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CompTIA ChannelCon 2023: Cybersecurity, Talent, Networking, and More

ChannelE2E spent a couple days this week traveling to a favorite channel event in the big road show of channel events every year: CompTIA ChannelCon.

Post pandemic, this event was back in full force with so many industry icons in attendance, an exhibit floor packed with MSPs, channel partners, and vendors, and a ton of informative and inspiring sessions.

Here’s a small sampling of what we saw and learned about at the 2023 edition of ChannelCon.

Cybersecurity continues as a central issue for the channel and MSPs because SMBs are looking to their managed service providers for help.  Indeed, one CompTIA representative we spoke with mentioned that perhaps future events would include even more expanded sessions covering cybersecurity.

One of the cybersecurity vendors we spoke with this week was Trustify.

What's New at Trustifi

Trustifi has evolved its business since it was founded in 2017 by the former CIO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Originally focused on creating an engine to send out massive numbers of emails simultaneously, the company has since taken on a security mission.

Today the company is seeing its biggest growth with Trustifi-Inbound Shield, providing a “shield” between external networks and internal email systems. A big part of that is phishing protection. Zach Schwartz, VP of strategic partnerships, told ChannelE2E that the company is 95% channel and 40% of that business is MSPs. Trustifi has introduced migration tools to help MSPs move over to its platform from competitive providers.

Another newer element is tokenization, which enables some of an email message to be redacted and unredacted with less friction to the email recipient. This is particularly helpful in regulated industries such as healthcare, legal, and automotive.

The company has a little over 200 partners globally, according to Schwartz.

ChannelProgram Hits its First ChannelCon with Navistack

Another newer organization called ChannelProgram.com made its debut this year and was there at ChannelCon. ChannelProgram serves as an information and review hub for channel partners.

It begins with monthly virtual events called Pitch where vendors each get 7 minutes to pitch their product/service to a group of MSPs who provide initial feedback.

MSPs/channel partners can write reviews of products/services for the site, thus providing valuable insights to other channel partners looking for reliable products/services and vendors. These are not anonymous reviews, and there’s a cooling off period for 1- or 2-star reviews.  This gives the channel partner and vendor an opportunity to connect to resolve any issues.

A big component of this information hub is that vendors can pay to have more of their collateral materials included in their site listing area. This provides additional value to channel partners looking for a centralized source of information (rather than visiting the sites of the multiple vendors they do business with).

This week the company launched NaviStack, intended to help MSPs “Navigate Your Stack.”

The feature enables MSPs to visualize their custom vendor stack all in one spot on the site. This enables getting communications and updates from all their vendors all in one single secure portal. No two MSP technology stacks are alike, CEO Kevin Lancaster told ChannelE2E, and Navistack give managed service providers a unique custom view of their specific vendors.

Navistack also enables MSPs to identify potential gaps in their vendors stacks and use that information to improve their technology offerings.

Navistack, and indeed all of ChannelProgram is available for free to MSPs. It’s available at ChannelProgram.com.

IT By Design Addresses the Changing Talent Market

ChannelE2E also caught up with IT By Design co-founders and executives, Sunny Kaila (CEO) and Kam Kaila (president) to talk about best practices for the IT labor market. The labor market changes sparked a series of new employee programs at IT By Design, which led to the introduction of new tools such as Team GPS, performance management software, or a “talent operating system” that the company offers to its MSP customers.

“In 2020 the talent landscape changed overnight,” Kam Kaila told ChannelE2E.

Among the small changes IT By Design took to deal with the labor market shift were daily Zoom calls at 7:30 am every day called Coffee with the Community. But that’s just one example.

Meanwhile, we asked Sunny Kaila and Kam Kaila whether they thought the big tech layoffs that have been happening for the last year will ultimately benefit managed service providers because of the expanded talent pool now available. Kam Kaila said the talent market is opening up, but the challenge for MSPs will be retention of that latent. Inability to retain that talent is a reflection on the quality of leadership in an organization.

The Kaila’s believe that resilience training is a key component, too, because no one calls their MSP or IT person because they are happy. They only call when something is broken.

Sunny Kaila also noted that IT By Design employees who have left the company on good terms are provided with a Golden Ticket to return at the same rate of pay. This allows employees to go out and stretch their wings in a hot employment market, but to come back to IT By Design without question of their new adventure doesn’t pan out.

Sunny Kaila’s new book about talent will provide details of the Kaila’s philosophy of managing talent and the story behind that philosophy. It’s set to be released in mid-September.

Uptime Solutions

ChannelE2E stopped by several booths, too, while we were at ChannelCon, and one of the companies we met with is called Uptime Solutions. this company provides outsourced help desk services for managed service providers. (They previously just operated as an MSP themselves, but then fell into a market of serving MSPs with this outsourced service.) Uptime has recently opened an office in Tampa, Florida, too, so they now cover the whole world with their 24/7 outsourced help desk services. Their director, Jason Kemsley, is traveling his way through a selected group of U.S. channel events in 2023 to spread the message of Uptime's service to MSPs.

Why You Should Care About Mental Health in Cybersecurity and IT

While some may dismiss this as a soft topic, your business is only as resilient as your employees. If your employees are struggling for whatever reason, that can put your business at risk, too. Evolve Peer Groups and ConnectWise executive Scott Scrogin brought his message of the importance of taking care of owners' and employees' mental health to the ChannelCon stage.

Scrogin cited the work of academics focusing in tightly on this area, providing this quote during his session:

"Cybersecurity operations and IT organizations are often run as a team sport. Therefore, it stands to reason that the captains and coaches of those teams have a moral obligation to ensure the mental health of the team players. Key reasons for organizations to invest in their employees' mental health include retention, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, product quality, avoid burnout, excess turnover, and most importantly, help preserve strong mental health posture for employees. We are all in this together The first step is talking about it and reducing stigma."

Among the things employers can offer to help support employee mental health and wellness are:

  • Fitness programs to improve employees' physical health
  • Stress management training to develop relaxation, mindfulness and resiliency skills
  • Work environments that connect with the outside world through natural light, plants, etc.

More on this topic and Scott Scrogin's work in future blogs.

And That's a Wrap

It was great to see so many people out and networking at ChannelCon this year. Plenty of familiar faces from the last time this humble blogger went to ChannelCon (2015 when it was in Chicago). And it was great to see so many new faces, too. Thanks to CompTIA for a great event!

Jessica C. Davis

Jessica C. Davis is editorial director of CyberRisk Alliance’s channel brands, MSSP Alert, MSSP Alert Live, and ChannelE2E. She has spent a career as a journalist and editor covering the intersection of business and technology including chips, software, the cloud, AI, and cybersecurity. She previously served as editor in chief of Channel Insider and later of MSP Mentor where she was one of the original editors running the MSP 501.