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A survey of 1,007 IT decision makers at small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) in the U.S. and United Kingdom suggests that managed service providers (MSPs) are now being viewed as more essential than ever before.

The survey finds 88 percent of respondents currently use an MSP or are considering it. Just over a quarter (27 percent) report they rely on one MSP to completely manage their IT environment.

The top three reasons IT teams employ MSPs are to stay up to date on the latest technologies (61 percent), to provide a better user experience (53 percent) and to drive cost-efficiencies (52 percent). SMEs rely most heavily on MSPs for cloud storage (51 percent), security management (48 percent), and system monitoring (43 percent).

MSPs making significant strides in supporting SMEs

Overall, MSPs are credited with providing better security (70 percent), a better user experience (53 percent), making the job of the IT decision-maker easier (37 percent) and being more effective at managing IT (33 percent).

There is, of course, plenty of room for improvement. Well over one-third of survey respondents (37 percent) have concerns about how their MSP manages security.

Overall, the top reasons cited for respondents that don’t use an MSP and are choosing to do it alone are a preference to handle IT themselves (56 percent), MSPs offer more than they need (33 percent), and cost (29 percent).

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey suggests that MSPs have made significant strides in terms of their overall ability to support SME customers. Less than half (47 percent) have their workers back in the office full time, while 25 percent are fully remote. Another 33 percent are working in a hybrid environment.

Security is top of mind

Naturally, security issues are top of mind, with 59 percent citing it as their top challenge followed by device management (48 percent) and migrating all workers to fully or partially remote (48 percent). Two-thirds (66 percent) report that adding security measures generally means providing a more cumbersome user experience. More than half of respondents (56 percent) also reported they now require the use of biometrics for employee authentication. Just over a third (34 percent) said they use single sign-on capabilities across their entire organization, while 36 percent said they use it for a limited number of apps or devices.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said passwordless authentication is becoming a priority, but 53 percent agreed that passwordless authentication is more of an industry buzzword than it is an IT priority.

The three biggest security concerns are network attacks (40 percent), ransomware (31 percent), and software vulnerability exploits (31 percent). More than three quarters (78 percent) said they are confident their organization’s patch management strategy is sufficient to protect against known vulnerabilities. In terms of patch timing, 60 percent report they are adding patches within seven days of availability, while 36 percent said they deploy patches as soon as possible. Nearly half (47 percent) said they have a security staff member dedicated to identifying vulnerabilities and performing fixes, as well as managing the execution, mitigation, and remediation of patches. A similar number (47 percent) said they follow patch schedules according to vendors’ patch release dates. However, 39 percent admitted that it is the user’s responsibility to update when prompted.

No one is ever perfect when it comes to IT, but the survey makes it clear MSPs are more relied upon than ever. In fact, many MSPs are unsung IT heroes of the pandemic that are just now getting the recognition they deserve.

Photo: jamesteohart / 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.


  1. Let the business owner run their business and let a MSP run their IT so that they can the owner can focus on what they want to do.


  2. MSP’s finally getting the recognition they deserve.


  3. Great article.


  4. Good data to know about MSPs. Thank you for sharing.


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