ESPORTS & GAMING
ISSUE March 2021 www.pcr-online.biz
ESPORTS & GAMING ISSUE #205 March 2021
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Biz Media Ltd • 4th Floor 44 Maiden Lane • London • WC2E 7LN All contents © 2020 Biz Media Ltd. or published under licence. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any way without the prior written permission of the publisher. All information contained in this publication is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Biz Media Ltd. cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. You are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers directly with regard to the price of products/services referred to in this publication. Apps and websites mentioned in this publication are not under our control. We are not responsible for their contents or any other changes or updates to them. This magazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein. If you submit material to us, you warrant that you own the material and/or have the necessary rights/ permissions to supply the material and you automatically grant Biz Media Ltd. and its licensees a licence to publish your submission in whole or in part in any/all issues and/or editions of publications, in any format published worldwide and on associated websites, social media channels and associated products. Any material you submit is sent at your own risk and, although every care is taken, neither Biz Media Ltd. nor its employees, agents, subcontractors or licensees shall be liable for loss or damage. We assume all unsolicited material is for publication unless otherwise stated, and reserve the right to edit, amend, adapt all submissions.
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TheEditor Keeping entertained
ith many of us finding ourselves with unexpected time on our hands given the Coronavirus lockdowns we were suddenly granted the opportunity to take up new and creative ways to while away the time. YouTube became awash with quirky and interesting pursuits to keep connected with the outside world with new dance crazes and whacky photography and videos, whilst many chose intense rounds of video game play. It’s no surprise then that the global video games industry is “thriving” despite the widespread economic disruption caused by the Coronavirus, reports the World Economic Forum (WEF), stating initial data to have shown “huge growth in playing time and sales since the lockdowns began.” WEF also reports that, “as a result of COVID-19 lockdown, sports leagues around the world have turned to esports to find new ways of engaging with fans and several esports competitions have been shown on live TV, as broadcasters look to fill hours of scheduled sports content that were cancelled in the wake of the pandemic” popularising esports and continuing to make it less of a niche industry. Quite timely our esports and gaming focus falls in our March issue following a long stint of lockdown. In this issue, in our big interview with Sumo Logic’s Iain Chidgey we focus on gaming and security and look at what companies are doing to keep their customers secure. Bob Shaker at Norton Gaming talks about what kind of threats gamers face, and how they can protect themselves. In an industry round table with gaming creative marketing agency, Hotdrop, specialist esports agency, Promod Esports, events company, epic.LAN, Interactive specialist, SPREE and specialist manufacturer of custom gaming, hardware, Novatech we get the lowdown on the gaming industry and esports from their professional perspectives. Whilst Swedish based Challengermode tells us more about its mission to make esports more accessible for everyone. Also don’t forget to check out our sector guides as we highlight a whole host of interesting tech such as the new HANNspree ZEUS Tablet PC, BullGuard’s Game Booster protection and some great gaming components and storage with all sorts from the GAMMIX S70 to Samsung’s 980 PRO.
Michelle Winny, Editor
Editorial: 0759 529 8729 Advertising: 0787 259 4600
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06 Retail analysis: Partner ecosystem is at the heart of eCommerce evolution 08 News: Round up of the latest tech industry headlines 12 Industry Opinions 20 Big Interview: Sumo Logic’s, Iain Chidgey 24 Gaming Security: Kaspersky 26 Gaming Security: NortonLifelock
26 esports: State of the industry 28 esports: Challengermode 36 Top 5 Tech 40 Gaming: OPSYS 44 Sector guides: Pro gaming machines & Pro gaming components & storage 49 Life in the channel: ConnectWise’s Gregg Lalle
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PARTNER ECOSYSTEM IS AT THE HEART OF ECOMMERCE EVOLUTION In a guest post, Alison Williams, Business Development Director at Amplience talks to PCR about its partner networks and the importance of streamlining your ecommerce platform at a time when retailers can really make a difference.
he past year has been both a blessing and a curse for eCommerce. Retailers and brands have had to step up and become a substitute for the absence of physical stores, the expertise found within them, and the shopping experience. Demand for goods has never been so high and retailers equipped to meet those demands with a plethora of content are reaping dividends. But despite investing in responsive online storefronts that are supposedly mobile-optimised, many retailers are struggling to convert sales, and this is having a negative impact. Consumer buying habits have changed. As many as 20% are incorporating social media such as Pinterest and Instagram in their shopping routines to seek out trends, discover products and find inspiration. When they land on an eCommerce site, they are breaking the traditional eCommerce conversion funnel by going straight to the product-detail-page. This is traditionally the end of the shopping journey, not the beginning, and they’re missing a whole storefront’s worth of content, offers and promotions and spending less. If consumers do go straight to the storefront too many are experiencing poor page load performance, incomprehensible navigation, opaque taxonomies, missing product information, and generic content that lacks personalisation and/or relevance. When the results are filtered for mobile-first interactions, these challenges are magnified, with page load performance being the stand-out issue. The spotlight is on eCommerce. There’s nowhere else to go right now, and the fact is that dealing with these problems requires
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changes at the front, and at the backend. Retailers too often rely on decades-old platforms and content management technologies that are not designed to enable simple changes. Retail technology teams have worked miracles, frankly, in extending these legacy systems to accommodate omnichannel demands, but they are fighting a losing battle with complexity and cost and shopper frustration grows by the day.
Enter headless commerce
To gain control of how they build and manage digital experiences across every customer-facing touchpoint, headless commerce has the solution. It decouples the front-end presentation layer (the head) from the back-end eCommerce capabilities (which coordinate tasks like maintaining and updating a product catalogue, processing payments, handling orders and more). Headless platforms expose functionality delivered from the cloud enabling them to support lightning-fast mobile-optimised storefronts and solve the problems of monolithic back-end complexity. But getting this message across needs integration partners that share a headless vision for content, commerce, and marketing and who can accelerate the shift to headless that retailers and brands need. The biggest challenge is that while retailer IT teams promote headless, their business teams have a hard time adopting the technical direction because they can’t ‘see’ it. The value of our partner relationships comes from their ability to develop complex solutions strategies with us, the retailer or brand and themselves, www.pcr-online.biz
which make sense and allow progress to be made. We are not an add-on to the existing tech stack, but instead the core element in the digital entity which incorporates the storefront, kiosk, web app, etc. Our partners have made us central to retailers’ overall solutions and that is transforming the eCommerce experience those retailers offer to their customers.
Working with the integrator network
We aim to evolve eCommerce technologies and with development happening at a rapid pace, success depends on a collective of industry-leading capabilities that can deliver results for retailers. So, we partner with solution implementors, marketing agencies and consultants as well as independent software vendors whose vision aligns with ours. This is mutually beneficial because while our partners champion our products with clients and prospects, they also bring back invaluable product suggestions and enhancements that support real-world customer scenarios. To us, the size of the partner doesn’t matter. We power more than 350 of the world’s leading eCommerce brands, and any partner who can help them create engaging, dynamic, bespoke stories that reflect their diverse customer base is welcome in our ecosystem. All partners receive the same level of support. This includes free training, joint marketing initiatives and a free development environment so they can touch and feel the product suite and integrate it into other technologies, eCommerce platforms, reference applications and Proof of Concept builds.
Partners and the MACH Alliance
There’s no rigorous application process to be an Amplience partner. Historically, our partner network comprised top implementors and consultants that supported the leading eCommerce platforms but as eCommerce has evolved into omnichannel connected experiences and headless commerce has become the de facto technology of omnichannel, we’ve seen broader interest across technologies and integrators. This has also led to the creation of the MACH Alliance, of which we are founding members. The MACH Alliance is a non-profit cooperation of technology companies that advocate for microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless architectures in commerce. There are clear business advantages for adopting this approach, and collectively we advocate for open tech systems that help enterprises navigate the complex modern technology landscape. By providing a single resource for businesses to understand this best-ofbreed architecture, organisations get better answers, more quickly, so they can transform their commerce experience. Since the inception of the MACH Alliance, we’ve witnessed a shift in the www.pcr-online.biz
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level of engagement with our partners, particularly in positioning our digital experience platform at the heart of the headless commerce systems they are building for retailers and brands.
Partnerships are moving the dial for eCommerce
2020 proved that digital commerce is not only here to stay but is now table stakes. With restrictions put on physical retail and customers going straight to digital, we’ve seen success with retailers and brands that continue to engage with their customers through unified stories across all channels. They recognise the importance of tracking customer journey changes with new technology that supports rapid changes. As the lines continue to blur between content and commerce, they want the freedom to choose the best-of-breed SaaS solutions to fit their needs and the ability to create outstanding, bespoke customer experiences, rather than a one-size-fits all “traditional” approach to eCommerce. The headless commerce trend has been largely led by IT teams, due to its flexible architecture and ability to power unique digital experiences. However, without having a tangible experience (be that a digital website, a mobile app, or store kiosk) headless is hard to conceptualise for business, merchandise and marketing teams. Integrators, such as our own partners, can break through this barrier, bringing headless commerce to life and demonstrating how a retailer’s window on the world can marry content, commerce, and digital. Previously, Amplience was seen as an extension of an eCommerce platform’s content management capability, but our partners have shifted the dial and are building digital storefronts and omnichannel experiences powered by us. We will always advocate headless, but the real proof is in gaining customer hearts and minds, and for those retailers and brands who have adopted this agile, microservices-based approach to commerce, our customer’s speed and agility in an ever-shifting market make them the most successful keeping and capitalising on engaged buyers.
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Reign Gaming competes in esports charity tournament Portsmouth based technology firm Novatech Ltd. took part in the January 2021 Call of Duty esports Tournament to raise money for their chosen charity, Solent Mind. The tournament saw Novatech competing against a variety of teams from around the country, from Portsmouth to Inverness and everywhere in between, with many coming from a whole host of different businesses and sectors. The Novatech Reign Gaming team reached the Prestige final and secured a thrilling victory against the prestigious video game developer, Rockstar North. Over the course of the weekend, the teams raised a grand total of £3319, which was split between 7 different charities.
Work-From-Home Headset Creative Technology’s release of its latest Creative HS-720 V2, USB headset is optimised for conference calls offering users a fuss-free way to communicate effectively online. This solution requires no additional software or installation and is decked out with a refreshingly new look that comes with a noise-cancelling condenser microphone. This picks up the user’s voice over ambient noises to ensure better and clearer communication, as well as a sidetone mic-monitoring feature for PC and Mac. The flexible boom microphone also allows users to easily adjust it to any angle for the best fit and call experience. Designed to be lightweight, the headset is suitable for all-day wear as it offers long-lasting comfort even during extended meeting calls. It also comes with an incorporated inline remote so users can easily access functions such as mic mute, volume playback, and even answer calls, all with a simple press of a button. Plus, the headset also features 30mm Neodymium drivers specially tuned to deliver powerful acoustics and enhanced audio performance for work calls, music listening, movie marathons, and even games.
Exertis Group adds Antstream Arcade Exertis is partnering with cloud gaming platform Antstream Arcade across EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Asia) giving access to Antstream’s retro games streaming platform. A single account with Antstream can be used across multiple devices enabling gamers to play against friends or foes in exclusive custom challenges or try their hand at hyper-casual esports tournaments. Antstream Arcade has a large collection of retro games, licensed from publishers such as Disney, Warner Bros, Bandai Namco, and Taito, and includes classic titles like Mortal Kombat, Super Star Wars, Pacman, Space Invaders, Bobble Bubble and more. The Antstream Arcade application is available across Mac OSX, Windows, Android, Nvidia Shield, and Amazon Fire Stick, with additional platform support coming soon. Ross Holt, Global Head of Gaming at Exertis, said: “Antstream is a fantastic addition to our gaming portfolio and we’re really excited by the opportunity it presents to the Exertis Group. Retro gaming is here to stay and has never been more fun or accessible.” Antstream are equally excited by the new partnership: “This new partnership opens up a whole array of new opportunities for both companies,” said Sam Butler, Director of Business Development, Antstream. “We’re looking forward to continuing Antstream’s exponential growth by streaming our huge library of iconic games to the millions of customers served by Exertis retail and digital partners every day.”
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E-commerce explosion opens cyber attack floodgates According to the Global Information Security Survey by Ernst and Young, customer information is the most valuable type of data for most attackers. The threat to cybersecurity and privacy is increasing: about 6 in 10 organisations (59%) have faced a significant incident in the past 12 months, and 48% of executive boards believe that cyber attacks and data breaches will more than moderately impact their business in the next 12 months. Data breaches involving payment fraud and other issues related to online security have skyrocketed over the past few years, coinciding with the growth of the e-commerce industry, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown. Measures to protect businesses and customers against cyber threats have never been more important. One challenge that has grown for e-commerce businesses is that of opensource software vulnerabilities. Open-source software uses code that anyone can view, modify, or enhance. And while it has been hugely valuable to e-commerce businesses, it also carries a number of cybersecurity challenges. Other security threats to e-commerce sites include phishing, ransomware, SQL injection, DDoS attacks, and cross-site scripting (XSS). www.pcr-online.biz
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VIRSIX GAMES’ all immersive gameplay VIRSIX GAMES is crowdsourcing game content for STAR AUDITION – a game enhanced by smart speaker technology through a Kickstarter campaign where backers can submit scripts to be included. Created by Nolan Bushnell (founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese), STAR AUDITION uses Amazon Alexa and Google Home to deliver cinematic elements that enhance gameplay. The act-it-out party game is similar to Charades or Pictionary, where players take on the role of Hollywood actors auditioning for their next big break. Players perform dialogues randomly selected from a multitude of scripts across a variety of film genres, from the golden age of Hollywood to today’s blockbusters. To win, auditionees impress a panel of judges, the other players, by giving their best theatrical performance.
Gekko launches new digital merchandising e-commerce service A new Digital Merchandising E-Commerce Solution has been launched by Gekko. Following a successful trial, this latest E-Commerce Solution will assist brands in boosting their visibility and effectiveness within third party sites. The new service is designed to ensure channelmarketing teams can have a fully consistent digital experience with Gekko’s expert retail team auditing and comparing all routes to market. With an informed view and recommendations, Gekko then partners with clients to develop and steer the online roadmap for a brand on partner ecommerce sites to help influence sales.
Northamber adds Synaxon UK to portfolio Synaxon UK’s full portfolio of products stocked by Northamber, has been added to its EGIS stock availability and pricing platform. Mike Barron, Managing Director of SYNAXON UK, said: “ We’re delighted to be adding yet another prestigious name to EGIS. This is a really significant addition that can only hasten its firm establishment as the leading portal for stock availability, pricing, and order management in the channel.” Commenting on behalf of Northamber, Mark Haddleton, UK Sales Manager, said: “It’s great to be working with SYNAXON UK and making our products available through the EGIS platform. Whether they are new or returning customers, SYNAXON UK subscribers can be sure of receiving the highest quality and exceptional service that Northamber provides to all its customers.” 10
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Audiologic and TP-Link partner on network solution AV systems Audiologic and TP-Link are collaborating on network solution AV systems, through a range of pre-configured PoE+ switches. The two companies are focusing on a selection of TP-Link UK’s business-class PoE+ switches to power and support the level of AV traffic from professional deployments. This includes microphones, loudspeakers, processors, computers and cameras. A custom pre-configuration written specifically for professional AV installs was developed by Audiologic and integrated into TP-Link UK’s TL-SG2210MP – JetStream 10-Port Gigabit Smart PoE Switch. Equipped with IGMP Snooping and L2/L3/L4 Quality of Service (QoS), the T2600G-28MPS and TL-SG2210MP are both optimised for audio and video applications that are able to enhance AV traffic management through fast transfers of important data – even under heavy network loads. With a total power supply of 150 W, the TL-SG2210MP offers 8× Gigabit PoE+ ports and 2× Gigabit SFP Slots. For larger AV installations, the T2600G28MPS provides 24x Gigabit PoE+ ports, supplying up to 384W total power to 802.3at and 802.3af devices.
TransferGo selects Thought Machine TransferGo is partnering with banking technology company, Thought Machine on its cloud native core banking platform, Vault. Vault will enable TransferGo’s migrant worker community to move their money around the world quickly, safely and as cost efficiently as possible. “Hot off the heels of a $4m investment from Silicon Valley Bank in November, this partnership demonstrates our momentum in investing, innovating and disrupting the global remittance market,” says Justinas Lasevicius, CFO and Co-Founder of TransferGo. “Through our work with Thought Machine and their intuitive product Vault, we will introduce more enhanced services and drive impactful experiences for our migrant worker community.” “By tapping into the power of the cloud, TransferGo will enjoy a host of benefits, including scalability, reliability, security and speed. They will be unshackled from the constraints of legacy product building – free to focus on providing an exceptional customer service and a world-class remittance service,” said Paul Taylor, CEO and Founder of Thought Machine. www.pcr-online.biz
New ergonomic keyboard from Cherry
A new keyboard recently released by Cherry, offers an ergonomic solution that is claimed has a design that can reduce the strain on limbs and upper torso. The KC 4500 ERGO ergonomic keyboard is suitable for use in the office as well as in the home. Three stand-up feet on the front side of the keyboard enable different angles of operation. Rubber feet also prevent the keyboard from slipping. The soft palm rest allows your hands to rest comfortably, preventing pressure points. An extra-long cable with USB plug lets you connect the keyboard to the computer without any problems, even if it is placed under the desk, for example. Multimedia functions (sound louder/quieter/off, next/previous track, start/ pause) are integrated into the F-keys. You can easily call them up by pressing the FN key at the same time.
Netcall releases new Liberty RPA robot Netcall has launched a robotic process automation solution called Liberty RPA. RPA uses software robots to perform a list of actions to automate a task. This list of actions is typically created by watching the user perform that task in an application graphical user interface (GUI) and then perform the automation by repeating those tasks directly in the GUI. This RPA solution enables automation to happen securely, as all AI processing is completed locally, within a trusted environment, rather than being sent to the cloud. Richard Billington, CTO at Netcall, said: “In today’s turbulent landscape, processes have to be automated in software. Liberty RPA makes it easy to do that by putting power in the hands of business and IT people to make it happen. By using robots to support people with their tasks, employees can be freed-up to spend more time with customers. The Liberty RPA platform can quickly gather information from multiple systems and perform steps, improving the overall experience and efficiency.”
RMG and LG deliver advanced product demo platform Retail Marketing Group (RMG) is working with LG.COM on a virtual demo web tool for online product demonstrations, where users will be able to receive advice and live demonstrations. The two companies co-created a new live Broadcast Room with a virtual demo environment. This newly created studio space, with professional lighting and camera equipment, features a revolving carousel to display hero items from across LG’s product ranges. At the touch of a button, demonstrators are able to switch between showcasing the benefits of TVs, audio equipment, fridges, and washing machines within one clearly defined, premium brand space. “The new LG Broadcast Room allows for a completely new online customer experience, generating trust and ensuring the consumer feels they are being supported through their purchasing decision,” said Lysa Campbell, CEO of Retail Marketing Group.
Lenovo to power SURF Dutch National Supercomputer Lenovo Data Center Group (DCG) is to deliver the high-performance computer (HPC) infrastructure for SURF, the ICT cooperative for education and research in the Netherlands. The €20 million project, which begins in early 2021, will result in what is considered the creation of the largest and most powerful supercomputer in the country. Supporting scientists from over 100 education and research institutions throughout the Netherlands, the supercomputer will power highly complex calculations in life-enhancing work across all fields of science including meteorology, astrophysics, medical and social sciences, and materials and earth sciences, such as climate change research. Walter Lioen, Research Services Manager at SURF, said: “The need of researchers for computing power, data storage and processing is growing exponentially. In the design of the new supercomputer, the usability for scientific research was paramount. SURF has chosen Lenovo because of its quality, performance and future flexibility, as well as its considerations for sustainability.” www.pcr-online.biz
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Cybercriminals set their sights on gamers amidst lockdown gaming spree Steve Hicks, Head of Global Sales, BullGuard
he furore that greeted Sony’s withdrawal of the much-touted Cyberpunk 2077 from shop shelves revealed just how mainstream gaming has become. Nine years in development the game was billed as “breath-taking”, with great graphics, immersive simulator systems and gripping quest design, however, it was also riddled with bugs. This discovery was equally breath-taking. Gamers want games that are ultra-smooth and lightning-fast. Buggy games cause distractions and become irritating. This is why almost half of gamers across Europe prefer PCs to well-known consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation. You can upgrade and squeeze more performance out of a PC. PC Gamers also enjoy being able to add gameplay mods, such as UK police and their patrol cars in the definitively North American Grand Theft Auto. With a console, you have no room for improvement.
Three million DDoS attacks
The downside of PC gaming is the assault from cyber-hacking opportunists. PC Gaming is a big industry and one that attracts cybercriminals like bees to a honey pot. Because milliseconds can be the difference between winning and losing a professional game, gamers are particularly vulnerable to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) hacks. On the dark web, you’ll even find DDoS services for hire on gaming forums. Attackers use these services to take down games until a ransom is paid. Research shows that most gamers have played a game that has been knocked offline due to DDoS attacks. Imperva’s Global DDoS Threat Landscape Report said that in 2019 the online gaming industry topped the list of targeted industries, with 35.92% of total DDoS attacks aimed at gamers. That’s just over 3 million DDoS attacks in one year.
Dark web awash with stolen IDs
2020 research from gaming lifestyle festival, DreamHack in conjunction with Akamai, Gaming: You can’t solo security, revealed that gaming industry cyber-attacks have ramped up. The report estimates that in the past two years there have been 152 million web application attacks and as many as 10 billion credential stuffing attacks aimed at gamers. To steal ID credentials hackers use common methods such as SQL injections to penetrate backend databases and Local File Inclusion (LFI), which exploits vulnerable web applications. But many also prefer to use the much simpler phishing email route, which sends 12
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gamers to malicious web pages where ID credentials are stolen. The phishing emails are dressed up as ‘legitimate’ messages from gaming organisations. The dark web and hacker forums are awash with stolen ID credentials. It’s a huge and lucrative underground industry with accounts sold for around £10 each. Malware is also a significant problem. In November 2020, Capcom, the game developer behind the infamous Resident Evil, Street Fighter and Dark Stalkers, said that a ransomware attack had compromised the personal data of up to 400,000 gamers. Individual gamers are also targeted by ransomware, which brings a game to a sudden dead stop and demands Bitcoin payment in exchange for the safe return of encrypted game files. These attacks have infected many games, including favourites like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Minecraft. In fact, think of any type of malware, whether it’s spyware, scareware, key stroke loggers, banking Trojans and so on, and it has been deployed against gamers and will continue to be so. And this tsunami of assaults will only get bigger as the industry evolves and grows. Recently, Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, worth an estimated $11.4 billion, sunk a significant investment into a new 3D social gaming platform called Sensorium. Partnerships with world-renowned venues and artists, designed to create 3D virtual representations of the venues, musicians, DJ’s and dancers, have already been struck. An in-game cryptocurrency has also been launched. Played on a PC, Sensorium signals a next step in the evolution of gaming and one which cybercriminals will inevitably set their sights on and learn to exploit. It’s not all one way, however. It’s fair to say that gamers have latched onto the benefits of using a VPN to beat back DDoS attacks and also gain guaranteed high performance. However, despite the arsenal of malware and phishing attacks aimed at them, their near-obsessive need for top performance can often over-ride their perceived need for cybersecurity. Gamers will actively choose to turn off their cyber protection to ensure their gameplay is not hindered. The industry needs to help gamers to dodge the onslaught of cyberattacks aimed at them. BullGuard has already addressed this problem by designing BullGuard Game Booster, a feature of BullGuard Internet Security, which actually boosts system performance for gamers while protecting them. And the Channel could indeed capitalise on promoting such products, given the urgent need for cyber protection in an industry that is just to going to keep growing and growing. www.pcr-online.biz
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From desks to arenas: esports ready monitors AOC and MMD’s Paul Butler discusses the rise in esports and how tech hardware is an all important factor for trigger ready, fast action game play
eople don’t question the popularity of esports anymore, and it is surely here to stay. It’s a mental and physical challenge to compete in esports tournaments at the highest level. It requires a refined strategy, perfect teamwork, individual talent and traits such as super-fast reflexes and years of training, which is no different than competing at other sports. And just like the usual sports, watching the proplayers excel in their profession and compete against each other attracts enormous audiences. With its large and growing community, esports is big business, too. Sponsorships, advertising, huge events at the largest venues, enormous prize figures, it is a billion pound economy, really. The gaming monitor brand AOC’s sponsorship of the G2 Esports team for three years or the sponsorship of the ESL in the UK just show how important this has become. It is obvious that esports will continue to grow, both in terms of audience and the market and soon, it could even be part of the Olympics. In fact, it was almost included in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, but was turned down in the end. Naturally, competition is a crucial driver for innovation, new ideas and technologies and in this regard esports is no different from other competitive sports. For players to beat their competition, they need to make sure that their performance is not hindered but elevated by their equipment. This means, they will always build their gaming stations to have an edge – similar to F1 racing teams continuously working on the ideal car for the next race. In esports, input devices (keyboard and mice) and audiovisual output devices (monitors and headsets) need to have as little latency as possible and should translate the users’ reactions as quickly and transparently as possible. When looking at the gaming monitor sector, you’ll see this demand has influenced product development, especially in the last 2-3 years. Certain key aspects can make all the difference for a player: high refresh rates, low response times and a low input lag. Therefore, this is the direction pro displays for gamers are taking. 14
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Today we see a 144Hz refresh rate as the minimum at the competitive level, while 240Hz and above are becoming the go-to for esports professionals. While regular monitors show 60 frames per second, the high refresh rate models show 2-4 times more frames and fill in the blanks in the player’s brain. When the player is fully concentrated on an angle where the opponent might peek their head, when they do peek, the player will see its exact position more accurately – more instantly and can react faster. Seeing your game character or its point of view as quickly as possible is simply a game-changer, whether in MOBA, FPS or other competitive titles where speed is a key to success. Another point is the input lag. The monitor, which receives the image signal from the GPU, should process and portray the image without introducing additional latency. While it is physically impossible to reduce it to zero, gaming monitors are designed to keep the input lag to a very minimum, where the player can receive accurate visual feedback on what they do in the game. The more tightly connected to the game, the more the player can react appropriately. It is not about just getting more temporally accurate visual output from the game world, but also about how it translates into visible pixels for the player to process. Here, the response time comes into play. Simply put, even if the monitor receives 240 frames from the GPU, if the response time is not low, the visible output will be a blurry mess. Especially in areas with large differences in brightness, when the pixel changes from very dark to very bright, the monitors’ circuitry should apply the correct voltage, and fast. If the pixels don’t change their values in time appropriately, what we see is “ghosting” or sometimes “inverse ghosting”. Understandably, professional esports players require gaming displays that represent the game as sharply as possible. Thanks to esports’ demanding competition, the “playing” field has completely changed, for gamers and even for those who do not appreciate esports yet! www.pcr-online.biz
Edge computing on the rise Alan Hayward, Sales and Marketing Manager at SEH Technology explores the growing popularity of edge computing.
lthough edge computing has been available for almost a decade, only recently has it increased in popularity amongst businesses. It enables large amounts of data to be distributed quickly and efficiently by choosing and utilising computing resources that are closest to the person or device that is making the request. This eliminates time lag in data sharing and ultimately makes the process of sharing information with others, smoother and speedier. What’s more, edge computing allows data to be processed very close to the source, reducing Internet bandwidth usage, which makes other processes within a company become that slight bit easier due to an increase in speeds. There are a number of benefits that come with the introduction of edge computing to a company, as well as its efficiency and ability to create a better experience for consumers.
Benefits for business
For many businesses, edge computing is a new and exciting concept, although some may not yet understand the depths and advancements of its benefits. It allows data to be responded to instantaneously as it’s being created, enabling a more streamlined service. Devices such as routers, sensors and other network access equipment can enable edge computing to provide processing for local data requests. Despite cloud computing and edge computing having similarities in the way they allow data to be shared, there is a large difference. In fact, edge computing ensures that the cloud is used in a more optimal way. It creates an alternative path for devices to complete the processing that is needed for them to function. This means that the cloud doesn’t become overwhelmed by traffic that could be more effectively handled elsewhere, therefore creating more space for businesses to use the cloud for other reasons and operational functions.
Efficiency and better experience
With edge computing decreasing the load placed on cloud or data centers, it provides more efficiency as a process and therefore facilitates a better experience for consumers. In particular, it provides more space for Internet of Things Management, which is very www.pcr-online.biz
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important in keeping a company running successfully and up to date with company developments. IoT devices provide personalised experiences to as many as millions of people across a network and as these have become more powerful, they have been able to serve as edge devices, by handling data requests and analytics on their own. The increase in edge computing, edge devices and their capabilities, reduces the amount of information that must be processed by data centers, freeing up more space in the cloud and ensuring faster experiences for consumers. In essence, edge computing introduces a cycle of creating more time and efficiency for us all.
Future of edge computing
As the benefits of edge computing become increasingly recognised, it is a system that many data sharing businesses will use. For it to develop in a way that puts it on the same level and popularity as cloud computing, professionals must continue to develop compact devices with ultimate processing power, as well as software that enables companies to remotely monitor and update a limitless number of edge devices all around the world. 5G will be one of the main drivers for edge computing, due to its capabilities for increased numbers of data sources that can be interconnected and its allowance for much lower latencies, which is a key component to many new applications. In five or ten years, artificial intelligence and automation will have advanced at such an incredible rate in relation to edge computing and more sophisticated uses will be possible. It’s evident that as technological advancements like these continue to be made at an astounding rate in our day and age, edge computing will also be seen as a necessary tool for success in our economy and its adoption will eventually match cloud computing in the coming years. With the ability to increase network performance by reducing latency, edge computing has extremely high potential and there’s a possibility that many businesses will begin to understand the benefits of this technology sooner rather than later. The world of IoT includes some relatively remote territories concerning Internet connectivity, and edge computing can provide the reliability that is needed to boost success and efficiency within businesses. March 2021 | 15
Partner content from
Ride the gaming wave and give your profits a power-up BullGuard launches its VPN to the Channel as the grip of gaming continues to take hold proliferated by the global lockdown measures
here are no winners in this year-long pandemic but there are certainly some whose fortunes have risen, most notably, online retailers. When schools and universities are locked down and millions of people are furloughed, the ‘stay at home’ shopping effect kicks in. Gaming companies especially are benefiting from the increase in online shopping with lockdowns leading to a boom in gaming like never before. Nintendo sales tripled in the half year to September 2020, prerelease demand for the Sony Playstation 5 was much higher than expected, while global gaming industry sales have topped $10bn (£7.6bn) each month since March 2020 and sales keep on growing each month. PC resellers have also seen a record-breaking jump in sales. Global shipments of PC and laptop devices reached 79.2 million units during the third quarter of 2020, an increase of 12.7% representing a 10-year high, undoubtedly driven by the COVID-19 crisis. According to a report last August from DFC Intelligence, 48 percent of all gaming happens on PCs rather than consoles. This is a colossal market considering the report also points out that there are 668 million gamers across Europe. Gaming consoles Xbox and PlayStation may get the most attention but PCs offer more functionality and so are more appealing for professional and serious gamers. For example, PC gamers can add modifications to games, which are hugely popular. They can introduce new characters and environments, as well as other in-game features. This can’t be done with consoles. PC gamers also have the ability to upgrade their hardware to meet the increased demands of new game releases, enjoy better graphics, and have access to games from PC streaming platforms such as Steam and Origin which are more affordable than those designed for consoles.
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A BullGuard survey from May last year revealed that while much of the UK is in lockdown, gamers are taking advantage of the social isolation to up their game time, and by doing so, 49% are alleviating lockdown anxiety, 84% are understandably relieving their boredom, while 60% are battling it out online to help block out the current situation. In short, gamers are gaming more than ever. Hidden beneath these facts are great opportunities for resellers. For instance, VPN sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic as millions of people have been forced to work and school from home. Recognising the opportunities for its partners, last year BullGuard launched its VPN to the Channel; while the majority of VPN vendors still choose a direct-to-consumer strategy. BullGuard VPN offers compelling value for gamers which resellers can leverage: • When demand is high, ISPs can throttle Internet speed when they detect data-intensive activities such as gaming. BullGuard VPN provides guaranteed speeds so gamers always have consistent lightning-fast gaming. • BullGuard VPN avoids DDoS attacks by concealing the IP address. A DDoS attack overpowers the computer resulting in gamers being ejected from a game. Gamers are often targets for DDoS attackers who demand ransoms to call off the attack. • Because it changes the IP address, BullGuard VPN also provides unlimited access to game servers across the globe so gamers can access geo-blocked games. • By enabling gamers to use an IP from a different country, BullGuard VPN enables them to access game titles as soon as they are released, rather than waiting for country-specific releases. They may even get games cheaper by buying them in another country. www.pcr-online.biz
Gamers go for VPNs
Many gamers already realise the importance of a VPN and are receptive to the benefits. Its fair to say that at some point, most gamers have been knocked offline due to DDoS attacks and they also value the guaranteed performance a good VPN enables because it stops game lag and provides a defence against games freezing in mid-play. Partners who have already added BullGuard VPN to their portfolio are well ahead with their sales. Phil Meredith, General Manager at AWD-IT commented: “With the addition of VPN to BullGuard’s product line-up to its channel offerings we are able to take advantage of the great product margins and recurring revenue share on each purchase in this growing market.”
Unique opportunity for partners
The opportunity to add revenues doesn’t end with BullGuard VPN, its only a starting point. BullGuard Internet Security delivers, alongside multi awardwinning protection, an industry-leading game enhancer, which actually boosts the performance of games. The BullGuard Game Booster feature is unique in the industry in that it has earned patent protected approval to both protect gamers and boost PC performance at the same time. No other vendor can claim this. Why is it important? Cybercriminals are opportunists and given the tremendous growth of the gaming industry, gamers have become even more of a target. They are specifically vulnerable to: • Credential hacking. • Scammers offering game cheats. • Gaming-specific malware and in-game ransomware. • Password stealers, game cracks and phishing campaigns. • Software imitating well-known gaming platforms. • Dodgy third-party apps and games for mobile gaming. • DDoS attacks. Despite these threats, gamers don’t want anything to interfere with gameplay. They want the absolute maximum out of their PC. Many gamers have had a poor experience with cybersecurity products given that they tend to slow down gaming performance, and as a result they often prefer not to use antivirus software or choose to turn it off if they are running it. BullGuard Game Booster has been designed to overcome the short fallings of Internet Security for gamers. Not only does it improve gaming performance but continues to protect gamers against threats when they are gaming so they no longer need to sacrifice security for performance. • Game Booster recognises when a game is active and other apps are also running. • It automatically isolates all other apps (which are not games) on one or two CPU cores and stops all annoying pop-ups. • As a result, other CPU cores are fully dedicated to the gaming app, enhancing gameplay without lag and ensuring the gamer is protected at all times by award-winning anti-malware. Jonathan Carter, Managing Director at Fierce PC said: “Antivirus software tends to slow gaming down because it can be resource intensive. The Game Booster feature within BullGuard Internet Security actually enhances gaming performance, which is quite www.pcr-online.biz
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something. With BullGuard, our gamers can ensure they are protected by antivirus and actually get even faster performance.”
BullGuard Advantage partner programme
“Dedicated gamers and their passion for gaming present additional revenue and profit-boosting opportunities for BullGuard partners, both short term and well into the future. For instance, the patented BullGuard Game Booster protects against malware while also delivering faster gaming performance and BullGuard VPN keeps gamers safe online,” says Steve Hicks, Head of Global Sales, BullGuard Resellers who sell BullGuard products, such as BullGuard VPN and BullGuard Internet Security featuring BullGuard Game Booster, can benefit from the profit-boosting BullGuard Advantage Partner Programme. It provides the best revenue share scheme in the cybersecurity business; 25 percent revenue share for all trial license activations and annual renewals. The revenue share achieved by the BullGuard programme can very quickly add up to create significantly increased revenues and profits. Consider the following example of a PC refurbisher/System Builder based on 25 percent revenue share: • If a company has 5,000 installs a year and deploys BullGuard’s 90day Internet Security trial to their PCs and gaming rigs, in the first year it can garner up to £4,570 in extra revenue. • This climbs to £9,960 in the second year, £14,000 in the third year and £17,000 in the fourth year. • This is a total of £45,500 over the four years by simply installing and renewing BullGuard Internet Security licenses with no financial investment whatsoever. Game Booster and BullGuard VPN provide the perfect opportunity for resellers to lever open the door to the lucrative and growing PC gaming market. They both meet important gamer needs and when allied with the BullGuard Advantage partner programme and its revenue boosting opportunites, provides resellers with the means to come out on top during the pandemic and well into the future. March 2021 | 17
PPDS has appointed Frank Trossen as International Key Account Director. With a pro AV career spanning over 20-years, Trossen previously held senior management and director positions at brands, including NEC Display Solutions (Manager, Channel Sales), ONELAN/ Tripleplay (Director of Sales), and Promethean (Sales Director). Reporting to Franck Racapé, Vice President EMEA, and working from the manufacturer’s Amsterdam head office, Trossen has extensive channel and partner management, as well as key account management experience – specialising in collaboration solutions across Philips digital signage, videowalls, LED displays and pro TVs – and focusing primarily, although not exclusively, within corporate, retail and education settings. His areas of expertise include international sales, strategic planning, routes to market, channel strategy, channel sales, solution selling, international business, distribution sales, partner sales, key account management and professional services.
Tech Data has promoted David Watts to the role of senior vice president, UK and Ireland. Watts will extend his current role as operational leader of Tech Data’s UK and Ireland business to assume the strategic development responsibilities previously held by Andy Gass. Gass continues in Tech Data’s European leadership team with an expanded role covering digital transformation and commercial excellence for the European region. 18 | March 2021
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This month’s movers and shakers in the tech industry...
PPDS has appointed AV professional, Christian Krela, in the newly created position of Channel Manager. Based near Dortmund, Christian brings more than 20-years’ AV specialist sales experience to the PPDS sales team, having held high profile B2B sales management roles at a number of leading national and international AV specialist organisations during his career. These include Kramer Electronics, Milestone AV Technologies, and most recently, ClearOne, where he was Regional Sales Manager. In his new role as Channel Manager, Christian will be responsible for the company’s distribution operations across Germany and Austria, with a primary focus on increasing awareness and sales of its range of multi-vertical, multi-purpose digital signage and pro TV products and solutions.
Redis Labs has named Taimur Rashid as the company’s Chief Business Development Officer. Rashid brings to the company nearly two decades of experience in incubating new market opportunities and expanding the market reach for iconic enterprise software companies, the past 15 years being with leading cloud service providers. Rashid will be responsible for leading Redis Labs’ cross-functional projects to nurture and grow markets including the emerging role Redis is playing in artificial intelligence use cases to the accelerated adoption of cloud-native architectures by Global 1000 companies. With his experience in working with cloud hyperscalers, Rashid will help the company continue to deliver native managed services that enable customers to engage deeper with Redis and grow into premium services. www.pcr-online.biz
Advertorial by QBS Software
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March 2021 | 19
Gaming and security what are companies doing to keep their customers secure?
Iain Chidgey, VP EMEA for Sumo Logic, talks to PCR about using data to keep customers secure against attacks, and what that means in practice.
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umo Logic is a cloud security provider that works with a lot of big game companies around how they keep their customers and their data secure. Here Iain Chidgey, VP EMEA for Sumo Logic looks at player data – who is doing what, and what is normal activity? Finding bad patterns – spotting account hacks and attacks on customer accounts and Spotting issues in-game – like bad behaviour that spoils others games with hacks.
How big is the issue around security and gaming?
“At the serious end, account hijacking is an issue as people spend real-world money on game items or currency.”
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The gaming industry is massive today. According to IDC, the video game market is up by 20 percent to $179.7 billion in revenues during 2020, which means it has revenues higher than the music and film industries. Any industry attracting this level of spend will also see those that want to get their unfair share of that revenue through theft. At the same time, gaming has its own approach to monetisation that makes customers attractive targets.
For gamers, what are the big challenges today?
There are several categories of risks - some are more worrying than others. At the serious end, account hijacking is an issue as people spend real-world money on game items or currency. There have been examples of accounts getting stolen through bad passwords or social engineering attacks, which has led to financial loss. For example, if you have a valuable and rare item attached to your account in the game, stealing that account and gifting the item on for someone else to sell is a risk. Another risk is that game accounts can have your bank account linked to your game identity. If someone gets access to your account then they can try to use that to buy and gift currency. This can lead to racking up serious bills if you don’t notice it quickly. Lastly, there is the issue of personal safety. People can chat in-game and they can share details on themselves, such as where they live and their names. This is not advisable for kids to do, and hosting this kind of information on gaming channels is a risk for the game company too. There are some simple rules for gamers to follow around keeping themselves safe online, and they apply in-game as March 2021 | 21
thebiginterview well - don’t use simple passwords, don’t share your real name in game sessions or chat with people that you don’t know in real life, and apply strong authentication if available. If the game supports it, then definitely take advantage of features like two factor authentication around your account. There’s also a future element here around how we educate our children around security, so they understand the need for two-factor authentication and how to use it. Gaming companies have a social responsibility to protect children and help parents protect them.
What other problems do gamers face?
There are attacks that try to exploit the game through finding loopholes in the game logic. These are annoying for other players but they are not a risk. Another alternative is to implement additional software and put in a cheat. An example of this would include bots that can automate responses for you and make you a better player than others. This is less risky for other players, but it does affect other players negatively. If there are enough opportunities for cheating where people try to get any advantage they can, it can affect the success of the game. If people are not having fun due to cheats, then they won’t keep playing - and paying for - the game.
What challenges come up that customers don’t know about?
One issue that most people don’t think about is what happens to their data over time. For example, data on children is much more sensitive, so it has to be protected. If you do retain data for any length of time, then you will have to meet compliance requirements. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has specific guidance on what to do around data on children, so any game provider should follow these rules. Gaming companies have to take extra precautions around holding and storing personal data or anything identifiable that might link that account to a person in the real world. This includes how that data is processed and used within the game, as well as the support functions that might store customer information for other purposes like payment or account management. They all have to be protected.
Are there any other issues around eSports to think about from a security perspective?
For gaming companies, there are more threats to consider. Alongside nuisances and cheats, there will be attacks on individual accounts and there will be attempts to compromise the infrastructure for the game as a whole. Attackers will attempt to get access to financial data and bank account details, but rather than looking at single customer accounts they will target all your customers. These attacks may also go after game code and assets like intellectual property. This is valuable, and it all needs to be properly backed up and protected. A recent example of this is CD Projekt Red, where hackers got into their development systems, then used ransomware to encrypt code and demanded money to unlock these files. The company had a good backup system in place, so they were able to respond effectively.
eSports is growing rapidly. According to Perforce’s research report The State of Game Development Report 2020 & Beyond, the eSports and online competitive gaming markets are expected to become a $1.8 million industry by 2022. This is partially due to the impact of COVID-19. The potential issue for eSports companies is the same as any media company - there will be those that want to get access for free if the service is paid, or to exploit the content for their use. When you have thousands or millions of people watching, you have to care about things like quality of service and scaling up, and that infrastructure has to be secure too. Another common issue would be Distributed Denial of Service - this would stop services from being available due to the sheer amount of traffic sent at a site. Protecting against traffic spikes is essential while you have that many people that want to watch live. Streaming video sites have to protect their infrastructure and applications in the same way as gaming companies. This involves looking at any apps used to access the videos, the platforms they are on, and the web applications and browsers used. All these components have to be secure.
How do companies find these problems in the first place?
How might cloud gaming approaches help in the future?
How about gaming companies – are their problems the same?
Finding security problems in your infrastructure involves knowing what normally happens across your applications and services, then looking out for odd patterns and anomalies. All this data gets created continuously, so tracking these developments has to take place continuously as well. For example, you can find issues in player behaviour where people might be carrying out actions that would not normally be part of the game. This can show where there is a fault in the game that players are trying to exploit, and this can then be fixed during your next patch. This same approach is what gets applied for security of cloud infrastructure or IT systems. The scale is much higher, so applying analytics and filtering is essential for game developers and publishers to keep up. For games today, cloud computing services are commonly used to host the application components and infrastructure like databases. Building up continuous intelligence around your gaming IT is necessary to keep up.
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Cloud gaming is an interesting one - it would remove the need for people to buy dedicated consoles every year and make those games available on demand. From a customer perspective, that can be good if the cost is lower than buying machines and games. According to the Perforce report, streaming games from the cloud will grow the most in this decade according to developers, with 42 percent of those surveyed thinking that cloud and streaming gaming will be the biggest opportunity. However, the availability of broadband and the latency side are still things that need more work. From a security perspective, streaming the game experience to the player makes things easier. All the game components exist in the cloud, so there is more control over the infrastructure side as all the user sees is what takes place in their window. That should reduce the potential for attacks on the games themselves with things like aimbots and the like, but it will put all the emphasis on how well the cloud gaming infrastructure is secured.
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Don’t get caught up in the game Over the last 17 months cyber-criminals are reported to have carried out in the region of 12 billion credential-stuffing attacks against gaming websites. Here PCR talks to gaming security experts, David Emm at Kaspersky and Lars Rensing, at Protokol about why gamers need to have their wits about them.
avid Emm, Principal Security Researcher, Global Research & Analysis Team (GReAT), at cybersecurity company, Kaspersky and Lars Rensing, CEO of enterprise blockchain provider, Protokol discuss the critical need for tighter gaming security in a sector that doesn’t always play by the rules.
What are some of the most common security risks to gamers?
David Emm, Kaspersky: “Contrary to many layman perceptions of hacks and data breaches, much of the risk surrounding cybercrime hinges on the victim being deceived into activity that compromises the safety of their devices, data, and personal information. Video games are no exception to this rule, and with the increasingly lucrative and competitive nature of online games, we are seeing many more tactics that involve stealing in-game inventory, or entire online profiles themselves.” Lars Rensing, Protokol: “From a security perspective, some of the biggest risks to gamers are distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. These attacks can interrupt service, games or even tournaments, making them a serious concern. Another threat for games is data leaks of personal information or payment information, both of which can cause serious harm. 24
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A lesser known, but deeply impactful security risk is the risk of gamers either having their in-game assets stolen, or unknowingly buying fake items. This can be a disaster for players, as it can cut into a large chunk of their progress or stats. For example, the spread of malware in the gaming community has been seriously exacerbated due to the popularity of pirated games, mods and online cheat codes. Often downloaded directly from unoﬃcial sites, these can be the ideal platforms for burying harmful malware that, when installed, can take over online accounts, sell ingame inventory, and even steal financial information. In a similar vein, phishing scams, a tactic in which spoof emails are used to cultivate log in details, is becoming a popular way to access gamers accounts, and steal in-game items. Although potentially devastating both on and oﬄine, avoiding these deceptive tactics is very straightforward once you are aware of them. As a rule, gamers should never trust unoﬃcial sites or emails with their financial information, or software. We also recommend using simple online protection tools, which can prevent your browser from opening fake sites. As the prevalence of micro-transactions and the use of real currency in video games increases, so does the need for gamers to remain vigilant.” www.pcr-online.biz
How can gamers protect themselves from cybercrime?
David Emm, Kaspersky: “Due to the system intensive nature of video games, we strongly recommend gamers invest in security solutions that have a minimal impact on system performance. One of the reasons that gamers don’t use security solutions, or disable them while gaming, is because they can affect the game experience. The competitive nature of online gaming has made any sort of speed lag or pop-up inadmissible to even the most casual of gaming fans. So using a security product that doesn’t impact the playing of games is really important. Additionally, one of the biggest concerns for online gamers, regardless of ‘skill level’, surrounds being locked out of their in-game and online profiles. Anticipating this, many gamers often make the worrying decision to use less secure passwords, and even choose to opt out of two-factor authentication. Only by taking appropriate precautions can people be truly confident that their valuable accounts are protected. It has never been more crucial to use unique, 15-character plus passwords, combining letters, numbers, and special characters. Two-factor authentication is equally important, as it makes it even harder to compromise an account.” Lars Rensing, Protokol: “For gamers, tactics like using VPNs, ensuring software and equipment is regularly updated, or protecting their personal information with secure passwords can help to provide protection and deter cybercriminals. To prevent DDoS attacks and protect gamers, game creators, tournament organisers and eSports teams can use blockchain to create a decentralised network of devices. This means that data and computation is distributed across a number of computers, or nodes, in the network, rather than all in one centralised location. For DDoS attacks to be successful, the majority of the nodes in the blockchain network would have to be attacked simultaneously, which is almost impossible. This level of protection is revolutionary in cybersecurity, and would provide gamers with a greater level of protection. Not only can blockchain technology protect against DDoS attacks, but it also enables data to be securely encrypted on an immutable blockchain. In practice this means that gamers can be protected against data breaches, and having their personal or payment data leaked. Solutions such as identity-as-a-service or selfsovereign identity (enabled by blockchain technology) go even further and would allow gamers to have complete control of their personal data. Blockchain digital collectables can also help eliminate the risk of in-game assets being stolen; ownership and authenticity of these collectables is provable via the blockchain, and assets are secured www.pcr-online.biz
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in digital wallets, meaning they cannot be forged, replicated or destroyed. This means gamers can avoid losing their in-game assets. What’s more, blockchain technology enables secure transfer of payment for these collectables, further ensuring the security of gamers’ funds.”
Do you think there needs to be more warnings about the need for security in the gaming sector? David Emm, Kaspersky: “Given that threats can impact players both directly within a game and outside of it, more awareness surrounding specific threats is needed; especially with the popularity of gaming increasing during lockdown. Namely, not all gamers are aware that as they progress their in-game profiles, they will become an increasingly attractive target for scammers. With the nature of both cybercrime and gaming as it is, gamers should start by forming a safety checklist that includes:
1. Installing an optimal security solution and not switching it off 2. Updating operating system and applications as soon as updates are available 3. Only downloading games, mods and other content from reputable sites 4. Using complex, unique 15-character plus passwords and two-factor authentication 5. Never responding to unsolicited messages
David Emm, Kapersky
Lars Rensing, Protokol
If you do all of these, you will be in a great position to know your account and devices are significantly more protected against common cybercrime tactics.” Lars Rensing, Protokol: “Security is an essential issue that needs to be addressed for both professional and amateur gamers, and is certainly something that could be further emphasised. However, warning industry participants is no longer enough, game publishers and network providers need to do more to protect their gamers from serious threats like DDoS and data breaches, or risk losing business as more gamers decide not to take the risk.”
“To prevent DDoS attacks and protect gamers, game creators, tournament organisers and eSports teams can use blockchain to create a decentralised network of devices.” March 2021 | 25
What risks do gamers face from cybercriminals? How can they protect themselves?
Bob Shaker, Director of Product Strategy at Norton Gaming talks to PCR about what kind of threats gamers face, and how they can protect themselves to avoid being targeted
e love video games. During lockdown, the time we spent gaming increased by 34% in Europe, 42% in Asia and a massive 52% in Latin America. During 2020, the market for games grew by 12% as many of us found relief in building anthropomorphic animal communities on desert islands and looking for imposters on starships. But even when we’re hard at work racing go-karts or zapping zombies, we need to spare some time for cyber safety. NortonLifeLock’s recent Gaming and Cybercrime survey discovered that a massive 40% of UK gamers have experienced at least one hack and 66% of Brits think gaming will get less secure in the future. The data shows gamers are right to be worried. In the two years from 2018 to 2020, hackers targeted gamers with almost ten billion cyber-attacks, mainly phishing and credential surfing. Bob Shaker, Director of Product Strategy at Norton Gaming had this to say:
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Why do you think we need to talk about security for gamers?
We’ve recently surveyed nearly 3,000 gamers across the globe to gauge the cyber risks they face today and their understanding of the consequences of these potential risks when gaming online. With so many more people playing games than ever before, we were curious to see what the state of security in gaming looked like. The answer was what we expected. The threat to gamers’ security has never been more acute. And it’s growing. But the evidence also suggests that gamers often don’t realise this. Gamers’ profiles are increasingly becoming an attractive target for hackers. With online gaming on the rise during the pandemic, cybercriminals have taken aim on the lucrative industry. It’s never been more critical for gamers to have strong security in place and build good safety habits to protect themselves. Looking at the results of our research, it was clear to us that, as an industry, we need to do more to get the message out: secure www.pcr-online.biz
your gaming devices and your gaming accounts. We know that a gamer’s top priority is to play their games without interruption and that cybersecurity is usually an afterthought. The tension between wanting security and wanting uninterrupted gameplay has plagued gamers for years, and unfortunately cybercriminals are taking full advantage of that.
What are some of the most common security risks to gamers?
The biggest risk is thinking you’re not at risk. One of the most startling findings of our Gaming and Cybercrime survey was that over half of gamers in most countries think their gaming accounts will never be hacked. More than two-thirds of UK gamers (69%) believe they would never fall for a gaming scam, and half (50%) think their gaming account(s) will never be hacked – but 40% of UK gamers say they have had a gaming account hacked, including 7% who have had their account hacked more than once. Gamers need to be realistic. Everyone who has ever been hacked probably thought it wouldn’t happen to them. We know that gamers today are faced with challenges that extend well beyond the game itself. Whether you’re a casual or hardcore custom-built PC gamer, your personal information and digital assets in the gaming universe and are valuable to cybercriminals, putting you at risk for device vulnerabilities, phishing attacks and identity theft. A typical gaming account can include the gamer’s name, date of birth, address, email, mobile number, payment information, and other personal information that, with the right mix of information, could be used by an identity thief to wreak financial havoc. What’s more, gamer tags are ransacked for often rare or limited-edition virtual items or personally identifiable information that can then be bought and sold for real money on the Dark Web. Once a gaming account has been breached, the gamer’s other accounts, from banking to social media, are also at a much higher risk for account takeovers and fraud. From our research, we’ve seen that these real crimes match quite closely the things, which gamers say most concern them and which they want to guard against. 59% of UK gamers say they would be upset or devasted if a hacker took their digital in-game currency, and 66% say they would be very upset or devastated if hackers compromised or took over their gaming account. Unfortunately, these things that cause gamers most concern aren’t theoretical. They happen all the time. Despite this, nearly half of UK gamers (48%) say they don’t think twice about sharing personal information when signing up for gaming accounts. In fact, nearly three-quarters of gamers (72%) say they trust gaming companies (e.g., Blizzard, Ubisoft, Steam, etc.) will protect their personal information and data. But as gamers, we also need to take responsibility for our own security.
How can gamers protect themselves from cybercrime?
The most obvious thing is to be on your guard. Don’t give out your personal details, for instance. Treat online gaming acquaintances the same way you’d treat any other stranger online: never share anything personal about yourself – your birthday is not something people need to know. What area you live in, or your address: these www.pcr-online.biz
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are not things people should be asking you. Having established this as a foundation, the next step is to broaden it out and apply it to other contexts. For instance, one of the risk vectors for many gamers is unguarded participation in privately run game-related chat servers. Often, clearly, these are legitimate. But sometimes, they can be honey traps. Users with ill intentions will share gaming tips, tricks and content long enough to build trust. Then they’ll share a malicious link, with the promise of the latest, greatest cool skills or customisations for a game. Essentially, this is just a phishing attack, directed at a large group of gamers using the same chat server, it’s just that it preys on gamers’ thinking they won’t get hacked and not thinking that they offer much value to cyber criminals. People need to be as much on their guard as they would be if a stranger sent them an odd-looking link in an email. By the same token, be wary of people and sites that offer rare or highly desirable gaming items. If someone says they can give you free or cheap skins, mods, game hacks or something else that every gamer wants, be suspicious. The old adage applies in gaming as much as in other aspects of life: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There’s a big security risk regardless of if you’re a console, mobile or PC player. And people shouldn’t assume that the need for security only applies to PCs. That gamer tag - your gaming identity - is tied to your account, which equals money and a connection to your personal information, and sometimes your financial information, if your credit card is on file. Gamers, even console gamers, can also use technology to help protect their gaming assets and their lives against hackers. For instance, Norton 360 for Gamers monitors the dark web and will inform you if it sees your gamer tags and personal details for sale there. This gives you the time to change your passwords and other security measures. And even though it doesn’t install software on your console, it’s still protecting the gaming accounts on that console — and the time, money and emotion you have invested in those accounts. The right security software will even work with you to both protect you and enhance your gaming experience. For instance, it will detect when you’re playing a game in full-screen mode and will only interrupt you with the most urgent alerts.
Do you think there needs to be more warning in regard to the importance of security in the gaming sector? Yes, absolutely. The security industry and the gaming industry together need to work harder to get the message across both to gamers and, in the case of younger kids, their parents. There are today, around 2.7 billion gamers worldwide. That represents a massive investment in devices, software, and games, as well as in time and in emotion. Users need to understand that their gaming activities and devices can, without the right approach to security, be used as attack vectors to gather personal data and financial details from their real lives. As an industry, we have to get this message across to users. And we have to give them the tools and the skills they need to protect themselves.
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The heat is on! PCR puts a spotlight on esports in an interview with gaming creative marketing agency, Hotdrop, specialist esports agency, Promod Esports, events company, epic. LAN, Interactive specialist, SPREE and specialist manufacturer of Custom, Gaming, Desktop PCs, laptops, Novatech
eather Dower, Founder and CEO of Hotdrop, Rob Black, Founder of Promod Esports, Jon Winkle, Managing Director of epic LAN and Jonathan Nowak Delgado, Co-Founder, Managing Director of SPREE Interactive and Novatech join together to give their views on the current state of the esports industry.
Please could you explain a bit more about what products and services your company oﬀers to the sports and gaming markets?
Heather Dower, Hotdrop: “Hotdrop is an esports and gaming creative marketing agency. We have a great team who work with the likes of tournament organisers, teams, brands and government-backed research initiatives to successfully connect them to endemic esports and gaming audiences.” Rob Black, Promod Esports: “Promod Esports is a specialist esports agency. We help brands and IP owners deliver the best esports experiences to fans from online tournaments to stadium events to live broadcast.”
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Jon Winkle epic LAN: “We started putting on community gaming events (or LAN parties) back in 2003 for a small number of people in a village hall in Stoke-on-Trent. Since then we’ve grown organically and now see around 750+ people participating in our events along with thousands more watching online. We target these events at amateur teams and position ourselves as the first live event that players will take part in after joining online leagues and see ourselves as an important stepping-stone on the road to becoming professional. For the other 49 weeks of the year we’re a technical support agency working alongside other events and gaming projects whether that’s providing event support, equipment hire, crew sourcing, custom software development, networking, broadcast engineering, you name it.” www.pcr-online.biz
Jonathan Nowak, SPREE: “SPREE Interactive delivers large-scale, multiplayer, free-roaming commercial VR attractions, content and technologies to the location-based entertainment industry.” Novatech: “Here at Novatech, we’ve been working closely with the gaming industry for a fair few years now, supplying top-of-the-line workstations and rack-solutions to creatives and developers. We also provide premium gaming PCs, such as those in our Reign Gaming line-up, to gamers, content creators and streamers on Twitch and YouTube.”
What is the current state of the esports market in your opinion?
Heather Dower, Hotdrop: “The esports market is forming steady, sustainable growth where we have far more data rich approaches available to understand and create successful commercial viability and revenue streams. Far more consideration is starting to take place in the initiation of forming long term, scalable, and realistic strategies that bring a true harmony between brand values and a compelling market offering for the fandoms to consume and engage with. For Hotdrop and even personally, it’s exciting to be at the forefront, leading the charge on educating endemics and non-endemics and creating environments and approaches that work on an individual basis.” Rob Black, Promod Esports: “While Esports has seen more and more mainstream media attention and is now gaining audience traction with traditionally non-gaming demographics, it is still a nascent market with a huge amount of evolution to come.” Jon Winkle epic LAN: “It’s probably the strongest it has ever been. The industry as a whole hasn’t been fully stopped by COVID, leaving it as one of the few forms of entertainment that has continued relatively uninterrupted throughout the pandemic. We’re finally at the point where you can have a conversation about esports with friends and colleagues without feeling like you should keep it a secret and most people have at least heard about it, even if they don’t fully understand it!”
affordable. There are so many free or extremely inexpensive games available on the market and a great deal of these games encourage competitive online play, so it seems natural to us that the influx of interest in esports is at least in part due to the explosion of mobile gamers looking for something a bit more robust than simple idlers, clickers or puzzlers.”
How is your company involved in esports gaming?
Heather Dower, Hotdrop: “Our involvement is about harnessing the true potential of the industry’s dynamic demographics by constantly innovating and creating new, exhilarating ways for our clients to activate within the space. Our team brings a diverse skill set and perspective to the industry. We’re masters of the delivery process, from concept to creation. We provide everything from campaign management, brand identity, shoulder content production, social media strategy, through to the creation and go to the market of IP. We’re bold in how we help brands execute, whether it’s for tournament organisers, teams, vendors, etailers or IP owners.” Rob Black, Promod Esports: “Our team works with IP owners to create white label events, tournaments, or broadcasts, or we work with existing product platforms to provide genuine experiences for audiences and customers. We also have great access to a diverse range of inventory for brands to get involved with within the esports space.” Jon Winkle epic LAN: “In terms of our direct involvement, we’re an amateur level events organiser hosting 4-day feature events in the UK aimed at those looking to break into a more competitive career.” Jonathan Nowak, SPREE: “We recently announced our first exclusive, licensing partnership with VR Nerds to distribute the world’s first all-in-one, mobile free-roam, immersive VR eSports experience for Tower Tag, the largest VR eSport game globally currently with over 1 million plays.”
Why is esports on the increase and how has it helped during the Covid lockdown?
Jonathan Nowak, SPREE: “While esports may have once stood for a subset of sports culture, it has grown into a full industry in its own right. As competitive video games continue to integrate into popular culture, global investors, brands, media outlets, and consumers are all paying attention. With over 3 billion gamers globally by 2023, global VR gaming market estimated to reach $92.31 billion by 2027, esports revenues estimated to reach $1.5B by 2023, combined with increase foot traffic across a variety of retail locations, the company’s entrance to the eSports market is a strategic move.”
Heather Dower Hotdrop: “Viewership and hardware sales have seen direct uplift during COVID, this is down to the ease of accessibility to always-on content, alongside gaming hardware, seeing prices that are more attainable, lowering the barrier to entry, enabling aspirational drive and overall involvement. The sector sees year-on-year growth despite Covid. Global audiences were watching in their masses before the pandemic and fans expected continuation with minimal disruption, so esports reverted back to online only competitions. Although easier to execute than sport, revenue streams have been hit without physical events and we won’t know the true impact for another 2-3 years.”
Novatech: “Esports was always a very niche market but it’s gained a great deal of traction, and quite quickly, in recent years. We think that’s partly due to how far technology has come, particularly smartphones, laptops and tablets. With more and more people having access to mobile devices and the app stores on those platforms, entering the world of gaming has never been more convenient, or
Rob Black, Promod Esports: “Esports had a breakout year in 2020 predominantly caused by Covid19, which meant most traditional sports programming was no longer possible. Esports was given an opportunity to capitalise on its exponential subculture growth to step into the mainstream, filling in gaps for linear TV takers around the world.
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This was predominantly through simulation esports such as FIFA20 or F1 2020 etc., this small jump from physical traditional sports to their digital equivalent helped to show audiences to CMOs the world over, the power and potential of esports. Jon Winkle epic LAN: “There’s no doubt that esports has seen a huge growth during a year in which so many forms of entertainment have been reduced due to the global pandemic. That’s not to say areas of the market have not suffered, it’s been 12 months since any sort of sizeable live event has been able to take place and that’s hurt a lot of brands and jobs, but in terms of viewership on esports products there’s been some serious numbers generated online. The lack of traditional sport has certainly been a factor, just look at F1 Esports as an example where for many months, virtual races involving some of the famous faces from the cockpits took the usual live race spots on a Sunday afternoon.” Jonathan Nowak, SPREE: “Like in many areas, COVID has accelerated existing trends like the rise of eSports. COVID lockdowns have led to many people increasing their time on Twitch. 889 billion minutes have been watched over the last year, up from 660 billion minutes in 2019. Similarly, there are now 4.4 million monthly streamers in Twitch in 2020, compared to 3.64 million in 2019. COVID has fueled even more demand from shopping malls, which now desperately need alternate revenue streams and innovative ways to utilise the floor space especially with foot traffic fluctuating and increasing in various markets.” Novatech: “Exposure and awareness are probably the key factors when it comes to growth, which is true of any industry, really. The more people who see it, the higher the chances of someone taking an interest. As for Covid, it’s actually two-fold; in a roundabout way, it’s helped with some of that exposure and awareness. In the wake of social distancing and trying to keep professional sportsmen and women safe, we actually saw a number of sports take the opportunity to utilise esports as a means of continuing to do what they do best, such as with the F1 racing last summer. The Grand Prix went virtual and drew in several million viewers on YouTube alone, many of whom were likely existing F1 viewers, and new to the idea of esports. So not only did esports get some of the limelight for a short while, but it also helped fill what would have been a significant gap in the sporting and entertainment industry last year.”
How are you seeing the esport market evolve? What are the current trends?
Heather Dower, Hotdrop: “Gaming and esports audiences are leading the way; their subcultures are the ones influencing and infiltrating mainstream mediums such as music, sport and apparel. We’re seeing music artists like Onset wearing a FaZe Clan tracksuit over mainstream designer brands on his own merit, emphasising how conventional esports has become. Gamers are early adopters; they are the ones creating Internet culture and viral moments that become recognisable in an offline capacity to the everyday person. Their power in numbers dictates 30
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what’s on trend, no matter the category.” Rob Black, Promod Esports: “In the short term the necessity of remote broadcasting during lockdowns has driven an understanding of how brands and IP owners can still create engaging content using remote broadcast teams, rather than physical studio broadcasts. This has created an understanding of how to still engage the audience while reducing some costs and allowing for different types of content and or spend. We are also seeing the increased leverage of esports teams and players’ own IP, the teams and players are beginning to understand that they’re media businesses rather than a traditional sports team.” Jon Winkle epic LAN: “In the UK in particular we’re starting to see a huge shift in the level of professionalism with top tier teams. The UK hasn’t had a great reputation for many years in terms of its players and teams (where it’s always been strong for on screen talent and production quality), but with the recent examples set by teams such as Excel Esports, other teams are starting to follow suit with how they conduct themselves in partnerships, the level of content they create, the way that players appear in front of the media etc. On the B2B side, we have seen lots of new entrants into esports during recent years, particularly from those looking to pivot while their main business is on hold or due to the ease of setting up remote broadcasts. I suspect that once things start to recover we’ll hit a saturation point where there isn’t enough work to sustain all of the “bedroom” businesses and we’ll see things condense back down again.” Jonathan Nowak, SPREE: “The eSports market is a very exciting place to be at the moment. While platforms like desktop and mobile are dominating, we at SPREE believe that new technology platforms like AR and VR will power up the eSports gaming experience to a whole new level. The rise of XR eSports will be inevitable and more affordable XR hardware plus top games like Tower Tag on the SPREE arena are boosting this trend.” Novatech: “At the professional level, there has definitely been a significant increase in areas around funding, sponsorships, tournaments and their prize pools, which is almost certainly a byproduct of the increased interest in esports that we’ve seen over the years. One article recently pointed out that winning a Dota 2 tournament in 2019 would have netted you more in winnings than Wimbledon by a margin of about $1 million. If the year-on-year growth the industry has seen continues, this trend will likely scale with it too. We could also see the industry expand to include or tap into other game genres that would suit the format as well – the esports scene is very much dominated by FPS and MOBAs, but it would be interesting to see if it started to branch out into other genres like virtual sports, racing sims and online TCGs.”
Where do you predict the future of the esport market going? What can we expect to see more of? Heather Dower, Hotdrop: We see the future of esports moving towards brands understanding the esports audience and its sub
cultures a lot better, instead of treating ‘esports’ as one mass generic audience. Each sub fandom and community requires its own unique approach with empathy to ensure you are making meaningful connections and creating brand affinity. Building a highly engaged ‘sticky’ audience is invaluable as you can’t put a price on genuine passion and excitement for a product or brand, and like traditional sports fans, esports fans will only buy into brands if the relationship feels honest and if they truly ‘get’ it.” Rob Black, Promod Esports: “I think we can expect to see more control exerted by the game publishers of their IP, in the games and how their esports offerings will tie into the overall media landscape they’re creating around the games they make. This will likely lead to some amazing experiences for audiences and revenue potentials for IP owners and selected 3rd parties. However, on the flip side it could be detrimental to professional players and competitive integrity, with IP owners seeing esports more as a marketing exercise than about providing a fun and safe platform for competition.” Jon Winkle epic LAN: “The last year has incited some pretty rapid innovation and efficiency as companies have been forced to adapt to an online-only world, it’s very likely that these changes will continue post-pandemic. Events and broadcast in particular are unlikely to be back to “normal” for some time, so better use of cloud-based technology, connectivity and remote workflows will probably at least be a part of most shows in the future, regardless of where the main event is held. In terms of what the public sees, we’re only going to see viewership numbers continue to rise, broadcasts become more interactive and visually impressive and more mainstream brands using esports as a means of accessing their future customers.” Jonathan Nowak, SPREE: “Since consumers spend so much time on eSports, this means that brands need to meet them where they’re at by adopting eSports marketing. This could be through entertainment, fashion, sportswear, food/drink among other strategic collaborations partnerships in addition to let’s play reviews, product positioning, influencer marketing, and more. Realising the potential of tapping into the eSports market, some brands have already made significant eSports marketing investments. So, the industry has seen an impressive increase in revenue in recent years.” Novatech: “We believe the future of esports will come from the inevitable trickle-down effect that we’re still waiting to see. There’s a lot of focus on the professional-level esports currently, but ultimately, there’s an expansive and completely untapped foundation below it. We’re talking all of the high-level streamers, content creators and enthusiasts that compete with one another for fun, or for large charity events, that sort of thing. The same goes, though to a lesser extent, with amateur teams as well. And it also goes beyond independent creators and close-knit online communities – just look at the business and education sectors. Organisations like Business Fives and NUEL are becoming www.pcr-online.biz
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increasingly common. Even the armed services have started putting together esports teams for team building days, R&R and even tournaments of their own. Professional esports is really just the tip of the iceberg; the future of esports is everything below the water.”
How does esports impact physical sports? Is it good to encourage virtual gameplay rather than physical?
Heather Dower, Hotdrop: “Both sport and esports share the same ideologies and attributes at heart. They help develop invaluable personal soft skills, drive inspiration and positive change, and can even be an engagement tool to interact within our offline communities. From a wellbeing perspective, physical and digital can and should coexist. Pro teams are now heavily focused on player wellbeing, and for casual gamers, virtual gameplay is helping them have a healthier lifestyle and can help introduce them into the physical sport, allowing the physical sport to benefit.” Rob Black, Promod Esports: “I don’t think it’s healthy to encourage any one thing over another for anything in life. Enjoying a balanced lifestyle has long been proven to help provide increases in happiness and wellbeing. In recent years we’ve seen professional teams start to develop their holistic training approach for their players, with a focus on how eating healthily and exercising can increase peak performance during stressor moments while competing.” Jon Winkle epic LAN: “As someone who previously worked in the physical sports world, I was constantly going on about how that industry could and should learn from esports, particularly with how it engages some of the harder to reach corners of the market. We’re already seeing more esports teams take wellbeing more seriously and even fitness brands entering new esports partnerships, particularly during the COVID impact and that’s only going to grow as people become more conscious of their health. I don’t think there will ever be a full crossover, but both industries can learn a lot from each other.” Jonathan Nowak, SPREE: “This is exactly where SPREE Interactive does combine both worlds, the physical and the virtual ones. SPREE Interactive’s motto is: ACTIVE. SOCIAL. FUN. So our goal is to combine the physical aspects of real sports in an immersive way.” Novatech: “Given the current Covid climate, it definitely gives us all a fantastic alternative until physical sporting events can resume as normal, though it certainly won’t ever replace it; both should be encouraged, both have different merits. We don’t believe it’s as simple as one being better than the other. In the future, we imagine the two will exist alongside each other, perhaps even in equal measure, as parties on either side start to take an interest in the other. In some ways, this has already started to happen. The F1 example we mentioned is just one case, and F1 esports series has actually been around since 2017. Then there’s the whole community of professional footballers who play FIFA in their spare time and stream those games on Twitch. The interest is there, but, as we said before, it’s still in its infancy.” March 2021 | 31
esports “Esports isn’t just here to stay, but to revolutionise and take over what traditional sports started. There are key accessibility questions that esports solves, such as with racing (not requiring a 100,000 pound car to participate in the sport), it’s easier to spectate, and statistics & player evaluations are easier to create than in traditional sports. With more and more people turning into gamers today, more and more will also undoubtedly start following esports.”
Challengermode’s Philip Hübner Swedish esports platform, Challengermode has the mission of making esports more accessible for everyone. To find out more, PCR talks to Philip Hübner, Chief Business Development Officer at the company.
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oining Challengermode in 2017 as Head of Business Development, Philip Hübner has previously been responsible for onboarding the very first partners at the company, as well as devising the company’s partnerships and business strategy. With a wealth of esports specific experience - his first involvement in the space was as a competitive DOTA player. Here Hübner talks about Challengermode, the challenges currently affecting the esports industry and the future of gaming.
Please could you tell me a bit more about Challengermode?
We like to talk about Challengermode as the infrastructure for esports - the railroad, so to speak. We provide different stakeholders within the industry with the ability to host, monetise and play in esports competitions by building tech to automate this as much as possible.
What is the current state of the esport market?
Esports is in a stage of figuring out its monetisation. The rate at which each esports fan is monetised today is less than a tenth of a sports fan. We’re considered something of a $2B industry, but once this key element of “how do we really make money” is figured out, that industry valuation will see a very immediate jump.
Where do you see the future of esports going?
Esports isn’t just here to stay, but to revolutionise and take over what traditional sports started. There are key accessibility questions that esports solves, such as with racing (not requiring a 100,000 pound car to participate in the sport), it’s easier to spectate, and statistics & player evaluations are easier to create than in traditional sports. With more and more people turning into gamers today, more and more will also undoubtedly start following esports.
What are the current key concerns such as security in the esports industry?
Monetisation, cheating and the power dynamics with the game developers/publishers, I believe are at the front of most people’s minds. I’ve already mentioned monetisation, but obviously cheating in tournaments, especially those played online, is a major concern. And then there is the issue of game developers technically owning the rights to everything that happens with their games, making it scary as a third party to build a business upon someone else’s IP. Sports don’t have this issue, as football, tennis, hockey, etc. aren’t owned by anyone.
How has or is the esports industry evolving?
15 years ago, almost nobody made a living off of esports. Today, there’s tens of thousands of people in different fields who can claim a full time income from their work within esports, be that participation, events, technology, or anything else. There’s a lot of innovation going on within esports, and I believe we’ll also see much more regulation happening in the coming years, as currently governments aren’t really involved or doing much to support the industry.
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Who are the core audience or age groups currently attracted to esports and what more can be done to promote this across other social groups?
A distinct difference between esports viewers and sports viewers is that esports viewers are, broadly speaking, usually players of the games they watch, whereas only 9% of football fans actually play football as a hobby. With that said then, the audience attracted to esports is almost always the same audience attracted to the respective games, which means mostly 13 to 20 year olds for a game like Fortnite, or 18 to 35 year olds for a game like Counter-Strike or Dota 2. There’s work happening towards simplifying and making broadcasts friendlier towards people who don’t know the games, but I think we still have a long way to go.
Please could you explain a bit more about Challengermode’s commercial platform and its international rollout?
Challengermode is in its entirety a platform, both from a tech and a business standpoint. That means we grow our audience & make money by extending our work to stakeholders in the esports space, such as esports teams, gaming influencers, tournament organisers and game developers. Our international rollout, beyond scaling up some internal operations, is all about establishing key partnerships in new territories.
Does Challengermode have a dedicated esport team that plays?
That depends what you mean by a dedicated esports team! Do we as a company field a team that plays in professional competitions? No. That said, the majority of our company are gamers who spend their free time playing games with one another, and we participate in a multitude of corporate leagues.
How is the company working to promote or grow its presence in the esports market?
This probably sounds cheesy but: democratise, educate & partner. Our growth is based around making esports more accessible, educating the industry & interested players of the possibilities, and then partnering up with them to help them utilise Challengermode and enable their own growth.
Why is this sector so important to the company?
Esports is our lifeblood. Without a thriving esports industry it would be impossible for us to do what we do - providing a space for players of any skill level to compete and a place where organisers can effectively monetise their competitions. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to do in changing the space for the better. Through our efforts to further democratise, educate & partner within esports, Challengermode is creating value for all esports stakeholders from the bottom up through consumer revenue and participation, rather than just from the top down with sponsorships and advertising.
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New PCR awards 2021:
Catch up with colleagues industry bash! What: The PCR Awards will be back for 2021. The theme: Catch up with tech channel partners, colleagues and friends: A long awaited and much needed networking opportunity and chance to celebrate the industry’s greatest achievers. Category entries are now open! So don’t miss this golden opportunity to submit your nominations now. To find out more on how to enter visit: https://www.pcr-awards.com/how-it-works/ Deadline for entries: Friday 5th March To enter the awards or register for updates visit: https://www.pcr-awards.com/
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Why: The event will celebrate the industry’s retailers, resellers, distributors, channel service providers and vendors that have made the biggest impact on the channel over the past year. PCR’s 2020 event saw a revamp to the look and feel of the awards, with a new logo and style. But for 2021 we are planning to bring you an unmissable event with an exciting line-up that we will reveal in due course. Last year we brought you a few new awards and again this year you will also see a few new categories now added to highlight the changing tech and IT channel landscape. When: All will be revealed soon so stay tuned!
CATEGORIES INCLUDE: VENDOR CATEGORY: • Security software vendor of the year – NEW for 2021 • Security hardware vendor of the year – NEW for 2021 • Smart home vendor of the year – NEW for 2021 • Networking vendor of the year • Business peripherals vendor of the year – NEW for 2021 • Business monitors vendor of the year – NEW for 2021 • PC Vendor of the Year GAMING VENDOR CATEGORY: – NEW for 2021 • Gaming peripherals vendor of the year • Gaming monitors vendor of the year RETAILER CATEGORY: • Gaming retailer of the year – NEW for 2021 • Repairs services of the year – NEW for 2021 • System builder of the year • Online retailer of the year • Independent retailer of the year RESELLER CATEGORY: • SMB reseller of the year • Corporate VAR of the year • MSP specialist of the year DISTRIBUTION CATEGORY: • Software and services distributor of the year • Hardware distributor of the year • Consumer electronics distributor of the year CHANNEL SERVICES CATEGORY: • Dealer services of the year • Marketing and PR agency of the year PCR COMPANY OF THE YEAR
For Sponsorship opportunities please contact: Sarah Goldhawk Sales Manager - magazine/website advertising, event partnership PCR firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t miss this legendary event that continues as the pinnacle of the tech channel’s social calendar www.pcr-online.biz
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Top 5 Tech
Target Components’ Steve White
Steve White, Target Components’ CTO gives his take on the five eclectic pieces of standout tech in his life. 36
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Top 5 Tech
I studied electronics at college and then worked in the electronics industry for 10 years designing circuit boards, before making the move into IT. Transistors are at the heart of all modern day electronics, and it’s fair to say that very little of the technology we have now would have been possible had it not been for the invention of the transistor. These started life as fairly large devices, but soon started to become smaller, and eventually transistor radios became the first real portable application of transistors back in the 1950’s. Transistors have been getting smaller and smaller over the years, and now we have CPU devices that contain billions of transistors in something smaller than a matchbox. So in terms of the technology I couldn’t live without, this has to take the top spot – often overlooked and hidden away, these tiny devices are pretty much powering the World, keeping us mobile and allowing us to communicate with anyone, anywhere.
THE COFFEE MACHINE
The myth of IT techies living on coffee and pizza is 50% true for me. I get called a ‘coffee obsessive’, ‘caffeine junkie’, ‘coffee snob’, all of which are perfectly true – the World without coffee doesn’t bear thinking about… And to keep me pepped up throughout the day I have my Sage Barista Express BES-875 bean-to-cup coffee machine. It gets my choice of (single-estate, obviously) coffee beans to the perfect grind, pumps the right amount of water through the beans at about 15 bars, all in a beautifully-designed stainless steel chassis, then delivers a thimble-full of Black Gold, ready for consumption. I choose espressos first thing in the morning (as a proverbial kickstart for the brain), then mellow things out later with a Flat White. Do I want that with perfectly stretched, thick-foamed, hot milk? You bet! I’ve had a LOT of different coffee machines over the years, from French press to stovetop and automatic, but the Sage Barista Express is by far the best.
NETWORK ATTACHED STORAGE The NAS has progressed a lot from its days as a hard drive attached to a router. Often overlooked because of Cloud storage, I still prefer to know where my data is being kept but have access to it wherever I am, and that’s where the NAS comes in. Everything is now digital and, like everyone else, I have an ever-growing mountain of documents, photos, videos and music, etc. But where do we store it all? ... A computer disk? But this alone is cumbersome, time consuming, and only accessible on one computer. Step in - NAS. NAS has expandable storage, redundancy, can attach to (and therefore be accessed from) any network. QNAP, and archrival Synology, now boast a huge range of apps that do everything from acting as a media server to hosting websites. And the whole family, including the kids, have access to their own and shared areas of it. More importantly, it also acts as a RAID backup so everyone’s got all their data safely stored and accessible.
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Top 5 Tech
Once upon a time, server rooms were filled with racks of servers, each server having a specific function. Most of the time, these servers were sat doing very little, which was a waste of resource. That was until the birth of Virtualisation. The concept of virtualisation was to fully utilise the physical hardware by running multiple operating systems (virtual servers) on that same hardware, therefore cutting down on the number of physical servers needed in the server room. Not only did this make server rooms smaller, but there was less power and therefore less cooling required, all of which helped the carbon footprint of everyone who adopted the technology. VMware and Microsoft are arguably the leaders in this technology, and have both developed the concept to a point where you would almost have to justify why you wouldn’t want to use it. For me, virtualisation is a classic “thinking outside the box” invention that most IT departments around the globe have since adopted.
As a kid, I often wondered what the car of the future would be – a car that could drive you to your destination, maybe electric powered, possibly even a flying car. If I could have designed the car of the future as a child, then the Tesla Model 3 (minus the wings) is what my younger self would have drawn. Now, I love technology and I love cars, so choosing my latest car was a difficult decision. Would I have to trade practicality for technology, comfort for speed, electric power for range? None of these were an issue with the Tesla. It’s a hi-tech car, almost space age in its abilities, with amazing battery technology and unrivalled self-driving capabilities. And it’s amazing fun to drive, something that doesn’t get talked about enough. Yes, you can sedately (and safely) cruise about all day in a setting nicer than most people’s sitting rooms. But you can just as easily spend the day experiencing the acceleration and low centre-of-gravity handling, wondering if you’ll ever get your stomach off the back seats, or if your face will return to it’s normal shape after the G-force tries to pull it over your head. It’s my first electric car, although I did try several others before choosing the Tesla, and has completely changed how I view them – this really is an everyday family car with a slightly-psychotic alter ego.
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Here are some of the most interesting stats and facts from the tech channel…
CRUNCHING The global value of the WAN market was $75.9 billion in 2020 found a report by TeleGeography. While new software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) services are gaining traction, enterprise spend is still dominated by MPLS and Local Access services. MPLS spend in 2020 was approximately $32.6 billion - 42.96% of the WAN market with SD-WAN accounting for only $1.6 billion or 2.15% of the market. Local Access followed MPLS with $28.9 billion in total spend or 38.19% of the market and Direct Internet Access (DIA) accounted for $12.4 billion or 16.33% of the market. Broadband contribution to WAN spend was only $279 million or 0.37% of the market, which is largely due to its low-cost pricing.
New research into the impact of COVID-19 on physical security purchasing decisions has revealed a sharp increase in the necessity/ urgency for businesses to adopt hosted video surveillance (VSaaS) and access control (ACaaS) solutions. While 70% of 1000 senior decision makers in IT, security, FM and HR roles agree this to be the case, 78% also anticipate their organisations’ use of cloud technologies to increase in the future as a result of COVID-19. Only 28% of consumers surveyed in the UK believe the companies they interact with across retail, healthcare and financial services, now deliver an improved digital experience compared to before the pandemic. The findings from a new study from VMware of more than 2,000 consumers, reveal that while there has been a seismic digital switch, businesses have not captured the attention of customers, who are feeling largely underwhelmed.
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24% of retailers plan to close physical stores in 2021 as two thirds of shoppers (67%) say they don’t expect to visit the High Street in 2021. Almost one-in-five retailers are planning to move stores out of major city centres and into local high streets within the next 12 months, as 63% of consumers claim they will shop more locally, reports Brightpearl.
New data points to 1 in 6 homes struggling to afford their broadband packages as the burden of home-schooling continues for thousands of families across the UK, say experts at BroadBandDeals.com. And although Hyperoptic together with 37 local authorities, as well as some of the largest telecoms’ companies including BT, Vodafone, Sky and O2, joining together to offer free highspeed broadband to families across the UK, it seems the help can only go so far; and is a mere temporary solution. Ultimately there are no free deals in the UK no matter where you look. If you are offered or see a deal that claims to be free, check the small print – you will end up paying one way or the other. Over a third (34%) of UK consumers have stopped purchasing goods and services from the European Union since the UK officially left the world’s largest trading block at midnight on the 31st December 2020, according to survey results conducted by Eskenzi PR & Marketing. The survey also revealed, costs and delays were the biggest concern for younger consumers, with 24% of 16–24-year-olds suggesting an increase in cost had put them off, and 26% suggesting increased delays were behind the decision to stop shopping with Europe. Men appeared to take a more ‘combative’ stance to EU relations than women, with nearly double the men indicating they would not buy EU goods for ‘ideological reasons’ as opposed to their female counterparts.
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A new era of customisation OPSYS, is a PC gaming company that offers personalised gaming computers designed to meet an individual’s performance and style preferences. Here PCR catches up with company Founder and Managing Director, Liam Moore to find out more.
CR talks to company founder, Liam Moore on how the brand is aiming to challenge the conventional prebuilt store bought PC.
Please could you tell me a bit more about Opsys?
OPSYS is an amalgamation of ‘OP’, meaning ‘overpowered’ and ‘Sys’, referring to ‘systems’ – as we are seeking to redefine how gamers choose, tailor, use and maintain their gaming computers to present them with more choice and greater flexibility. Our primary objective is to set a new standard in the gaming PC market. With best-in-class cable management, premium grade components meticulously designed to work in harmony with one another and a stringent benchmark criteria a system must achieve before it is allowed to leave – we think we have succeeded, but stopping there wasn’t enough. 40
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From expert sales advice and a website designed to help customers choose the right PC, to an unmatched unboxing experience complete with OP merchandise, side missions and puzzles for gamers to enjoy, through to a unique Evolution warranty which should mean an OPSYS customer never needs to buy another full system ever again – we believe gamers deserve more and we are here to make that happen.
What is your role within the company?
As an avid gamer myself, I jumped at the first opportunity to join the industry in 2011, employed as the Head of Ecommerce Development for a local system integrator. During the following 7 years, I was able to channel my own passion for gaming and use my personal experiences to try and provide positive user experiences within the budget sector of the PC market. www.pcr-online.biz
Although I enjoyed my time there, working within the financial constraints that exist in the crowded, budget PC market always left me feeling that I had more to give back to the gaming community. I put together an aggressive 10 year business plan with the goal of creating a global, premium gaming brand that I felt could solve the fundamental problems that exist within the industry that have given pre-builds such a bad rep in the last 10-15 years. In 2018 I was fortunate to receive significant financial backing to make this dream a reality and after 2 years of careful planning and infrastructure investment, we now have the platform to share this new vision of how owning an OPSYS gaming system represents a new dawn for an industry which has been too slow to adapt to changing gamer needs.
for their money with access to the latest hardware only achievable by repeated investment in new systems on a regular basis.
Where do you see the future of gaming going?
With Covid-19 driving the need for more in-home entertainment, we only see gaming growing more rapidly than ever before in the mainstream. With Twitch and Youtube providing the new era of stars and aspirational figures, to multimillion dollar esports competitions providing a pathway to making gaming a recognised professional sport, we think the sector will boom massively in years to come and we want to spearhead a new way for PCs to be purchased and used in various areas of performance from simulators to VR.
Why is OPSYS looking to challenge existing conventional store bought PCs?
There are too many PC consumers who buy off the shelf systems and consoles with fixed specs and designs that become obsolete as a gamer’s skills advance or technology evolves. Owning an OPSYS should mean it’s the last full system you ever need to buy. With OPSYS, gamers don’t need to choose between building their own and buying a pre-built PC. Instead, their system can grow and evolve alongside their style and performance.
How does the company intend to ‘disrupt’ the gaming PC industry?
OPSYS PCs are built to level up with a user over time. Our first of its kind, Evolution Warranty provides gamers with access to a discounted upgrade scheme, providing wholesale component pricing and free labour costs for future upgrades of their OPSYS PC meaning a customer can upgrade as often as they like to remain OP not just from day one but for life. We even throw in an annual health check so customers can be confident about the longevity of their investment. We also include a 3 year parts cover and a 1 week Level-Up turnaround service to minimise downtime – where all other gaming systems end up on landfill after 3-5 years, an OPSYS will grow indefinitely with a users changing needs and wants whilst providing sustainability to the planet in the process.
What are the current challenges or issues in the gaming industry and how is the company working to address this? We feel the market is stale and has been dominated by the same brands for too long. With a focus on the short term, we feel gamers deserve more bang for buck and the large investment a top gaming PC commands, should last longer than a couple of years before being rendered obsolete. We aim to breath new life into the sector and appeal to both veteran gamers and the nextgen aspiring Twitch stars, alike by making desktops which people are once again proud to put on their desk.
What is the current state of the gaming industry?
A combination of soulless homogeny with the mass produced high street brand systems and poor quality, mis-sold PCs towards the bottom – all leading to gamers not getting the best experience www.pcr-online.biz
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How does OPSYS allow your system to grow with the user?
Whether a user wants more performance to keep up with the latest game, or maybe they are redecorating their bedroom and want a system which fits better within their new setup – we build systems with ceiling room to grow in the short-medium term whilst our Evolution Warranty makes larger upgrades much more cost effective than having to buy a new system in the long term. We have a commitment to delivering OP performance not just on day one, but for life.
Where did the idea for the company spring from?
Having worked in the industry for over 10 years and been an avid gamer all my life, I have seen first hand the pain points gamers feel most strongly about. Having been very fortunate to secure significant investment to be able to solve these fundamental flaws within the sector, we hope to become recognised as a market leader for gaming by the end of the decade. March 2021 | 41
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Pro gaming machines & Pro gaming components & storage From the latest gaming tablets to security and some cracking memory and performance enhancing wizardry.
HANNspree ZEUS Tablet PC “The new HANNspree ZEUS Tablet PC boosts the entertainment experience with a 13”, highly responsive, 10-point capacitive display. Gamers can enjoy flawless and speedy taping, dragging, and swiping thanks to advanced touch technology supporting multigesture touch and swipe control, while an Octa Core processor with powerful on-board graphics and 3GB RAM, ensure seamless super performance for fast, uninterrupted play.” Specs: 13.3” IPS LED, 1920x1080, 10 Point Capacitive Multi-Touch, 170°/170° viewing angles, ARM Cortex A73 Octa Core, Android 10 , 3GB DDR3 RAM, 32GB NAND Flash, WiFi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n+ac 2.4GHz/5GHz, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, 5Mp Webcams, I/O Ports: 1 x Micro SD/Micro SDHC Card Reader, Micro USB 2.0, Mini HDMI, USB Type-C (OTG). Contact: Ingram Micro and Westcoast
GIGABYTE AORUS 15G XC
BullGuard Internet Security
“Gigabyte’s new AORUS range comes with a high specification and is fitted with the latest generation of Nvidia RTX graphics cards, for mind blowing performance in the latest games. With screens that feature a refresh rate that goes up to 300Hz they deliver smooth animation and work brilliantly with eSports gamers who need the fastest possible response times. The AORUS range includes models that use Nvidia RTX 3060, RTX 3070 and RTX 3080 graphics cards, with 8-core 10th generation Intel processors as standard.”
“BullGuard Internet Security provides award-winning malware protection thanks to its multilayered protection. Central to this protection is Game Booster, a patented technology that enables uninterrupted lightning-fast gaming while safeguarding gamers. Game Booster recognises when a game is active and automatically isolates all other apps on one or two CPU cores, ensuring other CPU cores are fully dedicated to the gaming app, enabling gameplay without lag. Dynamic Machine Learning nullifies zero-day threats while Safe Browsing flags up websites that harbour malicious code. A layered firewall also safeguards against, among other things, banking Trojans and cryptocurrency mining malware that siphons off processing power.”
Specs: Intel Core i7 10870H – 2.2GHz – 5GHz, 8 cores, Nvidia RTX 3070 8GB, 15.6” Thin Bezel FHD 1920x1080 IPS-level Anti-glare Display LCD with 240Hz refresh rate, 32GB DDR4 memory (64GB max), 1x 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD (2 M.2 slots), LAN:10/100/1000/2500 Mbps Ethernet, WLAN : Intel AX200 Wireless (802.11ax, a/b/g/n/ac/ax compatible), Island-style AORUS Fusion Keyboard with perkey backlit control Contact: Scan Computers 44
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Specs: Operating System Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7 SP1+ Mac OS X 10.11 or later Android Tablets and Phones, Android 5.0 and higher Contact: Spire, Target, VIP and Centerprise www.pcr-online.biz
XPG GAMMIX S70 PCIE GEN4X4 M.2 2280 SOLID STATE DRIVE “With the latest PCIe Gen4 interface, the GAMMIX S70 will help you dominate the competition with sequential read/write performance of up to 7400/6400MB per second. That’s up to two times faster than PCIe 3.0 SSDs! For ease of use, it’s backward compatible with PCIe 3.0.” Specs: Capacity 1TB / 2TB, Form Factor M.2 2280, NAND Flash 3D NAND, Dimensions (L x W x H) 80 x 25 x 15mm, Weight 34g , Interface PCIe Gen4x4, Sequential Read (Max1) Up to 7400MB/s2, Sequential Write (Max1) Up to 6400MB/s2, Operating temperature 0°C 70°C, Storage temperature -40°C - 85°C, Shock resistance 1500G/0.5ms, MTBF 2,000,000 hours, Warranty 5-year limited warranty Contact: CMS / Spire / VIP
Samsung 980 PRO “Unleash the power of the Samsung PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD 980 PRO for your next-level computing. Leveraging the PCIe 4.0 interface, the 980 PRO delivers double the data transfer rate of PCIe 3.0 while being backward compatible for PCIe 3.0 for added versatility. Powered by Samsung custom Elpis Controller for PCIe 4.0 SSD, the 980 PRO is optimised for speed. It delivers read speeds up to 7,000 MB/s, making it 2 times faster than PCIe 3.0 SSDs and 12.7 times faster than SATA SSDs. The 980 PRO achieves max speeds on PCIe 4.0 and may vary in other environments.” Specs: Form factor: M.2 (2280), Interface: PCIe Gen 4.0 x4, NVMe 1.3c, Dimension: (WxHxD) 80.15 x 22.15 x 2.38 (mm), Weight: Max 9.0g, Storage memory: Samsung V-NAND 3-bit MLC, controller: Samsung Elpis Controller Contact: Smithy
NETGEAR XR1000 Nighthawk Pro Gaming Router “The first Nighthawk Pro Gaming router with WiFi 6 capabilities and featuring the latest DumaOS 3.0 software. With the power of WiFi 6 and DumaOS 3.0, it’s designed to give you the best gaming connection possible with up to 93% reduction in ping rates allowing you to game freely without interruption and improving your gaming experience. With WiFi 6 giving you up to 40% faster speeds, it allows more devices to connect and stream simultaneously without impacting speed or reliability. Enjoy faster online gaming and smoother streaming with a Router OS built especially for gamers” Specs: WiFi 6 (802.11ax) dual band WiFi (AX5400), 2.4GHz AX: 2x2 (Tx/Rx) 1024/256 QAM 20/40MHz, up to 600Mbps, 5GHz AX: 4x4 (Tx/Rx) 1024-QAM 20/40/80/160MHz, up to 4.8Gbps, Backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/ g/n/ac WiFi, Powerful 1.5GHz triple-core processor, Memory: 256MB flash and 512MB RAM, Explicit Beamforming for 2.4 & 5GHz bands, IPv6 Support (Internet Protocol Version 6), Powered by DumaOS 3.0 Contact: NETGEAR UK Store or Exertis www.pcr-online.biz
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Kingston HyperX FURY DDR4 RGB “Kingston’s HyperX FURY DDR4 RGB delivers a boost of performance and style with speeds of up to 3733MHz, aggressive styling, and RGB lighting that runs the length of the module for smooth and stunning effects. This dazzling, cost-effective upgrade is available in 2400MHz–3733MHz speeds, CL15–19 latencies, single module capacities of 8GB–32GB, and kit capacities of 16GB–128GB. It features Plug N Play automatic overclocking at 2400MHz and 2666MHz speeds and is both Intel XMP-ready and Ready for Ryzen. HyperX FURY DDR4 RGB stays cool with its stylish, low-profile heat spreader. 100% tested at speed and backed by a lifetime warranty, it’s an easy, worry-free upgrade for your Intel or AMD-based system. Specs: RGB lighting, HyperX Infrared Sync Technology, Intel XMP-ready, Ready for AMD Ryzen, Speeds up to 3733MHz and kit capacities up to 128GB, Plug N Play functionality at 2400MHz and 2666MHz Contact: Tech Data Global Computing Components
WD Black SN850 Gen 4 NVMe SSD “Long load times are obsolete with next-gen PCIe Gen4 technology. Arm your system with RGB lighting, an optional heatsink model, and up to 2TB capacity.” Specs: Capacity: 500 GB, Interface: PCIe Gen4 x4, Dimensions (L x W x H): 3.15” x 0.87” x 0.09”, Sequential Read Performance: 7000MB/s, Sequential Write Performance: 4100MB/s Contact: Tech Data Global Computing Components
WD Black external and Call of Duty range “Made to store – built for war, this portable drive comes mission-ready and fully equipped with the capacity to store your games and future updates from wherever you are.” Specs: Capacity: Up to 2 TB, Interface: USB 3.2, Connector: Micro B, Compatibility: PlayStation 5 (for PS4 games only); Xbox Series X|S (for Xbox One games only); Windows 8.1, 10; macOS 10.11+, Dimensions: (L x W x H): 4.65” x 3.46” x 0.5” Contact: Tech Data Global Computing Components
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<Logging off>\\| Out and about in the industry
< Network Group partners with mental health charity, Frazzled Cafe > At the end of last year, Network Group announced Frazzled Cafe as its charity partner for its November member event. Frazzled Cafe provides a safe and confidential space where people who are feeling frazzled can meet to talk and share their personal stories. Network Group’s Frazzled Cafe sessions are designed not just for the one-in-four Britons who will suffer a mental illness at some point, but for the four-in-four who are feeling frazzled and overwhelmed by the stresses of modern life. Their purpose is to provide a space where people can talk openly - a place where its ‘okay to not be okay’. As part of the partnership, members of Network Group were able to enjoy a timely keynote from leading mental health campaigner, Ruby Wax OBE. Many will know Ruby as a comedian, writer and performer, but she has also been an advocate for mental health for years and is the founder of Frazzled Cafe. In a Network Group first and in the spirit of the company’s value - “Better today: We strive to be the best we can be, and to help others be the best that they can be” – the company extended an invitation to the wider tech channel community to join this important session – participants all took part in some mindfulness and learned how we can better understand and nurture our mental health and about the importance of community. One such attendee was Rachel McGuiness from Wake up with Zest, who said: “The Ruby event was great, very interesting. Looking after both our physical and mental health at the moment is so important.”
Whilst Jason Carlton from member company Uptech said: “Great session Ruby, good to have another non tech session” and Mostyn Thomas from member company Astrix Integrated Systems echoed many saying “Brilliant session to top off a superb week!”. Not only was the session an important one, but a very relevant one...particularly at the end of a year that has been challenging to say the least. Following on from this well received keynote, Network Group have been providing dedicated sessions for their members, run by Frazzled Cafe facilitators, providing the same safe space to share, talk and listen; the sessions usually start with 2-3 minutes of mindfulness to ensure everyone is ‘present and ‘focused’ ahead of group members sharing how they are feeling, if they choose, all in safe and non-judgmental environment. David Tulip, Managing Director of Network Group & Technology To Go said: “these meetings are not about therapy or offering solutions…but an opportunity to take time out and speak openly amongst our peers who understand how it feels to be frazzled. We’ve long recognised that this is an important topic for our members and are pleased to be offering this mental wellbeing support, particularly during these uncertain and challenging times”
Next Month: April Data & Web services Features: Data security Privacy compliance
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Sector Guides: Printer & accessories Business machines, monitors and peripherals March 2021 | 47
ConnectWise’s Gregg Lalle Dedicated to the ConnectWise channel over the last eight years, Gregg Lalle has been instrumental in delivering the company’s business management platform to IT service providers in EMEA and APAC.
Gregg Lalle, SVP International Sales and Strategy, ConnectWise 48
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Life in the channel PCR catches up with Gregg Lalle, SVP International Sales and Strategy at ConnectWise for a chat across the Ethernet about current business conditions in the channel and how partners can look to gain momentum. So tell me a bit more about ConnectWise? ConnectWise is a global IT software company that empowers Technology Solution Providers (TSPs) to achieve success in their As-a-Service business with intelligent software, expert services, an immersive IT community, called IT Nation and a vast ecosystem of integrations. With an innovative, integrated, and security-centric platform, ConnectWise enables TSPs to drive business efficiency through business automation, IT documentation, and data management capabilities. The company has built a one-of-a-kind platform to help TSPs manage and monetise their business, for example increasing their revenue using our remote monitoring, security and backup disaster recovery technologies. What is your role within the company and previous experience within the channel? My role at ConnectWise involves managing sales and strategy plus looking after our partners’ pre- and post-sales experience in support of our regional directors in EMEA and APAC. For the past six and a half years, my focus has very much been on international market development. I work very closely with peer groups, vendor partners and colleagues to plan and execute the pre- and post-sales strategy. Previously, I ran the North America sales team for ConnectWise and helped build out two lines of the business model. The first enabled the sell-through-model, assisting resellers in selling to large internal IT enterprises and helping co-manage their IT. The second established a domestic distribution channel and strategy. How have you been involved in delivering the company’s business management platform to IT service providers? I oversee the people that deliver ConnectWise’s platform to IT service providers. I work closely with colleagues, directors and line managers to execute the sales and strategy as well as working with partners directly. We offer our TSPs the option to join our IT Nation peer groups, which enables them to collaborate and communicate with their IT peers. We believe in supporting our TSPs with knowledge of not just the ConnectWise platform, but also business strategy, www.pcr-online.biz
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accountability and financial understanding. The best way to learn is by talking to and learning from those who have been in the same position previously and who know what it takes to go to the next stage. We use events such as trade shows and our own IT Nation events to continue to build relationships with current and potential partners. Through the sales process, we help TSPs understand ConnectWise doesn’t just offer a solution, it provides business strategy and a vision on a great scale. In your opinion what is the current state of business within the industry? Every TSP, unless it’s a lifestyle business or they’re in exit mode, is looking for growth. They need to understand how to grow, but more importantly, there needs to be a sense of urgency to capture that opportunity. Some haven’t yet understood and committed to the level of planning and strategy that it takes to grow a business. Tools are more sophisticated now, so it’s important they stay up-to-date and continually learn. Operational maturity has dramatically improved over the past few years and this is mainly due to TSPs being in business longer - they’re earning more, reading more and doing it organically on their own. In recent years the private equity firms have started making a land grab in the MSP market, and this presents tremendous opportunity. What’s the attraction for private equity you might think? Simply put, worldwide IT spending is expected to increase 4% annually through 2022. By investing in an MSP business, it’s a great way for private equity firms to invest alongside this growth without taking a direct technology risk - a win: win for both sides. Does the company have any development plans post Brexit and post pandemic? Our aim this year is to focus on our partners more intently and connect at a macro level. To do this, we’ve hired additional resources around account management to allow a more intimate relationship and share that knowledge. From a development standpoint, we’ve split the platform to make it easier for our partners, grouping our efficiency tools into three key areas: “Business Management Systems” (reporting tools, documentation tools), “Unified Management” (RMM, NOC, help desk, remote support and monitoring) and “Security Management” (common security and advanced security tools). This will help our account managers specialise and employ the right tools to meet the partners’ needs. March 2021 | 49
Interview How can Channel partners look to move forward with a robust business model amidst these challenging times? Many partners are doing well amidst the pandemic, because of the cost savings they’ve made over the past year and not necessarily due to top-line growth. However, they need to understand that cost containment can only last for a short time. Moving forward, they’ll need to review their strategy, consider if they need external support and plan how they’re going to align for future growth. They must ensure that all colleagues within the organisation are aware of, and understand, the high-level goals. Partners can do this by aligning the three Ts - Time, Treasure and Talent: Time - Is it aligned with those high-level goals? Treasure - Are they spending money to support the initiatives that are aligned with those goals? Talent - Do they have the talent or do they need to upskill to execute on those goals? For example, an increasing number of partners want to provide advanced cybersecurity to their customers, but they don’t have the skills in house. This means they could either hire an expert or partner with an expert who outsources it and runs it for them. By aligning the three Ts, partners can ensure they remain true to their overarching goals. Where are you seeing or anticipate growth markets and opportunities within the channel? We’re committed to helping our partners not only spot new market opportunities, we work alongside them, educating them on how to be strategic advisers to their customers. This gives them the best possible chance to capitalise on that market opportunity. Cybersecurity is a great example. Remote workers are here in a more permanent way. When the pandemic struck, and stay at home orders came into force,
large numbers of our partners responded to their customers’ connectivity needs pretty much overnight. Many turned to free tools initially. This provided the much-needed connectivity quickly - but it wasn’t always in the most efficient, or effective way. This included tools such as unified communications, remote control support and security. Now that things are more settled - even though we’re still in the midst of the pandemic - the growth opportunity for partners will be to ensure they revisit these early connectivity deployments, and ensure these tools are effective, efficient and super secure. It’s no secret that cyberattacks are increasing and the price tag is higher each year. Customers are worried about their security posture. The opportunity here is for our partners to offer a cybersecurity solution that solves their customers’ problems. According to research from Vanson Bourne, 91% of small to medium businesses would consider switching to a new IT service provider if it offered the right cybersecurity solution. How is current business on an international scale? Our business remains robust. When it comes to digital transformation, plans that would have taken 10 years to roll out prior to the pandemic, took place in less than 12 months. For example, moving applications to the cloud and securing remote workers. But technological change and innovation waits for no man and there continues to be a pipeline of new technology for partners to further extend their offerings. IoT is a great example. That said, it’s important that partners don’t start chasing every shiny new object that they read about. They need to understand where to put their time, treasure and talent - and if it fits into their plans. There is no get-rich-quick scheme. But aligning your three Ts will give partners the growth they want, and aligning with vendors who will align to their strategy to deliver the product and service support that will help them get there.
“There is no get-rich-quick scheme. But aligning your three Ts will give partners the growth they want, and aligning with vendors who will align to their strategy to deliver the product and service support that will help them get there.” 50
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