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‘A great time to be an MSP’

Latest Datto Global State of the MSP report reveals continued optimism amongst MSPs despite new challenges 

Cybersecurity and the cloud are the top two areas of focus for managed service providers (MSPs), according to the fifth and latest Global State of the MSP report from Datto, a provider of cloud based software and security solutions purpose-built for delivery by MSPs. 

Based on a worldwide survey of more than 1,800 MSPs, only 17% of which are active Datto partners, the study identifies the priorities, fears and expectations of MSPs as their SMB clients continue their digital transformation journeys. 

This year’s report signals the emergence of a new generation of MSP, prioritising a scalable and resilient IT stack, and the continuation of two strong trends from last year’s study: 

*Cloud migration – 93% of MSPs expect clients to have moved at least half of their workloads to SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications and the public or private cloud within the next three years, with half saying clients have already done so. The most popular cloud offerings are cloud-based infrastructure design and management (cited by 97%), office productivity software services – Microsoft 365, Google Workspace etc. (93%); and business continuity and disaster recovery (88%).

*Cybersecurity – 99% of respondents now offer some form of managed security service, a big increase on last year’s figure of 75%. Given the rise in ransomware and cyber-attacks and the fact that hiring in-house security specialists is beyond the budget of many SMB clients, this is seen as an area of significant opportunity by one third of MSP respondents. Such services are often provided in partnership with other companies including MSSPs (61%), contractual/consulting security experts (49%) and Managed Detection and Response (MDR) providers (44%). Two thirds (67%) are also making use of co-managed security tools. 

David Carr, Director of ATG, a Bromsgrove-based MSP, points out that these two trends are closely linked. “Our clients are no longer fearful of putting their critical data in the cloud – there has been a culture shift as they have learned to rely on us to keep their data safe. As that trusted MSSP, it is our job to recommend services to clients, which will enhance their productivity and processes all in a secure way,” he said. 

David Kinsella, Technical Director of Qualcom, an MSP with offices in Dublin and Belfast, added: “This report accurately reflects our experiences. Incorporating our security portfolio into our Managed Services offering, together with the development of our Microsoft Cloud practice, has ensured additional layers of protection for our customers, who are accepting the need for a clearly identified security budget in order to properly protect their businesses.”

A maturing market 

While these two trends offer scope for forward looking MSPs to increase revenue and deepen client relationships, other findings provide evidence of a maturing market and a growing need for MSPs to offer differentiated and relevant solutions. 

For example, ‘competition’ topped the list of challenges facing MSPs for the first time, cited by one third of respondents globally, ahead of revenue growth, profitability and the acquisition of new customers (see box for UK figures).

Even so, almost all respondents (96%) expect revenues to increase over the next three years. This, and the fact that almost half of MSPs were able to increase revenues during the Covid-19 pandemic (albeit modestly), with just one in five experiencing a decline, helps explain why 93% of MSPs globally believe now is a good time to be an MSP. 

UK perspective 

To get a UK perspective on the report, Technology Reseller asked Greg Jones, Datto Business Development Director, EMEA, for his observations. 

TR: What, for you, is the key take-away from this report that MSPs should take on-board? 

Greg Jones (GJ): Being an optimist, my top three key findings are that 93% of MSPs expect their clients to have at least half of their workloads in the cloud in the next three years – this is great news for many MSPs, as SMBs are starting to leverage the cloud and see the value of moving into secure cloud environments; that 98% of respondents say now is a good time to be in their industry and 97% of UK MSPs expect revenue to increase over the next three years, which shows that optimism is high for many service providers; and that 88% of UK MSPs are offering co-managed services to their clients. This is fantastic to see, as this is a huge opportunity for MSPs right now, enabling many to tap into customers that were once out of reach. Technology Reseller recently ran an article on the subject ( news/a-changing-role-for-msps/). 

TR: Was there anything in the report that surprised you, or were the findings in line with what you were expecting? 

GJ: Most of the results are in line with what I was expecting. In my role as Business Development Director, I speak to many MSPs every day, so I have a very good understanding of what is happening within our partner base and beyond. However, I did not expect 30% of MSP to be worrying about competition, as many of the MSPs that I talk with have a good understanding of the need to differentiate their services in the marketplace.

TR: One finding that surprised me, given the Solarwinds and Kaseya breaches, was that security was not one of the top challenges on MSPs’ minds? Are MSPs right not to see it as a key challenge? 

GJ: Well, yes and no! Many, if not all, MSPs understand that security is complex and plays a key role for service providers. The threat landscape has changed massively over the past few years and will continue to do so. However, so has the service offered by many MSPs. You only need to look at the report to see that 99% of UK MSPs now offer a managed security service. This shows that MSPs are taking security seriously. 

Many MSPs are taking this a step further and looking to build true cyber resilience, a measure of business strength in preparing for, operating through and recovering from a cyber-attack. Cyber resilience is something that all businesses, large or small and in any industry, should have as a top priority for 2021 and beyond. 

At Datto, we have been helping partners understand and build cyber resilience to tackle today’s ever changing threat landscape. It’s no longer just about cyber security, but about combining people, process and technology to gain the ability to identify, protect, detect, respond and recover quickly from any cyber event.

TR: Do the survey findings validate Datto’s existing business strategy and product offering or do they highlight untapped opportunities? 

GJ: The findings aren’t a surprise to Datto, as we are constantly looking at data, reviewing and predicting the future market landscape. At Datto, we are all about bringing enterprise grade technology to MSPs and SMBs. I cannot go into much detail, but we are relentless in our quest to bring new MSP tools and services to market to support and help our partners. 

With regards to creating margins and opportunities to grow their businesses, you only need to look at recent acquisitions to see we are serious about empowering the MSP community. We truly believe there is no limit to what SMBs can achieve with the right technology, and we will not stop pushing the boundaries of technology to empower our partners.

  • *In March, Datto acquired BitDam, an Israel-based cyber threat detection company that safeguards email and collaboration tools, such as M365 and Google Workspace, from advanced threats including ransomware, malware and phishing. Its patented threat detection technology stops zero-day threats, including those that match no known malware signatures.

The view from the UK

Based on responses from 150 MSPs in the UK and Ireland 

Optimism is strong 

  • *98% of UK MSPs say now is a good time to be an MSP When looking specifically at the impact of COVID on MSPs: 
  • *52% experienced a modest increase in revenue 
  • *19% reported a modest decrease in revenue 
  • *29% reported no change in revenue 
  • *97% of UK MSPs expect revenue to increase over the next three years 
  • *88% of UK MSPs offer co-managed services to their clients

Challenges exist

When asked what kept them awake at night, the top responses from UK/I MSPs were: 

  • *Revenue growth (35%) 
  • *Competition (30%) 
  • *Work life balance (24%) 
  • *Profitability (23%)

Security still tops the agenda for UK MSPs 

  • *92% of UK MSPs feel SME customers are more aware of security needs because of COVID-19 
  • *99% of UK MSPs offer a managed security service, showcasing the increased attention MSPs put on outsourced security solutions 
  • *Of these, 67% acquire security expertise through co-managed security tools; 63% partner with an MSSP; and 51% work with a security expert

MSPs target shift to the cloud

  • * 58% of UK MSPs say clients now have 50-75% of workloads in the cloud; 33% say they have 25-50% in the cloud 
  • *Of the workloads already in the cloud, the most common are email servers (87%), databases (83%) and application servers (77%) 
  • *92% of UK MSPs expect 50% or more of client workloads to be in the cloud in the next three years. 
  • *UK MSPs most expect workloads to move to AWS (51%) and Azure (47%)
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TechnologyReseller: 2021