Despite the budget slashing and teeth gnashing that's going on in conferences rooms across the country, most of your clients probably won't reduce their IT security budgets for 2009. If they do, they'll put away the chainsaw they took to the rest of their budget and use embroidery scissors.
That reaction is actually a trend: Over the last few years, IT security budgets have grown. In some cases, IT security budgets have doubled. Think about it, even during a recession, clients still have to protect their data. Brian Prince quoted Forrester Research in his eWeek article Putting a Price on Security: "...security has gone from 7.2 percent of enterprise IT budgets in 2007 to 12.6 percent in 2009." And according to Forrester analyst Jonathan Penn, as quoted in Putting a Price on Security, "IT security is slowing less than IT in general."
In order to pay for IT security, your clients won't implement new technologies. In fact, clients will cannibalize non-essential budgets to feed IT security. That means consultants who've been training in the latest and greatest technologies might not have any place to show off — at least, not for a while.
My advice is to put your energy into IT security. If IT security is your specialty, don't be shy about it. If it isn't, bone up. Several areas that your clients will look to you for expert advice include the following:
- Phishing and malware remain a huge problem, and its one all of your clients share. Even with the best technology, keeping systems clean and performing at peek can be a huge, on-going job. The latest threat seems to be rogue malware removal tools — not everything is as it seems! To avoid being duped, clients need your expertise and experience in this area.
- Help clients provide mobile security to their employees, both at home and while traveling. Maintaining secure and dependable remote connections is a true art these days.
- Wireless networks come with unique threats; as your clients make the move, they'll need your expertise to keep their employees connected and their networks safe.
- Information security, which involves protecting information and information systems, is a growing area.
- If clients don't have tight security policies and processes, help them improve.
As your clients reprioritize their technology needs, your consulting business can survive this recession by making IT security your priority.
Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.