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Rashaad Bajwa, Integris: “cyber threats are changing so fast, companies feel like they’re playing a game of whack-a-mole”

Businesses may as well start and grow from one person’s genius idea, but if instead of foundations there’s only thin air to latch on to, chances are, it won’t last very long.

And one of the foundational pillars of any business in today’s world is a good IT infrastructure, one that is secure and works seamlessly with what you want it to. Putting together such a system from bits and pieces which aren’t necessarily designed to go together can result in serious cybersecurity vulnerabilities. And in case of exploitations, your business may never get off the ground at all.

To talk about the importance of quality IT infrastructure for cybersecurity reasons and the ever-changing nature of cyberthreats, Cybernews sat down with Rashaad Bajwa, the Chief Executive Officer of Integris, a provider of technology services.

How did Integris originate? What was the journey like since your start in 2021?

Integris is the story of four top regional MSPs merging together to start a national premium MSP platform. All four of us – Domain Technology Partners, Compudyne, MyITpros, and ProviDyn – had all known and respected each other for many years as part of a peer group. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we shared common values and could bring more resources for our clients and opportunity for our staff by coming together. Together, we are able to elevate the quality and breadth of technology and cybersecurity offerings for all our customers. By raising the ceiling of career potential and pathways within our organization, we are also able to attract, motivate, and retain the best talent in the industry. And we were able to do it all while still providing that close-knit, local market experience that customers want and need.

With the acquisition of Iconic IT last month, another major national MSP, we are really making that dream come true, now expanding to 10 states, 16 offices, and more than 440 employees. It’s an exciting time, where we’re building a foundation for a company that can truly have a national reach.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do? What are the main challenges you help navigate?

Integris is a premium provider of managed IT services. Customers come to us to provide them with the hardware, software, cybersecurity, managed backup, and cloud services they need to build their businesses. We have a critical role to play for our clients because we provide the technology foundation they need to thrive and grow. The right clients for us want a strategic partner to help them empower their people through technology, not just a “computer guy” to put out fires. Premium IT means having a premium workforce that knows how to identify the root cause and keep fires from starting in the first place. It means having the most well-trained, customer-focused staff to proactively guide IT strategy rather than just reacting to issues as they come up.

What was it like providing IT services during the pandemic? Were there any new challenges you had to adapt to?

The pandemic made it clear to everyone the strategic importance of technology to their business. Overnight, companies were asked to do their work remotely, and it was tech infrastructure that made all that happen. Both large and small companies were migrating to cloud services, adding layers of cybersecurity controls, and installing IP communications platforms to enable a remote workforce. Yes, it was hectic, but it was also a tremendous opportunity for businesses to up their game, in general. I truly believe that companies are more flexible, transparent, and productive now than they have ever been, and that’s in no small part because they upgraded the technology supporting them during the pandemic. It’s been quite an exciting time to see how effectively our clients were able to leverage technology to pivot their workforce in a matter of months.

In your opinion, what are the most common misconceptions surrounding IT support?

That IT support is just a break/fix business model. Look, there’s always going to be a need for computer installs, troubleshooting, and all those workaday things you need to keep a company running on its networks. But real IT value – where the rubber meets the road – is in strategic consulting. The right IT strategy means that you’ll not only have a working system but one that’s geared for your future. You’ll be able to make the right investments, protect your company from emerging cybercrime threats, and in general stay one step ahead of your competitors. In an age where the tech landscape is changing constantly, that’s something no company can ignore.

Although there are more security solutions and providers available than ever before, certain companies and individuals still hesitate to upgrade their security. Why do you think that is the case?

I think cyber threats are growing and changing so fast, companies feel like they’re playing a game of whack-a-mole. Just when they buy a tool to take out one threat, another one pops up. Every six months or a year, they’re hearing about the latest new thing they have to spend money on. It can make it hard to budget and plan. But here’s the thing: cybercriminals are upping their game all the time. And because of this, regulators and cyber risk insurers are upping their definition of what constitutes a “good” cybersecurity defense. Companies that don’t plan on consistently maturing their cybersecurity posture will eventually put themselves at risk, lose their insurance coverage, and lose out on business opportunities. It really is that simple.

When it comes to customized cybersecurity systems, is this something businesses of all sizes should invest in or is it only relevant for large enterprises?

I would argue that customized cybersecurity is a bit of a misnomer. Even when you’re putting together a cybersecurity defense using off-the-shelf solutions, the way it is applied is customized to your business. And honestly, we’ve had such an explosion of enterprise-grade cybersecurity products being made available at scale for businesses of all sizes. It’s possible now for even the smallest of businesses to fortify themselves with very affordable and effective tools. It really has more to do with a company’s processes than its size.

What are some of the worst cybersecurity practices that can make companies extremely vulnerable to cyberattacks?

The two biggest mistakes we see are a lack of MFA (Multi-factor Authentication) and failing to implement user access controls to limit potential damage.

MFA is now very affordable, there is just no more excuse for businesses not to have it in this work-from-anywhere world we live in. Passwords are weak and ineffective, and MFA is the only way to ensure authorized user access.

It is not a matter of if, but when someone clicks on something they shouldn’t. User access controls like removal of administrative rights, Internet content filters, email filters, rule of least privilege, and others are the best way to make sure users don’t hang themselves with too much power. Too often it is laziness or ignorance that gives people too much power to damage their own systems. A thorough assessment of user rights and security controls are too often ignored and would have prevented many incidents if implemented properly.”

With work from home becoming the new normal, what cybersecurity solutions do you see becoming an inseparable part of remote work?

Certainly, virtual private networks and MFA are a remote work necessity now, as employees can log in from anywhere and everywhere. Zoom and MS Teams have become go-to tools, allowing companies to have a truly robust collaboration platform that’s remote enabled for video calling on any device. But one of the most exciting tools we’ve seen lately is Microsoft Windows 365 Cloud PC. This makes it possible for an employee to log in on any device, anywhere, and get their full workstation experience, right down to the screensaver. It’s a game-changer, making a company’s network fully device agnostic. Remote work has dramatically sped up the adoption of cloud technologies. We’ve spent a lot of time during the last two years helping our customers make the modern workplace journey to the cloud. These are exciting times.”

What does the future hold for Integris?

With our recent mergers, we’re growing the breadth and depth of our resources, capabilities, and offerings. I’m excited about the team we have built and what that means for what we can offer our clients. We continue to look to partner with other best-in-class premium MSPs to grow in our existing markets as well as new ones.

Big, positive changes are on the horizon. Whatever we do, we will do it as a people-first company dedicated to providing our customers with a premium MSP experience.

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