With experience as an MSP for smaller businesses, Ekaru knows how important security is at a small scale. With affordability and official security policies on the minds of business owners, Ekaru uses Lifecycle Manager to address those concerns and build a more robust service for all of their clients.
Ann Westerheim, PhD, Founder and President of Ekaru, knows that cost and expertise are barriers for small business security. More digital integration across the business landscape often means that smaller businesses are at risk due to their limited resources compared to larger companies.
“I see a big gap in the market for small businesses who have needs that exceed the sophistication of a single IT person,” she said. “Our niche is to serve that in-between customer.”
Westerheim founded Ekaru in 2001 to provide MSP services to small businesses in her local community in and around Boston, MA. Since the founding, Ekaru has grown to a 15 person MSP that strives to give the best support possible to the businesses that can often get left behind.
“A lot of the bigger MSPs are going after bigger organizations,” she said. “That leaves a lot of business behind – a digital divide.”
The goal for Westerheim and the Ekaru team is to allow their clients to get more from technology, which is why security has been a priority for them. Without the help of Ekaru’s team, small businesses have had trouble taking the proper steps to keep data safe because they either demand too much time, money, or technical understanding.
Ekaru focuses on educating their clients on how they can take important preventative steps to secure their business without going over budget. One of the big challenges for a small business is not taking security seriously, or thinking attacks only happen to large companies, Westerheim said.
“I think one of the biggest challenges for a small business is they hear about cyber threats in the news and they can conclude ‘This doesn’t impact me,’” she said. “So trying to relate it and bring forth the statistics that half of cyber threats hit small businesses. Nobody’s under the radar, but you’re not helpless. It’s not a story of fear and gloom and doom. There’s a lot of smart and affordable things you can do.”
There are tons of affordable steps businesses can take that Westerheim outlined, including security patch monitoring, two factor authentication, filing for cyber liability insurance, encryption and using business class firewalls.
Cyber liability insurance can be tricky to get, Westerheim said, usually because small businesses don’t fully understand what is required to qualify or don’t have the bandwidth to dedicate to getting coverage.
Insurance companies have a set of requirements in place to determine eligibility which are often strict and require technical knowledge that small business owners may not know. These include preventative policies, keeping hardware under warranty, and keeping assets within support from manufacturers, among other requirements.
“If you don’t put cybersecurity safeguards in place, you won’t be insurable,” Westerheim said. “That’s kind of a wake up call for folks… Some folks will find themselves uninsurable if they aren’t able to positively respond to some basic questions about safeguards in place, like using two factor authentication, if you have a backup, I’ve even seen questions where they want to know what kind of antivirus you use.”
Ekaru works with their clients to make sure they are compliant with the security requirements and guide them through the insurance process. Lifecycle Manager has been an important tool in monitoring the warranties and hardware assets to prove to insurance companies that their clients meet the requirements for coverage.
By knowing exactly what a client has in their inventory, it became much easier to address any outlying issues for the insurance process.
Warranty coverage can be critical to qualify for insurance, and procuring warranties from ScalePad Warranty Services through Lifecycle Manager has made that process much easier for Ekaru. Westerheim said the ease of ordering from within the dashboard has made a big difference in their process.
“Trying to do a warranty from HP is extremely challenging, even Dell makes it really difficult. So just to be able to kind of point and click and be able to tell the customer what the budget is, it just streamlines the whole process,” she said.
Taking preventative measures to maintain good hardware doesn’t just support security efforts, they improve the day-to-day operations of a business and prevent downtime from tech issues.
Westerheim said that while they did have access to asset reporting through their RMM tools, the challenge was the way the data was collected and presented. With the asset lifecycle reports, Ekaru can quickly generate an accurate report that breaks down the data in an easy to understand way for clients that may not be familiar with tech details.
Before using Lifecycle Manager, the Ekaru team had to clean up all the data manually and fix occasionally incorrect data like OS install dates. This took up time that the team could have been spending in better ways.
Once Lifecycle Manager was implemented, the speed and accuracy of the asset lifecycle reports improved communication with clients.
“[Reports] have to be crystal clear to clients so they can see the big picture and then understand better how to make a strategic technology roadmap versus just constantly reacting to ‘this doesn’t work, that doesn’t work,’” she said. “It’s important to say ‘This is what your environment actually is. Here’s some things we see as a risk. We want you to make an informed decision. Maybe it makes sense in this quarter to put improvements in the budget, but maybe it doesn’t.’ At least then they have an accurate picture and they can make a decision based on it.”
Westerheim also found that the Digital Maturity Index (DMI), a feature that grades your client’s tech environment based on industry best practices and customizable standards, was very successful in showing clients the overall health of their tech and where they need to plan for improvements.
“[With DMI] you can get a snapshot right away from a 30,000 foot view. Are they in good shape or are they not in good shape? Then trying to get people on a proactive cycle of replacing equipment and not hanging onto stuff that’s not performing for too long,” she said. “This really helps us with the planning piece of our review meetings. The reporting also does a powerful job for that, it just makes it so easy to digest.”
By eliminating the need for many manual processes with Lifecycle Manager’s automated monitoring, reporting, and warranty procurement features, Ekaru has been able to use that time more effectively with clients. Westerheim said the team has transitioned into doing more review meetings with clients since preparation is much easier.
“I think we probably translated our time savings into doing more [review meetings] which ultimately helps the customers in that things just don’t go out of kilter,” she said.
Before clients realize it, hardware can quickly become out of date or warranty in just a few years. By addressing these assets ahead of time Ekaru and their clients can prevent losses of data, security breaches, and unnecessary operations downtime.
Ekaru’s success comes from their dedication to their local small businesses, making sure that clients aren’t left behind. By taking affordable and proactive steps, Ekaru is making sure their clients are secure while accomplishing their long and short-term goals.Find out how your MSP can get started with Lifecycle Manager. Book a demo or start a free trial today.