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Friday, 17 June 2022 23:45

The top challenges facing MSPs in a post-pandemic environment

By Luke Smith, Barracuda MSP
Luke Smith, Regional Account Director, Barracuda MSP Luke Smith, Regional Account Director, Barracuda MSP

GUEST OPINION Luke Smith, Regional Account Director, Barracuda MSP: As managed service providers (MSPs) come to terms with market conditions and customer requirements in this new era of post-pandemic hybrid working, many are realising that challenging times lie ahead.

Uncertain economic conditions, disrupted supply chains, and shortages of skilled staff mean many MSPs will need to rethink their business strategies. Approaches that have proven profitable in the past may not deliver the same boost to the bottom line in the future.

To gain a clear picture of the key issues facing MSPs, Barracuda commissioned a survey of 500 key decision makers and knowledge workers from managed service provider (MSP) organizations in countries across the North America, EMEA, and ANZ regions. The results reveal that similar factors and priorities are faced by MSPs around the world.

Going for growth
With the worst of the COVID-19 disruptions now over, MSPs are refocusing on growing their businesses, and many intend to achieve this growth by broadening the portfolio of services they offer to clients. Of those surveyed, 93% said they had done this in 2021 and 94% said this was also the plan for 2022.

This growth will have to be achieved while also managing client expectations. Almost half (45%) of survey respondents reported that increasingly demanding customers were a key source of concern.

In many cases, this was the result of the rapid transformations that were achieved during the pandemic lockdowns, and many clients are now keen for this pace to be maintained. Carefully managing delivery timelines is going to be critical.

Cloud and IT complexity will be key drivers
The pandemic was also a time during which many organisations made significantly greater use of cloud-based resources. Cloud-based applications and storage were used to keep staff productive when working from home while cloud collaboration tools kept them connected.

This is a trend set to continue. Of all the technologies and products being offered by MSPs as a managed service, cloud-based infrastructure topped the list and was nominated by 45% of respondents. This was followed by cloud-based applications which was nominated by 42%.

IT complexity also features as a critical factor that MSPs are increasingly being asked to address. Of the MSPs surveyed, 61% said it was the most common reason for their clients to request assistance.

This is occurring because many SMBs are layering more and more technologies into their IT stack. This causes challenges when it comes to integration and automation and can often require more skills than exist within internal IT teams.

Security must remain a focus
It’s a factor that’s been at the top of the list for many businesses, and IT security will remain a key priority for MSPs for years. Clients recognise the need for effective protection, but many struggle to get multiple tools and services to work together as a cohesive whole.

When asked to nominate the current biggest security challenges faced by their clients, 42% of MSPs pointed to the integration of tools. This was followed by the patching and updating of tools (40%), complying with regulations (36%), and coping with the vast number of potential attack vectors (36%).

Unfortunately, the survey also revealed that many MSPs are facing similar challenges to those of their clients. Almost eight in ten (79%) of respondents admitted their organisations require improvements when it comes to security hygiene.

When asked to nominate the areas where they need most assistance, more than a quarter (28%) pointed to data protection while 25% said cloud security. It’s clear that a shortage of skilled IT professionals is not helping the situation.

Employee wellbeing is vital
The survey also highlighted the challenge of employee wellbeing that is being faced by many MSPs. Asked to work longer hours and meet tough deadlines, many staff are reporting increased stress and burnout. Of those surveyed, almost a third (30%) admitted they are more stressed now than in early 2021.

This is an issue that will require careful monitoring and management. Losing staff from a business that has a goal of pursuing growth is far from an ideal scenario.

There are clearly significant opportunities for MSPs in the years ahead, however careful management of these key issues will be vital. By keeping a laser focus on both client requirements and staff, MSPs can position themselves well for what lies ahead.

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