For business leaders everywhere, a data breach is on par with the most damaging things that could happen to an organization. The thought of being the next company to make headlines keeps leaders up at night while IT organizations fight to keep the bad guys out. As threats become increasingly widespread, sophisticated and dangerous, companies look to develop security strategies that protect their environment while staying within budgets that seem to get tighter every year.

Depending on a customer’s industry, they may have additional compliance requirements to take into consideration as well. These requirements require staffing, monitoring and budget and can be overwhelming for a team that is inexperienced or already stretched too thin.

For partners, IT security is a deep and sometimes overwhelming topic. But don’t let that deter you from looking for opportunities. All you need is a handful of key questions to start the conversation and a great sales engineer to back you up.

Current Environment

Start with the basics. If you’ve been digging into their network to determine needs for other services, you may already know some of this, or you may already be prepared to ask these questions. But your customer’s answers can reveal a lot about how prepared they are to defend against web-based threats.

  1. Describe how you’ve deployed firewalls across your organization.
  2. How are you ensuring prompt updates if you manage your own devices?
  3. Does your company currently utilize cloud security applications?
  4. Does your company use a public or private network?
  5. How do you protect the data you transmit between locations and with your vendors/clients?
  6. How do your remote employees get access to your corporate resources?
  7. How are you keeping your customers’ data secure?

Security Strategy

Don’t forget about the big picture. Companies employ a variety of strategies to secure their environments, all of which require leaders to manage risk tolerance, cost, internal resources and a variety of other factors. Ask the broad questions below to get insight into your customer’s thinking.

  1. What is your current e-mail security strategy?
  2. What is your current web security strategy?
  3. Is your company performing on-going security testing?
  4. What kind of growth do you expect over the next 12-18 months?

Compliance Regulations

Compliance is feast or famine. Customers either have to deal with compliance or they don’t. But when they do, it can hang over the heads of IT leaders as a constant cycle of audits and reports. Common industries where compliance is most prevalent are medical, financial and retail, but there are others. Learn up-front what compliance issues your customer is facing and make sure to dig into how the financial and resource costs of maintaining compliance impacts their organization.

  1. What compliance or regulation issues does your company face?
  2. What specific industry regulation governs your company/industry? (i.e. HIPAA,GLBA, Sarbanes-Oxley?)
  3. What compliance initiatives (i.e. SOX, HIPAA, PCI, etc.), if any, are occupying resources and/or budgets?

The next time you meet with a customer who’s considering a new security solution, keep this guide handy to help uncover their specific needs. Asking about their current environment, security strategy and compliance requirements will help open the door for conversations that will inform the design process, allowing you to make the best recommendation possible.


Post by Nate James, Nitel’s Vice President of Account Management.