2019 is going to be a critical year for managed service providers. Before we get into (in my next article) the massive opportunities MSPs will have in 2019 (and yes, they will be massive), there are some very real challenges we must acknowledge and address first.
MSPs Have Inherited Data Protection Responsibilities
VARs from 20 years ago had no real data protection responsibilities. Clients did not seek out their VAR in order to accomplish serious data protection or privacy solutions. Most of the work VARs did was transactional and related to basic install and maintenance of infrastructure devices and did not touch data in any real or sustained way.
As the VARs left that business model and became MSPs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, this shift began the transition which would ultimately lead to MSPs taking on much more responsibility and trust from clients than ever before.
Today, MSPs are the recipients of the “trusted advisor” name and must continue to earn that trust each day. 2019 will be a challenge with the increasing security threats facing both customers and MSPs alike.
MSPs as Targets
Nearly all the conversation over 3 decades has been around how MSPs can safeguard their customers. And, they do. It is safe to say that without their MSPs, many thousands of customers would be far worse off when it comes to their IT management and data protection.
Today, MSPs are now being targeted by cybercriminals as a means of getting to the customer. While this is a larger “vendor management” issue receiving global attention, MSPs need to recognize this threat and start to take very real actions to ensure their internal networks are secure.
The Invasion of the Managed Services Profession
We are now several years into an “invasion” of external business models entering the managed services profession. While the MSP profession has largely been fueled by existing “IT” sources (meaning, MSPs have traditionally been created by VARs, IT consultants, data centers, and other technology entities), there has been an emerging trend of non-technology entities entering managed services at an alarming rate.
Today, there is an indisputable trend in accounting firms, office supply businesses, and other “non-traditional” entities entering the managed services profession. Each of these market segments represents unique challenges to the managed services profession.
For example, office supply companies have very good business skills and have been around for many years, but have very little technical skill. More importantly, these businesses have been facing commodity pressures for many years, undoubtedly one of the reasons they find managed services so appealing.
Accounting firms present another unique challenge. While accounting firms understand how to run a professional services business, IT is a new element they must learn. But, it is the audit services these accounting firms provide which pose a challenge; how can a profession both manage and audit IT data privacy and security? As more accounting practices acquire MSP businesses, it begs the question of whether they intend to give up the audit practice or continue auditing businesses while at the same time managing their data and IT infrastructure.
Don’t let these challenges disturb you. There are very real and significant opportunities facing MSPs in 2019. These opportunities must be pursued aggressively, but only after we begin to understand the challenges we face as a profession.