has been around for many years it was not very widespread - people may have worked from home a day here and a day there but generally not an entire workforce at the same time. Generally, organisations were not prepared for this totally unprecedented mass home working experiment that was thrust upon us almost overnight. The single biggest challenge our partners faced was the speed at which they had to support organisations in mobilising entire workforces to work from home with the tools they already had available - this stretched their capacity to the limit. It was vital that organisations not only stay operational during the outbreak but also stay secure. We've all heard about the shortage of laptops, existing tools struggling under the pressure of significantly increased traffic but also we heard how cybercriminals were taking advantage of the situation with Covid-19 related cyberattacks so ensuring security was maintained was a key factor for our partners.
We understood the challenges our partners faced so, along with our distribution partners, we worked around the clock to support them. We offered free short terms solutions like free VPN licences to get partners over the initial spike while longer terms solutions were being scoped and implemented. We worked with supply chain in getting appliances and licences keys out quickly. Working with our distribution partners we offered free of charge tech support and training and introduced more flexible credit terms. We pulled in every resource we could to help our partners in supporting their customers through this most unusual time.
2 How has your own business had to adapt to continue meeting the demands of the channel and end-users?
At SonicWall we already had a suite of solutions to support the remote workforce so from a product perspective not a lot had to change. We have a range of remote working solutions that support organisations in staying secure in this new remote world. This includes our range of Secure Remote Access appliances, Capture Client our Endpoint Security solution, Cloud App Security to keep users and data safe in the cloud, our Content Filtering Client to protect users outside internal content filtering policies and our secure wireless solutions which can further secure connectivity back to organisations.
In the short term however, a lot had to change to support our partners and customers. We worked round the clock to ensure we got licence keys and products to partners as quickly as possible. We supplied partners with free of charge license keys to ensure they could quickly mobilise their customers. We offered special secure remote access pricing bundles to help alleviate the pressure of these unexpected remote working costs to businesses. We supported our trusted distribution partners in offering flexible credit terms to partners who were dealing with massive spike in their business - 17x spike in orders.
As the eye of the storm has now passed, we are working with our partners on implementing longer terms solutions that will keep this new remote workforce secure in to the future.
3. What has surprised you most about your channel partners over the last two months?
We have a large community of resilient, strong and capable SonicWall SecureFirst partners so there were no big surprises. They stepped up, took ownership of the situation, upskilled quickly where needed kept calm and carried on in supporting their customers as they always do.
4. Is there a project that you've worked on over the last few months that you are particularly proud of?
There are literally too many to mention, it has been a whirlwind! However, given the pressure our NHS was under we are particularly proud of the work we did in supporting many NHS Trusts in the move to secure remote work. The NHS was under pressure not only because of the physical impact of the virus, but also because it became a target for cybercriminals who knew they were distracted, with NHS digital issuing guidance and Interpol noting a significant increase in the number of attempted ransomware attached on key organisations. Given the added pressure they were under, being part of ensuring the NHS was secure was particularly rewarding.
We have also supported our partners in some great projects in higher education both in the UK and Scotland, many local and county authorities across the UK and Ireland, two well-known car manufacturers, financial institutions, infrastructure and lots of charities all of which needed to keep their doors open and support their own clients during this very confusing time.
5. What do you expect to be the long-term impact of our new working from home culture, on both the channel and working culture in general?
This is our new normal, remote working was coming slowly but surely and the pandemic has simply acted as an accelerator. Many people will never work full time from an office again with remote working, at least some of the time, becoming not only normal but expected.
From a channel perspective, partners will need to review their vendor and product portfolios and ensure they can offer solutions to meet the requirements of our new working world. From a security perspective whilst VPN connectivity has allowed companies to easily stay operational and secure during this unprecedented time. Partners and organisations now need to consider some additional longer-term solutions to ensure complete protection and security that will sustain them well into the future. From recent conversations with our reseller channel we have compiled some key considerations for businesses as we transition into this new era of remote working that include posing questions like:
• Are your security appliance now overloaded?
• Do you need to consider a standalone Secure Mobile Access appliance?
• Do you need a high availability appliance?
• Does your Endpoint Security offer sufficient protection?
• Is your SaaS landscape secure?
• Does your content filtering extend to your remote workforce?
• Does your remote workforce require secure wireless access?
• Do you have unified visibility and control?
In terms of working culture, whilst everyone is looking forward to getting back to seeing people again, workers have seen that working from home is something they can do successfully. Previous to the pandemic working from home was a bit of a mystery to most with many thinking they may not be able to focus and be productive at home. Studies are now showing that, with the right set up, people can in fact be more productive at home. In addition to increased productivity the personal benefits of time saved from commuting, more family time, more flexibility the feeling of having more control over your time are benefits workers will not want to give up easily. At SonicWall many of our workforce work remotely most of the time anyway and it has been a huge success for us so we embrace and encourage this new remote working world.
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