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In-depth

Security: The rising star of MSP portfolios

Mounting threats, new regulation and an increasing skills gap are fuelling growth for managed security

Managed security service provider man in suit behind virtual icons

With high profile data breaches making headlines on an almost daily basis, IT security tops the agenda in boardrooms across the UK.

This is reflected in the upturn in managed service providers (MSPs) adding data security to their service portfolios over the last couple of years.

Recently, MSP software vendor Autotask released research that shows 44% of IT service providers believe data security is now their top priority, and a new business driver – up from only 6% in 2013.

"More and more are starting to move in to that because of demand for their customers – especially with the pickup in ransomware. That's driving a lot of demand," Mark Banfield, SVP & general manager international at Autotask, tells Channel Pro.

Another study by Barracuda and the 2112 Group into the European managed services market, found 20% of solution providers are offering some form of managed security service, with another quarter planning to add them in the next 12 months.

The survey says concerns over the forthcoming European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are fuelling security spending among organisations. GDPR carries potentially devastating fines for any company operating in the EU that fails to safeguard its customers' data, and some estimates say the new regulation will boost spending on IT security by €2.8 billion (£2.48 billion) across the region.

Elsewhere, channel analyst firm Canalys forecasts GDPR will spur the IT security market in Europe to grow 16% to $11.5 billion (£8.66 billion) in 2018.

Jim Lippie, Kaseya's GM of cloud computing who oversees the software firm's security-as-a-service (SECaaS) offering, says: "[It's] a hot market because of the current climate around data breaches. Forward looking MSPs, who continually look for an edge to differentiate their services and stay relevant in this competitive market, are seizing the opportunity to create a SECaaS offering that meets the needs of their customers while creating new lines of revenue."

In its 2016 channel report, Canalys placed IT security as the top potential revenue driver for the channel, with 87% of partners saying they expected growth. The analyst house linked this to customers' digital transformation strategies, as well as their investment in next-generation datacentres, cloud, mobility and the Internet of Things (IoT).

However, it warned: "This illustrates the complexity of the security landscape – to capitalise, partners will need to develop much greater levels of expertise ... Partners that build a powerful security practice, backed by a strong reputation, will find plenty of opportunities in a world that is unfortunately plagued by many threats.'

But while most MSPs that offer security-as-a-service currently provide firewall management, data loss prevention (DLP) and endpoint security, few are yet to pitch comprehensive suites of security solutions, with most still providing point solutions.

Mounting security threats, new regulatory demands across the UK and EU, limited in-house resources and an ever-increasing skills gap are all fuelling growth for managed security services. The next step is for MSPs to offer their customers end-to-end, layered managed security services that combine different technologies to help protect them from an increasingly treacherous threat landscape.

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