Tech Priorities in The Cloud, Security and AI from MSS North 2023 - Tubblog: The Hub for MSPs

Tech Priorities in The Cloud, Security and AI from MSS North 2023

Tech Priorities in The Cloud, Security and AI from MSS North 2023 image

There are a lot of events in the Managed Services calendar throughout the year, many of which showcase some of the incredible technology vendors have to offer.

It’s no surprise that the number of companies who have invested in technology to keep data and systems secure are on the rise. It was apparent by the sheer number of cybersecurity vendors present in the exhibition hall.

However, there was more to the Managed Services Summit North than just cybersecurity pitches. Thought leadership, cloud services, best practice and artificial intelligence were also key themes at this event.

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The Managed Services Summit North (MSS North 2023)

The Managed Services Summit North is one of now four regular events run by Angel Business Communications and IT Europa that take place in Europe. Managed Services Summits are held in London, the North of England, the Benelux region, and from next year, the Nordics.

This event took place in Manchester at the Manchester Central Convention Centre on Tuesday 21st November 2023. It was a one-day event, sponsored by many leading names in the channel, including: Pax8, Arcserve, Connectwise and Kaseya.

Aside from the exhibition hall, where MSPs could talk to the sponsors, there was an action-packed itinerary of speakers too.

Here are some of the highlights.

Tech Priorities in The Cloud, Security and AI from MSS North 2023Divider

MSS North 2023 Opening Keynote: Kevin Keegan on Giving 100%

Footballing legend Kevin Keegan kicked off proceedings with a fabulous keynote speech about ‘Giving 100%’, where he introduced us to his ‘Dream Team’.

Kevin’s team of eleven consisted of words fitting his definition of giving 100%.

Words like: Reputable, Maximise, Attitude, Discipline and Culture – all of which add up to 100 if you convert each letter of the alphabet into a number.

For each word, he gave a short quote from a famous person. One of my favourites was this one from American author John C. Maxwell:

“Motivation gets you going, discipline keeps you growing.”

Kevin gave real world examples and anecdotes from throughout his football career, both as a manager and a player. It was an uplifting way to begin the summit.

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Elevator Pitches from MSS North 2023

Many of the vendor sponsors put forward some elevator pitches throughout the day, which were no longer than fifteen minutes. Some of them were quite interesting.

Building the Modern Cloud

Nerdio, a company which specialises in cloud management plaftorms, told us all about Nerdio Manager for MSP.

Speaker Joseph Landes began his pitch with a quote from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella:

“Our industry doesn’t respect tradition, it only respects innovation.”

Joseph said, modern MSPs are facing unique challenges:

  • Native tooling is not designed with MSPs in mind
  • Azure and Intune are complex
  • Rapid rate of change
  • Margin risk

Nerdio’s cost estimator gives you an accurate and scalable estimate for cloud workspace solutions.

Joseph also told us about Nerdio’s partner programme, called Partnerd. As well as Nerdiocon, which is taking place in the Dominican Republic in February 2024.

Winning in a Cloudified World: Data is the New Oil

Pax8’s Phylip Morgan gave an excellent talk on how data is the new oil, and is a massive opportunity for businesses.

In 1901, one of the largest reserves of oil was discovered in a little town just outside of Houston, Texas. The backwater of Spindletop suddenly expanded from the sheer volume of oil it produced, which revolutionised industry and transportation.

Today, we can gain an advantage in three significant ways:

The power of proximity: leveraging your local presence

First class service: happiness through kindness and courtesy

Knowledge is power: leverage your technical expertise, skills and insights.

Cloud services today are bought through a series of online catalogues – and Pax8 are no different. However, they are looking at changing this in the near future.

Pax8’s new marketplace will be more than an online catalogue. It will provide product recommendations based on data-driven insights.

The data is synced directly from your PSA (professional services automation) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) systems to provide some value-added benefits.

The data is held in a fully GDPR compliant private container, where it is categorised and protected, and where it links to three new functions:

  1. Opportunity Explorer
  2. Solution Centre
  3. Customer Storefront

Opportunity Explorer

This gives the partner a top-down category view of their customers’ cloud applications, identifying any gaps or unrealised revenue. It shows their security posture, suggesting areas for improvement all within a simple interface with CIS controls on endpoints.

Partners can use security posture scores to advise customers during their technical business reviews.

Managed Services Summit North 2023

Solution Centre

Allows partners to configure and price intuitively. It includes a quote builder tool that can be shared in multiple ways, to avoid them sitting dormant in your email outbox.

Customer Storefront

A full-branded storefront linked to payments, customer services and where clients can manage their subscriptions and accept quotes.

Tech Priorities in The Cloud, Security and AI from MSS North 2023

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Panel Session: Building a Better Mousetrap

Will Garside from IT Europa held a panel with some of the morning’s pitch-leaders, from Arcserve, Pax8 and LastPass.

Predictions for 2024

SaaS buyers have not given enough thought to disaster recovery and business continuity, says Steve Butterworth of Arcserve.

Pax8’s Phylip Morgan believes that Microsoft Copilot will revolutionise how we use AI to save time and gain a productivity edge over competitors.

The killer sales question to ask MSPs

Phylip said you have to think about how to start a conversation about security with your customers.

Would an outage in the cloud push customers back towards on-premise data storage?

Steve said it would be a good reason to consider a hybrid solution, but Phylip disagreed that outages would cause such a shift in cloud adoption. It would just drive cloud providers to be more resilient.

How will M&A affect the sector in 2024?

Phylip said that he regretted selling his MSP too early. It’s exhausting running an MSP, but there are some golden opportunities ahead. So, don’t make the same mistake he has.

How to speed up the sales cycle

Will from LastPass said, you should leverage your vendor partners and their services.

Don't make the mistake of selling your MSP too early, like I did. There are golden opportunities ahead in managed services Click to Tweet

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Afternoon Keynote: How to Become One of the Worst Companies in the UK to Work For

Following lunch, MSS North 2023 continued with another great keynote.

Kate Wood, an expert on people and culture, delivered a wonderful keynote on how not to run a business if you want to keep your best talent.

She started off with a few interesting statistics:

  • On average, tech workers are approached about new jobs 3.61 times a month
  • 54% of UK tech employees work more on weekends/evenings than before Covid-19
  • Mixed gender teams (up to 50% women) outperform male-dominated teams in both sales and profits, yet only 21% of tech employees are female

Then, Kate took a look at three aspects that companies can easily get wrong if they’re not careful:

  1. Leadership
  2. Strategy
  3. Communication

Leadership

Examples of bad leadership include a lack of trust and empathy, and a failure to live up to business values.

Also, poor communication, a lack of recognition and being too busy to lead effectively.

Whereas, good leadership involves performance management, promoting personal development and encouraging upskilling. As well as open and honest one-to-ones, mentoring and providing health/mental health support.

Strategy

Poor strategy means no plan, or a reluctance to review existing plans. No communicated targets, or targets that keep changing, and a team that doesn’t help to pick up the slack when required.

Good strategy involves a plan that is documented, communicated and reviewed at regular intervals. Milestones that are realistic and wins that are celebrated big or small. It’s also about ensuring that personal, team and company goals are in alignment.

Communication

Bad communication comes from inconsistency, a lack of documentation and mixed messages from multiple channels. Side meetings and hearsay, and a lack of trust in the process are also examples of poor communication.

Also communicating out of frustration or anger can lead to avoidance from the person you’re communicating with, which can end in disaster.

Conversely good communication involves listening, encouraging feedback and reviewing meeting structures regularly. Over-communicate any changes, hold lunch and learns, and shout about what you do well to build a culture of trust and recognition.

It’s especially important to ensure communication works for anyone in the organisation, with post-Covid hybrid working arrangements to make sure anyone isn’t left out if they’re not present in the office.

54% of UK tech employees work more on weekends/evenings than before Covid-19 Click to Tweet

Tech Priorities in The Cloud, Security and AI from MSS North 2023

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Leveraging AI in Cybersecurity: Key Considerations

Kyle Torres of Sophos gave an interesting example of how threat actors can use tools like ChatGPT, despite the guardrails.

Artificial intelligence is often shown in the press as a scary thing we should all be afraid of.

However, AI comes in a number of forms, including Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Generative AI.

AI is responsible for lots of useful applications:

  • Midjourney is an AI driven image generator – creating images based on your text prompts
  • Bard will write you a script from a simple prompt, in any style you define
  • Synesthesia can create avatars to help deliver sales training to sales operatives

We all know that AI can be misused too.

ChatGPT won’t write a piece of malware if you ask it. There are clever failsafes in place to prevent that. Despite that, it will help you convert an email that you could use for phishing repurposed into a multitude of languages.

Kyle described four prompts that would be allowable singularly on ChatGPT, but together could be used for nefarious purposes by a threat actor.

Then there’s WormGPT, which will allow cyber criminals to train their own chatbot using ransomware data.

Education and Protection

By having a conversation with our customers about Generative AI and the dangers, we can limit any exposure. They can build an acceptable policy for Generative AI, for example.

Secondly, you should ask if your security products are monitoring Generative AI.

For example, Sophos Firewall has a specific Generative AI policy enforcement category.

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What Did You Think of MSS North 2023?

There was so much to see and take in on the day, but everything was within easy reach at MSS North 2023. The exhibition hall was only a short walk from the auditorium, and the speaker itinerary allowed for a lot of presentations, panels and pitches.

The number of security vendors in attendance was telling of how important security has become for managed service providers and their clients.

However, the speakers on the day gave some excellent presentations too.

Did you attend MSS North 2023? What was your highlight? We would love to hear about it in the comments.

Tech Priorities in The Cloud, Security and AI from MSS North 2023

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STEPHEN MCCORMICK

I'm the MSP Community Manager for Tubblog. A small business owner, technical writer and blogger, with 15 years experience in corporate IT. I frequently attend MSP peer groups and create content relevant to IT service providers and business owners.

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