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One of the widely expected outcomes of the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is that more organizations would rely on managed security services. After all, not only would they have fewer resources, the pandemic itself created the perfect opportunity for cybercriminals to increase both the volume and sophistication of their attacks.

As it turned out, however, many managed service providers (MSPs) themselves became the target of those attacks. Concerns about the ability of MSPs to effectively manage their security started to rise. And, the impact of that doubt on demand of managed security services was largely unknown, until now.

A survey of 500 U.S. IT decision-makers published this week by Syntax, a provider of managed services, finds 83 percent of IT leaders that already have in-house security teams are now considering outsourcing their security efforts to an MSP in 2021. Major budget and headcount cuts in IT are the primary reason. More than three quarters of respondents (79 percent) report having to reduce headcount because of the downturn even though 77 percent said they are seeing more frequent cyberattacks.

Conducted in October of 2020, the survey also finds more than half of respondents (56 percent) will allocate more than 40 percent of their IT budgets to cybersecurity in 2021, with 37 percent reporting that improving cybersecurity protections is their top IT investment for the coming year.

Paradoxically, the survey notes that while security is the most challenging aspect of computing, issues involving business continuity such as the need for increased storage and/or flexibility (62 percent), multi-cloud and/or hybrid cloud capabilities (48 percent) and system maintenance (47 percent) all took precedence.

Pre-pandemic popularity for managed security services

The Syntax survey comes on the heels of a report published by Information Services Group (ISG) that suggests overall global demand for managed services has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The question now, as the global economy continues to recover at the start of 2021, is how hesitant organizations will be to hire full-time employees. Complicating that issue even further is the fact that cybersecurity expertise remains relatively difficult to find.

The number of unfilled cybersecurity positions may not be as high as it once was, but many organizations that are short on budget are still not going to be able to attract and retain the best talent. IT leaders are apparently starting to realize they can’t really effectively compete for cybersecurity expertise against both well-heeled organization that have larger budgets, or IT services providers willing to pay more for that same talent.

Increase in appetite for cybersecurity

The good news is there’s a greater appreciation for cybersecurity as organizations bet their future on various digital business transformation initiatives. Regardless of how important cybersecurity is, it’s also clear the end customer is as cost sensitive as ever.

This sensitivity generally bodes well for managed security services providers (MSSPs) assuming, of course, they can avoid becoming the latest cybersecurity victim generating the kinds of headlines that don’t inspire much in the way of the customer confidence.

Photo: Rachasie / Shutterstock

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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