Perhaps you have all the toilet paper you could need right now, but the memory of that shortage could be fresh in your mind. Things are turning around in some areas, yet supply chain constraints continue across several industries, including cybersecurity. This article explores how managed service providers (MSPs) and small businesses can be proactive.
There are regular reports in the news about different supply chain challenges. The U.K. is struggling with supply chain chaos extending to coffee and chickens. Here in the U.S., it’s difficult to get building supplies, paint prices are climbing, and new foreign autos are taking longer to arrive. The current supply chain constraints are negatively impacting computer technology availability too.
The COVID pandemic not only slowed production and created a logistical nightmare with congested shipping, but also more people were buying computers for remote work. At the same time, there is a shortage of computer chips and semiconductors. For instance:
- Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger has warned the shortage could last into 2023
- Michael Dell, founder of Dell, agrees, noting that the cheaper technology components are proving the hardest to source
- Marvell Technologies, which develops and produces semiconductors and related technology, has a 52-week delivery time
To make matters worse, China is experiencing power outages and this new energy crisis is further complicating the computer chip situation. Anecdotally, we have even heard rumors of a rise in hoarding and spot prices for computer technology. All of this has a real impact on cybersecurity professionals, and the companies they protect.
Supply Chain Constraints & Technology Availability
Network and system reliability are critical to continued business success. Clients invest heavily in technology and if the network does not work, that’s a major problem. Downtime is costly in terms of decreased productivity, employee and customer dissatisfaction, possible compliance concerns, and loss of brand reputation.
Yet availability rests on the necessary hardware to run and protect systems. MSPs can’t promise that to clients, and small businesses can’t offer it to employees, without access to the very items that are so challenging to get right now.
The pillars of cybersecurity have always been CIA: Confidentiality. Integrity. Availability.
Availability is not only connectivity and data access but also requires hardware systems. Planned hardware obsolescence remains essential for information security providers, especially in a supply-constrained environment. Knowing when to replace or upgrade technology is an important part of ensuring availability and making sure downtime does not happen at the wrong time or take too long.
Thus, having a clear sense of the ramifications of the current supply chain constraints is critical for MSPs and small business clients.
Guiding Client Investment and Tech Use
The role of the professional IT service provider is to provide sound guidance for client investment and use of technology. Small businesses count on their technology to provide a competitive advantage. Therefore, they trust IT partners to be aware of the environment and proactively address any concerns. Right now, that’s anticipating the challenges from supply chain constraints.
At Calyptix, we recommend making a plan with each individual customer now. Communicate with your small business clients about the situation. Educating them about supply chain constraints and being transparent about possible issues — including pricing — will support your long-term relationship. Transparency, trust, and credibility are pillars that have never hurt a business nor its reputation.
You need to know what you don’t know. Regrettably, that’s almost everything when it comes to predicting hardware availability right now. It’s everyone’s guess about how long the current supply chain constraints for tech components will last.
What you can do is assess the current situation for each client. Inventory their systems and needs. Then, establish short- and long-term horizons for their IT strategy. Lay out what will be necessary in the next six to 12 months and also in 24 to 48 months.
Make a plan with each client to mitigate severe business impact from a hardware supply chain challenge. If a client is reluctant to plan ahead, point out that this proactive planning can help:
- Maintain security
- Ensure availability
- Minimize disruption
- Avoid unexpected costs
Having these conversations now, rather than at the very end of the year, can also make sense from a budget planning perspective. Plus, by planning ahead, you’re less likely to be stymied by holiday season shipping snafus and increased costs.
Empowering Decision Making Around Supply Chain Challenges
In an article explaining the global chip shortage, Forrester’s Research Director Glenn O’Donnell suggests “tech buyers need to be flexible, patient, and improvisational.” There are different ways to approach availability problems or price increases, including:
- Waiting for product availability — though this could be a long wait
- Paying more — if you want and need it now, you may have to pay a hefty price tag
- Looking for an alternative — there may be a similar product available, but can you promise on quality?
At Calyptix Security we’re encouraging our partners to look ahead. If there’s an upgrade in a customer’s future, and you’ll need a different unit, we’re going to need more lead time than in the past. We are feeling the supply chain constraints firsthand. We encourage you to think now about what you’ll need now and in the long term to give your networks the security and support they need.