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MSPAlliance: What's next for the managed services industry

In part two of our interview with the CEO of MSPAlliance, we discuss the continued influence of cybersecurity on the managed services industry and the opportunities that lay ahead.

Editor's Note: This is part two of an interview with MSPAlliance CEO and co-founder Charles Weaver. Part one explored MSPAlliance's evolution and mission to standardize the IT managed services industry.

The following has been condensed and edited for length and clarity. The interview occurred prior to MSPWorld 2020 rescheduling its March conference in response the coronavirus outbreak. MSPWorld 2020 is now scheduled for Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 in New Orleans.

You've been talking about MSP cybersecurity for several years. Do you think MSPs are doing what they need to do to pivot to today's cybersecurity landscape?

Charles Weaver: I, personally, think MSPs by and large have always taken [cybersecurity] seriously. I think the customers now are suddenly waking up and realizing, 'Oh, wow. This is real.' And so, they're putting pressure on MSPs [like never] before. And that's one of the big differences.

Do MSPs' internal security practices remain under scrutiny following security incidents over the past year or so?

Weaver: Yes, and I think it's fair. I can't say that every [security breach] was a fault of an MSP, because I don't know the details of every one. I believe all of these are preventable.

A lot of this is also the MSP trying to get the customer to do what they should do to protect themselves. I know a lot of MSPs who could talk [to customers about cybersecurity] until they are blue in the face and want their customers to be more secure, but the customers say, 'I don't want to do that. I don't want to pay that. That's not worth it.' Then if something bad happens, the customers say, 'Well, how come you didn't protect me?' I think that there is some of that going on.

It's a process. And that's why we're talking to these different [state law enforcement agencies] and trying to get them educated on what our side of the story is.

Cybersecurity skills chart
The cybersecurity skills shortage has created opportunities for MSPs to help customers fill the gaps.

What is the next pivot for MSPs or shift for the managed services industry?

Weaver: An opportunity for MSPs is clearly security, but I think IoT is presenting itself as an extraordinarily lucrative opportunity at the residential level but [also] for those that don't practice in residential, which a lot of them don't. I think business IoT security and management is going to present itself as an incredible opportunity everywhere in the world, because IoT is everywhere.

On the flip side, I think we're going to go through a period of really trying to separate the good MSPs from the MSPs who say, 'Well, I don't really want to pay attention to security,' or, 'I'm not a managed security provider. Therefore, I don't have to think about or worry about security.' My perspective is if you're an MSP today, you are practicing managed security, at least on yourself. And if you're not, then you might not be doing things the way you should.

I think there's going to be a separating of the mature MSPs and the MSPs -- hopefully, not that many of them -- who just don't want to play that game and don't care about it.

Any final thoughts?

Weaver: It always amazes me how resilient and powerful this profession is. Even I sometimes had doubts about whether this would be a profession that had longevity, but 20 years into this, we are facing more growth and more customer demand for outsourcing IT managed services than we've ever had. It just continues to amaze me how powerful and strong and vibrant this market is.

We've got work to do, but the times are good and there's a lot of good the MSPs can do for their customers. I still believe that.

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