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Like most things digital, the bit and bytes that make up a security solution are moving into the cloud, and that creates some issues for solution providers. On the plus side, the opportunity to sell security has never been greater, thanks to the ubiquity of the cloud. The downside, however, is that a larger percentage of customers are buying direct from security software vendors that increasingly make their software available as a service in the cloud.

To help solution providers in the channel cope with that new reality, Trend Micro recently revamped its channel program to include new online marketing capabilities for channel partners, additional specializations, and an enhanced Deal Registration program that offers greater support, resources and incentives for partners focused on the midmarket.

The goal, according to Partha Panda, vice president of U.S. channel sales for Trend Micro, is to understand the business ecosystem in which the customer is operating and the associated level of security required.

“It’s not about adding another product to the line card,” said Panda. “It’s about understanding the ecosystem and up-leveling the conversation.” Only then, he added, can solution providers really engage in selling consulting services that go well beyond installing any one particular security product.

“We’re seeing a significant shift in customer behavior,” said Panda. “The cloud means there is less deployment and installation services revenue.”

A big part of up-leveling the security conversation involves including security intelligence services in the solution mix. Rather than simply selling anti-malware as a service, Panda said solution providers need to focus on additional security services that can be delivered only via the cloud.

In the case of Trend Micro, he explained, that means getting customers to sign up for the Trend Micro Global Threat Intelligence service.

In general, security intelligence services that identify threats early enough to enable customers to proactively remediate vulnerabilities—either before malware strikes or soon after—are the next big thing in IT security.

Panda contends that to successfully sell those services, solution providers need to be able to engage in a business conversation concerning what levels of security need to be applied to different types of data. Not all data needs to be equally secured, and customers will generally pay more to secure valuable intellectual property than every end point that touches the corporate network. Only then can solution providers begin to have an intelligent conversation with the customer concerning the actual return on investment associated with a particular security solution.

At the moment, most customers are willing to invest in anti-malware software and a basic firewall. The opportunity for the channel partner is to explain the value of investing in additional security technologies at a time when threats are more numerous and more sophisticated with each passing day.

In that context, the cloud becomes a key enabler for the channel to sell more services that address those specific types of attacks.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.