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May 31, 2021 Company Profile

Glastonbury’s Kelser Corp. finds growth opportunities with increasing cyber threats

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED Employees at Kelser Corp., a Glastonbury-based IT firm, have seen an uptick in business with growing cyber threats created by remote working.

Pete Schauster has never forgotten the impact of the cyberattack his Manchester-based manufacturer Empire Industries experienced in 2016.

“We were down for three or four days,” said Schauster, who is president of the family-owned maker of pipe hangers and supports that employs 100 people.

The malware attack forced Empire Industries to not only temporarily halt production, but also reassess its cyber risks and infrastructure.

Schauster, who was Empire’s sales leader at the time of the attack, admits he was somewhat naive to the cyber threats a small manufacturer like his faced.

“A lot of smaller companies don’t have the support systems and security protocols set up and are more vulnerable,” he said.

In fact, cyber attacks on smaller companies have been trending upwards. A 2019 Verizon Data breach report found that 43% of cyberattacks were made against small businesses, up from 18% a few years earlier.

Worst yet, according to the U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance, roughly six in 10 small businesses that suffer an attack go out of business within half-a-year.

Jim Parise

“The worst thing [a company] can do is stay stagnant [with its IT],” says Jim Parise, president of Kelser Corp., a Glastonbury-based IT firm that provides a variety of managed services, including cybersecurity, data center maintenance and monitoring, and business continuity and disaster recovery. “There’s a tremendous amount of concern among business owners about how to protect their company. It’s hard to stay current with technology unless you’re in the [IT] business.”

To bolster its in-house IT team, Empire Industries hired Kelser after its data breach. Schauster says Kelser’s expertise has helped him think more strategically about IT and his company’s future needs.

“Kelser gave us a number of recommendations and made us think about where we want to go five or 10 years down the line,” Schauster said.

He also credits Kelser’s robust Learning Center — which includes e-books, videos and webinars, assessment tools and employee education — for helping to prepare for and reduce his company’s cyber risks.

Parise said he understands the demand for employee education about cybersecurity.

“A company can have the best hardware security and protection applications, but an employee can make one mistake or click something that can give a cybercriminal an opportunity to compromise a company’s systems,” he said.

A 2019 study found that more than half (52%) of all data breaches were caused by human error.

“The type of day-to-day IT hygiene employees practice is important including use of email and internet browsing,” Parise said.

Remote work opportunity

Remote work during the pandemic — a trend that’s likely to continue as many companies consider hybrid work models — has added a new set of potential cyber risks as employees may work in public spaces with open and unsecured networks.

Parise says he sees remote work as a growth area for his company, which weathered the past year well because most of its clients, which includes a few large insurance companies in the region, were able to transition to working from home.

And while its corporate clients continue to be a core component of Kelser’s business success, CEO Barry Kelly — who’s been with the company since its founding in 1981 and took ownership in 2009 — says diversification across multiple industries, including health care, higher education and automotive, has helped nearly quadruple revenue over the past decade.

Barry Kelly

He declined to disclose revenue figures. Kelser has about 40 employees.

However, Kelly says the company sees the greatest growth potential in the manufacturing sector, particularly among small supply chain manufacturers that support companies — like Raytheon Technologies — with large government contracts.

That’s because regulations around cybersecurity at all levels of the defense industry’s ecosystem are becoming more stringent, and smaller manufacturers that might make engine components, for instance, are being held to the same security standards and requirements as multinational players.

And it’s not just Connecticut manufacturers taking notice of Kelser.

Earlier this year, the company was recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of fastest-growing private companies in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York City, due to its 70% growth from 2017 to 2019.

Kelser was also named to IT media platform The Channel Co.’s 2021 Tech Elite 250 List, which recognizes North America IT providers that have earned cutting-edge technical certifications for leading technology suppliers.

Schauster said Empire Industries’ relationship with Kelser has enabled his company to focus on its core products, while still remaining vigilant of cyber risks.

“We’re experts in manufacturing stuff, we’re not specialists in IT,” he said.

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