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IT operations survey shows that businesses are investing more in IT and broadening their scope of services.

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IT operations
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After a year where IT in SMBs around the globe took center stage in the rush to support remote work during a pandemic, we wanted to see how things stood and what challenges and opportunities IT organizations have on their mind going forward. The annual Kaseya IT operations survey queried more than 900 leaders responsible for IT functions at companies with fewer than 3,000 employees to find out.

Overall, we found most businesses were investing more in IT and broadening the scope of services for which they’re in the market. While many rapidly ramped up some aspects of their IT infrastructure to survive and thrive in 2020, they’re far from done with these transformations.

Here are some of the main findings of interest to MSPs:

It’s Still Partly Cloudy

The great cloud migration continues in 2021, as 36% of SMBs rank this as a top priority for the year. The most popular configuration is a hybrid public-private cloud strategy, which is used by 65% of SMBs.

This is driving spending increases in this domain, as 54% of companies are increasing their IaaS spend and 36% are devoting more money to SaaS expenses. The most common SaaS solutions used by SMBs are Microsoft365 (77%), Google Workspace (28%) and Salesforce.com (26%).

At the same time, those legacy systems that haven’t yet made the move to the cloud or other modern platforms continue holding some SMBs back: 24% said they’re hampering growth and innovation by slowing things down and limiting what’s possible.

However, this problem may not persist for some of those SMBs, as 52% of companies are allocating a portion of their budget to modernize and update their legacy systems, which is the top driver for getting additional IT dollars this year.

Automation Envy

While some routine tasks may be automated already, most SMBs are still doing a lot of things manually. But trying to do less with more is a consistent theme, as 49% of SMBs are allocating a portion of their IT budget to the cause, with 34% aiming to boost productivity by automating routine IT processes.

Tools are a major part of increasing efficiency, and the majority of SMBs are relying on them for some functions, with help desk/ticking (75%), endpoint management (63%), IT documentation/knowledge management (55%), and network management and performance monitoring (54%) all used by more than half of SMBs.

Budgeting Inconsistency

Despite the ever-increasing importance of IT for SMBs’ ability to operate and grow, IT budgets remain a challenge. Nearly one-third (30%) of SMBs struggle to meet the demands of the organization with the money allocated for these activities.

Luckily, this isn’t consistent across the market, as 38% of SMBs are increasing their budgets this year compared to just 13% seeing their budget reduced. Digital transformation and more complex hybrid IT environments account for much of those increased dollars. Forty-nine percent of SMBs also said their IT budget is growing as a direct result of growth for the overall business.

Remote Work is Still a Work in Progress

And, even though in many cases SMBs have been supporting remote workers for more than a year–not to mention all the businesses that had pre-pandemic remote work arrangements– SMBs aren’t done investing in IT to support this initiative. In fact, 42% say remote work is a major driver for their 2021 IT budgets.

The top endpoint management use cases haven’t shifted much this year: 55% of SMBs note remote access and management of endpoints is key, likely driven in part by the increase in remote work. This is closely followed by software patch management (54%), which is also increasingly critical with a distributed workforce. IT process automation is another key use case for half the respondents. Click on Page 2 to continue reading…

Taking Care of Business

Backup is a mixed bag for SMBs: 82% back up their physical and virtual servers, while only one quarter or fewer SMBs are actively backing up their desktops and laptops. Meanwhile, despite 82% of SMBs saying it’s important to back up SaaS data, only 36% are actually doing it, as many believe their providers are already taking care of this.

On the compliance front, 45% of SMBs in the Americas are required to comply with HIPAA, while another 37% comply with PCI. In EMEA, GDPR compliance is shockingly only at 53%, despite a number of high-profile fines related to this issue.

Patching remains a challenge for a large portion of SMBs. Only 44% have automated patch management, which leaves the remainder dangerously out of date in some cases. In fact, only 38% of SMBs apply critical patches for third-party apps within 30 days, and only 30% can patch remote, off-network devices.

Still Much Growing up to Do

Despite the increased focus on IT and their growing budgets, the maturity of these organizations varies significantly from one to the next. Breaking them down into five categories of maturity, we found one-third of them to be in the “Proactive” category, where the focus is on streamlining operations and automation. Meanwhile a shocking 47% of IT departments remain in the lowest two maturity categories (Reactive or Efficient).

That left only 20% of IT organizations in the top two categories (Strategic at 14% and Aligned at 6%). This represents a huge opportunity for MSPs to partner with the vast majority of IT groups that are still struggling to reach a level of maturity where they’re leading the charge in improving business operations via IT services instead of just trying to catch up and keep their head above water.

How MSPs Fit into the Picture

Nearly 60% of SMBs rely on MSPs for some aspect of their IT management, but which services they outsource varies wildly. Backup management (21%) and cloud infrastructure management (19%) are the most popular, but even those only represent a small fraction of the market.

This openness to outsourcing alongside a scattershot approach to the applications and services MSPs are currently tapped to handle represents a huge opportunity for MSPs targeting the SMB market. There are technical challenges facing these firms, budget allocated to tackle them, but a dearth of knowledge and experience to execute.

This is where MSPs can bring immense value to the table. By helping SMBs make the leap to modernize key pillars of their business quickly and efficiently, MSPs cut down the learning curve and accelerate implementation schedules and ROI for their customers.

The expertise, toolsets and outsourced management of key functions that MSPs offer can be a catalyst for these companies to elevate their IT game. Benchmarking and best practices are good entry points for these discussions, as many SMBs may not even realize that they’re lagging in this area or have a game plan to improve.

Read the complete set of findings in our 2021 IT Operations Survey Report.

Dan Tomaszewski is SVP of Channel & Community, Kaseya.

 This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.

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