Pre Lit Christmas Trees and IT Security

Pre Lit Christmas Trees and IT Security

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Yes, its 16 days to Christmas. Yes, the Santa hats and wreaths have already started adorning our streets, people, homes and cars. It is a time of the year to be grateful for what we have and to possibly reflect on what we do as part of our daily routine.

I have often wondered “what is the true value proposition for pre-lit Christmas trees?” – the standard variety that you get from any Lowes, Costco and other store. I have asked myself this question and I have a hypothesis about why people choose pre-lit trees versus real fir, birch trees and putting lights on them and I wanted to verify it. I asked some shoppers and the responses made me think about the security tools landscape. Convenience and ease of use matters – a lot! – this translates directly to our experience as IT and DevOps leaders who need to have access to security tools that are easy and intuitive to use.

Why this Christmas Tree Comparison?

Given that its that special time of the year most of us will be heading out, at least in the US, to grab a wonderful smelling fir, birch or some other kind of coniferous variety from the tree lot. I like getting fresh trees and dressing them up with my family – however, at times I do feel that with all the replacing of old burnt bulbs, cleaning the pine needles, putting water in the base etc. things can get a bit tiring.

It’s similar to the experience I had when administering servers and using tools to do network security monitoring and privilege management

What is the value proposition for pre lit trees?

For most shoppers that I have talked to the most important value prop is convenience. All the shoppers resonated with the fact that they do not have to clean up after – sans the glitter laden ribbons, if your children should decide to adorn the tree with it! They do not have to water anything, they do not have to haul it in and then out again – oh and did I mention the joyful absence of sap on the top or inside your car.

The second most important value prop was saving money in the long run. A good quality “pre lit fake tree” will easily last 10 years or more. With current prices, this works out to be $25 per Christmas for a very good tree. Compare that to the $30/40 average price for similar sized trees from a tree lot. Shoppers are actually quite attuned to savings in this regard.

The third most important value prop was safety. Real trees are perceived as being fire hazards, and they might be so in some regards. However, in my experience with some common sense, and a fire extinguisher close by, things rarely tend to go wrong. I am not sure I have ever personally known someone whose Christmas tree burnt down. The point still holds that shoppers perceive pre-lit Christmas trees as being more fire retardant than real ones.

Keep in mind that my sample size was in the teens and not statistically significant, so please take these value props with a pinch of salt (possibly on caramel-chocolate goodies!).

How does the value prop translate to security products?

Most people who have worked in Enterprises have had to deal with security product rollouts that have made us lose half the hair on our heads. For enterprise wide deployments we have had to often install agents on servers and laptops, figure our library conflicts, resolve OS issues, networking issues, email issues and then when 6 months has been spent doing the PoC and installation you will realize that the day to day experience has just added another hour or two to your existing workload.

We really need to start requiring a good clean user experience from security products. This is the same logic we use in our everyday lives – we like convenience, we like simplicity, we like ease of use. We don’t have to stay stuck with user experiences that are cumbersome and hard to navigate.

Rules of Thumb

Talking to various enterprise security, IT and DevOps leads here are some rules of thumb you can use to ascertain if a security product is easy to use or not in the steady state, before you spend time doing a PoC.

#1 – Does the product install agents

Run far away from this! When the agent breaks, and oh, it will. Then you will feel like someone from Officespace trying to put out fires but with incomplete information. Tracking down the root cause is going to be painful.

#2 Does the product require end users to enter numbers/passwords/tokens

Avoid manual burden on the end users, your employees who will be using the security product and interacting with it on a daily basis. The less friction there is the easier it will be to achieve 100% coverage inside the enterprise.

#3 Is the product configurable, hybrid SaaS, on prem, fully cloud

Every enterprise is different. In fact business units inside enterprises have various technical bastions which are different. The product you choose needs to let you be the one making the choices not the other way round. You may have to choose an on prem version for data privacy issues or a private cloud deployment.

#4 How self service-ing is the product

When the employees want to change credentials or settings do they have to contact IT or can the employee complete their change request all by themselves.

#5 Does the product send reports on a customizable schedule

You don’t want to be generating reports and looking through logs, going to Splunk and Sumologic to figure out things. The data should be presented to you in an understandable and actionable way in a regular fashion.

#6 Does the product have real time alerting

You don’t want to have to figure out how to set up alerts. The system should have the ability to let you select what is important to you and what is not. Don’t drown in noise, only have actionable alerts sent to you. Real time is important as it allows you the chance to act upon a potential incident immediately.

Your choices

So before you choose your newest security product deployment ask yourself whether you bought a pre-lit tree or a real fir? Irrespective of the answer you should be focusing on how easy and convenient is the security product. You can use the above rules of thumb to quickly verify from your first interaction whether the product is going to be a pain to handle or is actually going to provide value to you.

I hope you and your team and your family enjoy the holiday season and get to smell the fresh trees – and there is fresh pine smell canisters available for pre-lit trees too!

Would you like to talk about this?

If so, I would love to talk to you. Please feel free to schedule a time to talk with me using my calendar link here – calendly.com/Anirban/enterprise-demo

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