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Managed security servicesManaged security services clearly represent a significant opportunity for managed service providers of all sizes. The most immediate issue, however, is the timing, not the eventual size of the market. In fact, more organizations than ever are looking to rely more on external IT expertise.

A new survey of 401 senior business executives conducted by Sapio Research suggests that 24 percent of organizations that currently manage IT security internally plan to rely more on outsourcing in the next 12 months to provide that function. That gain, however, is offset by 10 percent that are considering moving security back in-house in the next 12 months. Collectively, that would suggest the number of total customers that are open to the idea of employing managed security services will increase 14 percent.

Unhappy security customers

As great as that might be, there are other factors that MSPs need to keep an eye on. A full 9 percent of the respondents say they plan to switch security service providers in the next 12 months due to poor performance from their existing service provider, and another 8 percent say they are considering switching because of cost concerns.

When you add it all up, many MSPs may very well wind up losing a customer for every one they gain, on average. Of course, not all potential customers are equally desirable. For example, MSPs should be wary of customers that are looking to switch providers because of cost concerns. Chances are high they don’t value the service appropriately in the first place. It won’t be too long before an MSP finds it unprofitable to deliver a service to a customer that focuses more on price than value. All too often, stealing business from a competitor winds up being little more than transferring an unprofitable headache from one MSP to another.

In contrast, customers that focus on performance tend to be willing to pay a premium because there’s a core requirement to achieve specific metrics. Whether those metrics are achievable is a matter of debate. But at the very least, customers concerned about performance are signaling that IT security is a priority.

Customers to avoid

In the meantime, the Sapio Research report makes it clear there will be a lot of new customers in the market that don’t have much experience procuring managed security services. Based on previous experience, most MSPs can assume that half these customers will be more trouble than they’re worth. The challenge is figuring out which half requires a level of engagement that is difficult to pull back from when things start to go awry.

For example, if the systems that need to be secured are several generations behind that’s usually a good indicator of a problem an MSP doesn’t need. When it comes to managed security services, some form of a trial period before committing to a contract is usually in the best interests of everyone involved.

IT security requires a major commitment by all parties concerned to get right. If customers make it clear they don’t have they level of commitment, MSPs should respectfully move away as quickly as possible.

Photo: yuttana Contributor Studio/

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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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