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I am going to go out on a limb here, so brace yourselves. Security services will be the key area for solution providers to add value and help their customers run more efficiently in 2006. There, I said it. What a shocker.

On the surface, it may seem that I am stating the obvious. Au contraire, mon frere. I am not simply talking about installing anti-spyware or anti-spam or protecting a network’s perimeter with up-to-date firewalls. Heck, I can recommend my 19-year-old nephew to do that.

Where VARs need to migrate their security business to in the coming year is in unified or comprehensive threat management services. Hackers, spammers and identity theft rings are growing in their sophistication and scope, setting the stage for 2006 to be wrought with new challenges for organizations looking to protect their data, IT systems and even top executives.

Plus, businesses are continuously challenged by modern-day security challenges, including risk from internal users and stricter regulations. This past year we witnessed the Sober and Bagle worms wreak havoc on corporations.

The bad news is that hackers are still more sophisticated than the technology developed to try and stop them, and to date they have been able to stay one step ahead. In fact, during the next 12 months alone we could see organizations facing as many as 23,000 security threats, according to one recent security threat management report. But this is also an enormous opportunity for the channel.

Organizations need a complete IT security approach. During a recent eSeminar I moderated on the subject I polled the audience, and while 75 percent agreed they need a multifaceted IT security strategy that includes anticipatory protection and protection from Internet threats while always satisfying all compliance requirements and not hindering access to necessary information, not all of the companies on the line had such a plan in place.

And it doesn’t end there. In addition to having all aspects of data flow secure at all times, storage and availability are becoming huge components to IT security as well.
Two weeks ago I attended a luncheon event hosted by one of my closest channel sources. It was attended by some enterprise IT managers as well as midsize CIO types, and the message was the same for both of these kinds of organizations: Securing e-mail and safely storing all data are critical to any organization’s IT strategy, regardless of size. The factors driving this end of the business are serious and involve corporate compliance, government regulation and legal proceedings. Not doing so can open a company up to legal liability and cost millions of dollars.

VARs will play a crucial role in the coming year in bringing together data availability and storage solutions into a company’s overall IT security strategy.

While there are many developing areas for solution providers to add their service expertise, from CRM to data management to application development and integration, threat management presents the most pressing need for IT departments and therefore opens up the biggest opportunities going forward.

You may have thought 2005 was bad as it relates to the amount and severity of viruses and worms that brought down Web sites and corporate networks and put data at risk, but experts are already predicting that 2006 will be worse, if you can believe it. When there is an IT need, VARs need to fill it. Here is one big one, and it is getting bigger every day.

Elliot Markowitz is Editor-at-Large of the Channel Insider. He is also Editorial Director of Ziff Davis eSeminars. He can be reached at