Microsoft Copilot and GenAI: Driving Growth for SMBs at ALSO UK’s Cloud Summit 2024

View from the summit

ALSO UK recently held its Cloud Summit ’24, where GenAI was a major theme as it presents the biggest security challenges and opportunities for British small businesses.

Thus far in 2024, generative AI (GenAI) has been one of the big growth areas in technology, including the launch of Microsoft Copilot for the SMB market. With continual advancements in technology innovation, it is important that MSPs and cloud resellers not only keep up but stay ahead of the curve.  

To this end, ALSO UK recently held its Cloud Summit 2024, which included hosting a panel of security industry experts to explore the latest trends, developments and challenges in artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity for cloud resellers and SMBs. The expert panel looked at the importance of GenAI in the modern cloud landscape, revealing that 87% of organisations believe AI offers a competitive edge.

Keynote speakers at the event included David Bowen, global business development director for Microsoft, and Robert Pritchard, founder of The Cyber Security Expert. 

Vendor celebration

Mark Appleton, chief customer officer at ALSO Cloud UK, says the Summit was also a celebration of some of ALSO’s key security vendors. “As well as an opportunity for top cloud industry leaders to explore the conversation surrounding the latest trends and developments in AI and cybersecurity,” he adds. 

“We aimed to provide a venue for cloud resellers who strive for the highest cloud security standards to hear from experts, and the Summit served as a platform for knowledge sharing, collaboration and inspiration, all to provide a unified strategy for MSP cyberteams and businesses.

“Since ALSO launched in the UK last year, we have cemented ties with our trusted security vendors. These alliances are not just a benefit but a necessity in today’s cloud landscape, and the summit was a great way to celebrate our partners and our unique offering, while paving the way for the future of enterprise security in an informative way.

“Our security vendors were able to share insights and collaborate to build a complete and comprehensive analysis of modern cloud solutions and challenges. Each keynote speaker and vendor representative talk built off the last, painting a complete picture of MSP cybersecurity threats. 

“With this comprehensive overview, ALSO is in the best position to leverage and tailor solutions to our client base. Overall, the event’s successes are due to the benefits of our extensive alliance of partnerships – we bring all the expert voices together in one room, for the greater good of our client offering.”

Highlights from the ALSO UK Cloud Summit included: 

• Cybersecurity expert Acronis showcasing the dangers of AI-boosted ransomware attempts, as well as the latest AI tools being developed to counter malicious actors

• Password manager LastPass outlined the ongoing compromised credential crisis and the urgent need to address poor cyber-hygiene practices

• Security awareness solutions expert Vade explained how easy and accessible hacking has become with GenAI with their ‘10 mins to make you a hacker’ talk

• CrowdStrike demonstrated the potential of GenAI tools when used for good in boosting cybersecurity efforts

• AvePoint outlined the business expansion benefits of tools such as Copilot for MS365. 

The importance of GenAI 

As mentioned, GenAI was one of the main topics at the event, and Robert highlighted the importance of AI in the modern cloud landscape. “The world has changed completely in recent years, with cloud-first dominating as the best solution, even though securing it is not without challenges,” he says. “The old model (‘on-prem’ and trusted network) is outdated, and legislation for service providers is coming as the risk to critical infrastructure now dependent on modern technology services needs protection more than ever.” 

In addition, David noted in his keynote speech that 87% of organisations believe that AI offers a competitive edge for their business.

“While the technology brings security challenges, there is clear value to business operations and SME growth,” notes Steve Grey, head of sales at ALSO Cloud UK. “Tools such as Copilot are expected to continue the value add of AI to systems, aiding in business productivity, improving work quality, time efficiency with task completion and improving ease of data and information access. 

“When it comes to the current era of AI, businesses are at a turning point. Investments in this new technology are shifting from not just a bonus to business operations, but a necessity to integrate for enterprises to compete in the future. The benefits to organisations are clear, not just in sheer productivity figures, but also for team member morale as they can stop spending time on tedious and repetitive tasks, and instead apply more creativity to their work.”

Steve adds that ALSO is unified with its vendor partners in empowering its organisations with top, mission-critical technologies and cloud solutions. “One finding from the event was the reveal that 75% of workers are already using AI at work, so from our viewpoint it’s no longer introducing something new for people to learn, but tailoring the AI tools to what is both secure and going to help that business grow and thrive,” he says. 

“Our partners at AvePoint highlighted that any investment in AI tools needs a robust data foundation, as building trust in AI tools and harnessing its full potential starts with data. Part of our offering to customers is also helping them prepare, secure and optimise their data access and operations so that when an AI tool is integrated, it can focus on streamlining relevant data access and speeding up operations without sacrificing security.

“Not all AI tools will be entirely relevant or helpful to all businesses, but ALSO’s offering can be tailored to customer needs. Moreover, ALSO is wholly invested in training our customers to use tools to their maximum potential. We emphasise utilising our AI Academy and training platforms for users so that no employee is left behind and businesses can make the most out of their AI tool integrations.”

Cybersecurity focus

Cybersecurity was also a big theme for the day, which also ties in with GenAI. “One message was clear: GenAI presents the biggest security challenges to MSPs and SMBs,” says Steve. “New cyberthreats are rapidly developing as GenAI has become more accessible for cyber actors to exploit. The bar of entry for cyberattacks has been lowered, with ransomware attempts becoming easier to create – as they are no longer limited to those with advanced cyber skills to enact them. This has meant that 300,000 new malware samples have appeared per day on average in 2024, as reported by Acronis.  

“Security teams also must do more with less, suffering from understaffing due to the ongoing cyber skills shortage and being outpaced by the prolific quantity of alerts and issues. Attackers easily take advantage of weakened teams, aiming to gain access, escalate privileges once inside, and move across organisations to target the most valuable data. With AI bolstering these malicious attacks, cybersecurity needs to be at the forefront of business operations, especially when they choose to integrate their own AI tools.”

Positive feedback

The Summit was positively received by those who attended. “Our feedback from attendees has been that many found the summit informative and insightful for painting a clear picture of the modern-day cloud landscape,” says Mark. 

“Many found the conversations with our security partner representatives and ALSO Cloud UK team members engaging and the day’s agenda and talk topics interesting and thought provoking. Notably, David’s keynote about how MSPs can get into AI business, supported by solid research and customer feedback, was found to be a great kick-off for the day’s discussion, as each subsequent expert could build on what was said before for a complete picture of the cloud security landscape.” 

More to come

While this was ALSO’s first UK event since the company’s official launch here last year, Mark says more will be forthcoming. “We hope to continue providing similar events for our vendor partners and resellers in the future,” he adds. 

“It’s important to continue having these conversations, for the sake of sharing knowledge across different security specialists and sectors. By providing a comprehensive look into modern cloud business challenges, the Summit facilitated collaborative insights from different vendors – ultimately, this unified service is reflective of our cloud marketplace offering.

“We plan to return with another ALSO Cloud Summit in 2025. But while this event was a success as a first for the UK, we want to continue to expand the industry conversation in the weeks ahead, alongside establishing dominance across the channel and reseller sectors.”

What the vendors said..

Ivan Dunn, Acronis

“At the summit Acronis showed our MSPs suite – Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud – an integrated solution for cybersecurity, backup, disaster recovery and management of a large range of endpoints, clouds, SaaS, VMs and servers.

“The day was a success for Acronis. We met some interesting people that can help promote Acronis and some MSP business owners, and we can help them scale their managed services businesses.

“These events are always important as face-to-face meetings are so important as it the best way to communicate value propositions to decision makers.

“The main topic that came up in discussions with attendees was billing. MSPs struggle with billing for managed services and licenses and how to scale MSPs. The challenges are around staff costs and making it easier for their staff to support their clients.

“The MSP sector is consolidating and is likely to subject to additional regulation on the near future due to the importance of IT skills in keeping UK businesses safe from cyberattacks and mundane business interruptions. There is a lot of opportunity to help end users become cyber essentials compliant to help them win more business and tools that can help monitor or enforce cyber essentials policies are becoming more and more important.”  

James Nganga, Hornetsecurity

“At the summit, on display at the Hornetsecurity stand was Hornet-branded merchandise, and there was also a brief presentation on Hornetsecurity too.

“The day was a success for Hornetsecurity as we engaged with new and existing partners and got an insight into other vendors’ portfolios.

“These events are important for companies like Hornetsecurity as they give us an opportunity to engage and existing partners. There were a range of topics that came up in discussions with attendees, including cybersecurity in general, Copilot and Hornetsecurity.”

Callum Noad, AvePoint

“At the summit, as well as our lovely merch, we had collateral around our Co-Pilot readiness messaging, with some case studies, including a small brochure on our wider services. This helps partners and customers see real world examples of how others are working with AvePoint to solve critical needs.

“The day was a success as we had the chance to connect with many MSPs who were excited to learn more about AvePoint and how we could help them build more services using our products.

“Events such as this are important because we are often told we’re the best X company that they’ve never heard of, so visibility, putting our name out there with our messaging is super important to us.

“One of the main topics raised by a few people that came and spoke to us was migrations. 

“This may be surprising to some, but it’s still super relevant! Other attendees were interested in our Insights solution, as well as our full suite of Copilot readiness offerings. 

“Many organisations are ready to use AI but need to put guardrails and governance in place before rolling it out. That’s where we can help this sector with AvePoint’s Copilot readiness solutions that help to prepare, secure and optimize data for Copilot for M365.”