Channel Futures – MSP Outlook

Use the Wisdom of the Crowd to Narrow your Focus

No matter how many customer visits and sales calls we make, they provide only anecdotal input to our strategic planning and can even inject a bit of recency bias into our thinking. To counter that, we’ve compiled the input of hundreds of companies on the topics you care most about to give MSPs and IT leaders a true sense of the enterprise IT landscape.

The Kaseya 2018 IT Operations Benchmark Survey collected the priorities and activities of small and midsize businesses to see exactly what challenges, concerns and goals they’re facing on the IT front, which are often far different from their larger enterprise brethren.

In smaller environments, IT is asked to do a lot, and there’s not much consistency in the range of roles they must fill from one firm to the next. For MSPs that stay attune and respond to client pain points and goals, the payoff can be significant.

It is abundantly clear, for example, that securing systems fundamental to everyday operations has moved from afterthought to primary concern.

Security at the Forefront

Thanks to the onslaught of malware and ransomware attacks in 2017, security concerns are no longer theoretical. Nor does size matter — large and small companies in all verticals have fallen prey.

Of the 35 percent of respondents that suffered a breach, 22 percent fell prey to ransomware, and 45 percent experienced between 2 and 4 outages in the past year. Paying outlandish ransom demands and going offline for extended periods of time can be crushing for midsize organizations, so it is not surprising that 54 percent of them list security as a top priority.

In response to the increase in threats, businesses are taking preventative action. For example, the average respondent is relying on four different backup and recovery technologies, and three-quarters of firms are performing regularly scheduled centralized antivirus/antimalware scanning and data storage backup.

Of the companies that didn’t experience any significant outages last year, the common thread was third-party application monitoring. However, while this is a critical piece, it is not the only piece. Other best practices include monitoring third-party announcements and applying updates and patches within 30 days, along with regularly scanning all servers and workstation for third-party software patches.

Going forward, security is expected to play an even bigger role in IT priorities and budget – 59 percent list it as their top concern for 2019. Even though 65 percent have never had a breach, they know the odds are not in their favor to continue that winning streak without a renewed and ongoing commitment to protecting their environments, data, and devices.

Uptime

While outside threats may spark an outage, there are plenty of other causes for them as well, and 86 percent of respondents had at least one outage of five minutes or more. Since uptime is critical, organizations are taking multiple actions to minimize disruption.

Server backup is most common, with 90 percent of companies employing it, and 69 percent backing up both locally and offsite. Automatic failover to a separate site and using backup appliances is far less common, with fewer than 40 percent of firms using each of these strategies. This represents a major opportunity for MSPs that can easily augment their offerings by providing these services.

Compliance

Regulations and compliance are major headaches for companies of all sizes and industry stripe. They also present a prime opportunity for outsourcing.

We found that 33 percent of respondents are following PCI, and 31 percent are complying with HIPAA/HITECH. Other common regulations and standards include ISO 27001, CIS, SOX and GDPR (the last of which hadn’t yet gone into effect at the time of our survey).

Each regulation requires not only adherence with specific processes and procedures but also represents a window for new business processes, technologies and systems to be adopted to both comply with the rules and generally improve the business’s operations. MSPs with industry experience and a well-defined playbook can add huge value here for companies that need to focus on day-to-day operations and don’t possess the expertise or bandwidth to devote to these efforts.

Enterprise IT Challenges Present Opportunities for MSPs

 Midsize businesses are already turning to MSPs to manage some of their IT needs; 37 percent of our respondents currently count on an MSP for at least one outsourced service. Security and backup – already identified as top priorities among respondents– are leading that charge as the most popular MSP-managed services (at 37 percent and 36 percent respectively).

Relying on a service provider for such strategically important functions is a testament to the value an MSP can bring to high-value IT functions. Responsibility for other high-priority tasks such as patching or software management (32 percent) and infrastructure availability (30 percent) are also becoming more commonly handed over to MSPs.

However, compliance reporting (11 percent) and endpoint management (17 percent) are managed by MSPs far less often than their strategic importance should dictate, which presents a clear opportunity for MSPs to broaden their portfolio of services and upsell these items into their current accounts.

Looking at industries most likely to turn to an MSP for outsourcing IT services, financial services leads the way at 53 percent, followed by retail (46 percent) and manufacturing (41 percent). MSPs already operating in those fields should be building up their vertical expertise, strengthening their relationships and expanding their footprint as MSP outsourcing becomes the norm and competitive pricing pressure creeps in.

For those concentrating on other industries, it’s a ripe opportunity to scale up go-to-market activities and grow your customer base before others eventually come calling. Businesses want these services, and if you cannot provide them, they will find a service provider that can.

Decision Making

When MSPs are selling into businesses, determining who has the authority to select and purchase IT services can be tricky. So, before you start trying to close that deal, you’ll want to be sure you have the right people in the room.

We found director-level personnel was the most common “decider” at 32 percent of companies, while CIOs or CTOs held that role at 23 percent of the respondent’s organizations. But the range was wide, as 9 percent of firms relied on the CEO to make the call, in contrast with the 4 percent of respondents who let system administrators decide on such matters.

Putting this Information to Use

A survey is only as good as what you do with it, and I’ve hopefully opened your eyes to a few quantifiable realities that can inspire some meaningful action. First and foremost, no industry is even close to being saturated with MSP utilization, so there is no shortage of opportunity.

Furthermore, you now know how important security is and the premium firms are placing on protecting their data and business processes. They know the threats and consequences, and most of them know what needs to be done about them. Your job is to help them do it better and cheaper than they could do it themselves.

Read the complete report, 2018 State of IT Operations for Midsize Enterprises, and begin growing your service offerings today.

Posted by Matt Volpi
Matt Volpi has spent more than two decades in product management and marketing bringing innovative technical solutions to market in a variety of industries. He has also managed inside sales, sales operations and client services teams for tech startups and frequently works with companies on their messaging and content marketing initiatives. Matt has a journalism degree from Penn State University and an MBA from Babson College.

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