Most managed service providers (MSPs) recognize by now that for the foreseeable future, many of their customers’ employees will be working from home more frequently in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The issue MSPs are interested in now is where IT organizations will need to the most help in supporting those employees.

A survey of 200 CIOs and 200 work-from-home managers conducted in July by ReRez Research on behalf of Catchpoint, a provider of tools for monitoring digital experiences, finds application performance is at the top of the list of concerns, followed by network reliability, working from home technologies and security at 63 percent each.

In effect, organizations are starting to realize from an IT perspective it’s an entirely new ballgame. Everything from the performance for software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications to data protection and security is therefore going to be impacted.

The survey finds two-thirds of the enterprises plan to bring workers back to the office. However, those same enterprises plan to have 42 percent of their employees work from home. That represents a substantial increase in the number of remote employees that MSPs will be asked to support.

The survey estimates that right now 74 percent of employees are working from home, so if that number drops to 42 percent, it may represent something of an improvement. However, many of those remote employees are logging into servers over virtual private networks (VPNs) using a wide range of device types that are connected to otherwise insecure networks. The chances that malware will move laterally from a Windows PC to a data center environment are fairly high.

MSPs are going to need to have a serious conversation with their customers about what it really takes to deliver secure networking services to a highly distributed workforce. Shortly thereafter, organizations will also be moving more aggressively toward creating digital workspaces that provide employees with the exact same experience at home as they would have in an office.

Where will the office be?

Of course, no one is quite certain where the office itself might be. Organizations of all sizes are considering moving at least some of their operations to remote offices located outside of major metropolitan areas. Rather than puting larger numbers of employees at risk, the idea is to limit potential disruption from a confirmed instance of COVID-19 to more finite spaces.

Other organizations, depending on the nature of their operations, are moving toward doing away with the office altogether. Not only does that further reduce their risk of the virus, but it also eliminates the need to pay for an office lease.

Regardless of whether employees are working from home or a new office located somewhere in a suburb, the days when MSPs could count on most of the endpoints they need to support being centrally located are all but over. More challenging still, each time an office lease comes up for renewal organizations are going to ask themselves if the time has come to move in different direction, especially if they are in a major metropolitan area.

MSPs need to have a strategic conversation with customers now about their future work-from-home (WFH) plans rather than assuming organizations will simply return employees to the office at the first opportunity. The simple truth of the matter is that in many cases, returning to the office as it once was is no longer an option.

The good news is MSPs are in a far better position to help organizations address these challenges than most internal IT organizations are ever likely to be able to do on their own.

Photo: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

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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