I’m a fan of apocalyptic fiction. I recently read Blackout by Austrian* author Marc Elsberg, which is a novel about terrorists who take down the entire European power grid. Within three days with no electricity, Europe devolves into total chaos.
What does this have to do with MSPs?
I’ve written on the Auvik blog about an MSP’s role in saving the world. But I wanted to learn more about MSPs managing critical infrastructure. So I turned to Charles Weaver, co-founder and CEO of the MSPAlliance, a peer group of cloud and managed service providers with about 30,000 members worldwide.
Is there a growing opportunity here? What are the risks? Are public organizations increasingly turning to MSPs for help—or are they retrenching and going internal?
* Correction: On the podcast, I identify author Marc Elsberg as German. He is, in fact, Austrian.
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What’s Going On
[03:40] Last week, Richard was at UK Startup Week.
[04:17] The event was dominated by tech startups. MSPs should not ignore the startup market.
[04:42] Richard shares some quotes from UK microbusiness champion Tony Robinson.
[04:49] Integrity is what sets most small business owners apart.
[05:23] In the small business world, it stand out more when someone doesn’t have integrity.
[05:50] Small businesses often don’t get paid soon enough from larger organizations. Is this a morality issue or just an accepted norm?
[06:27] Cash flow is one of the biggest killers of small businesses.
[06:58] In the 21st century, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to send and receive money instantly.
[07:21] Interesting Internet of Things startups Equiwatt UK provides AI to reduce energy bills. They plan to “Uberize” the energy market.
[08:46] Additional computing power requires additional electrical power.
[08:57] There’s a growing availability of electricity in a variety of areas like solar.
[09:59] Microsoft is buying a company called Semantic Machines, which make digital voice assistants and social chat bots.
[10:47] Can you tell the difference between a bot and a human? Do you care?
[11:21] Imagine buying a knowledge base module that your chatbot could access instead of hiring support people to answer basic questions.
[12:11] When do you let people know they’re chatting with a bot?
[12:37] People are calmer when they think they’re talking to a machine until the point they get frustrated—then they definitely want to know they’re speaking to a real person.
[13:16] Karl’s daughter got a new computer with a 95% voice-activated setup.
[14:21] Chat Heroes provides chatbots for businesses, which can be used to answer repetitive questions. If the chatbot can’t answer, then it kicks the question over to a person.
[15:41] Eventually chatbots should be able to answer 99% of the questions without human intervention.
Interview with Charles Weaver – The MSP Opportunity in Protecting Public Infrastructure
[16:51] The city of Atlanta was hit with ransomware that crippled their network for several days. This attack should be considered a hacker proof of concept.
[17:15] What is Charles seeing in terms of threats? They’re on the rise. There’s a democratization of cyber threats. These threats are hitting everybody.
[18:48] Anyone is now a legitimate target for cybercrime or cyber warfare.
[19:02] The consequences of a breach are multiplied in public infrastructure.
[19:11] There’s a massive opportunity—and obligation—for MSPs in the public infrastructure market.
[19:37] The Department of Defense is actively creating a cloud strategy.
[20:00] Small municipalities need to take as much care as the federal government is taking to safeguard their networks.
[20:20] Outsourcing is legitimate and actually a necessity for these organizations.
[20:39] According to a TripWire study, 70% of IT pros at public organizations fear catastrophic IT failure. But more than half say it would take an actual attack before their organization would invest in cybersecurity.
[21:13] Atlanta is a game changer. It tells smaller cities it could happen to them.
[21:47] Smaller entities need to be educated about the threats and that it’s possible to mitigate those threats.
[22:09] GPDR is changing the way data is protected in Europe. It won’t be long before the US and other developed countries follow.
[22:26] MSPs need to have their own house in order if they want to pursue these opportunities. They need to prove they are secure.
[23:04] They need a well thought out strategy that they can explain easily.
[23:59] What are their qualifications to meet needs and can they demonstrate it?
[24:33] There are different legal liabilities involved in taking care of these critical infrastructures.
[25:19] MSPs should always have good contracts reviewed by a lawyer and have really good insurance.
[25:39] Documentation and well thought out and vetted policies are the starting point.
[25:49] You need to demonstrate you have your stuff in order internally. Certifications can help.
Links from this episode
What’s Going On
- UK Startup Weekend
- Microsoft Acquires Semantic Machines, Advancing the State of Conversational AI
- Semantic Machines
- Chat Heroes
- Karl Palachuk: Small Biz Thoughts
- Karl Palachuk (Twitter)
- Richard Tubb: Tubblog
- Richard Tubb (Twitter)
- Blackout, by Marc Elsberg
- Hackerpocalypse: The MSP’s Role in Saving the World
- Charles Weaver (LinkedIn)
- Charles Weaver (Twitter)
- California Power Substation Attacked in 2013 Is Struck Again (2014)
- Cities at Risk: Detailing the Atlanta Ransomware Attack
- 70 Percent of Energy Security Pros Fear Digital Attacks Could Produce a “Catastrophic Failure”
- MSP/Cloud Verify certification
- Atlanta Mayor Says Cyberattack Came as ‘Surprise’ to City, Residents
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