Channel partners call for more vendor support

Last week I spent some time with Barracuda Networks at its EMEA partner event, Discover 22. First of all, it great to be back spending time in the company of partners. Second, it was interesting to hear what they thought were challenges and opportunities, with many MSPs looking to transition to MSSPs.

As part of MSP Day last Friday (a promotion created by Barracuda to draw attention to the managed services industry), the vendor released key findings from its The Evolving Landscape of the MSP Business report.

One of the findings that stands out is that nearly 100 percent of MSPs says they need more vendor support. A whopping 98 percent of those surveyed admitted they had at least one area where they need additional vendor support. These included security incident response planning (44 percent of respondents), help with hybrid working best practices (50 percent) and marketing support (44 percent).

That seems strange, given how competitive a marketplace cybersecurity is. There are literally thousands of vendors competing to win partner mindshare.

The findings also reminded me of some research I’d seen two years ago that highlighted the same problem. It suggested that the IT channel today is missing ‘the human touch’. The research by Kaspersky showed that nearly seven out of 10 resellers and distributors want better relationships with vendors. The same number say they would like more personal contact with their dedicated account manager.

It therefore appears this is a problem that has existed for some time, and the industry is no closer to resolving it.

I spoke with Jason Howells, VP international sales at Barracuda MSP about the problem. He told me that that “vendors have a duty to support their partners and customers in a true partnership that delivers the best outcome for all involved.

“MSPs have a responsibility to ensure they are choosing the right partnerships allowing them access to the most relevant products, services, tools and most essentially, the people. The vendors that understand the needs of an MSP and have the security heritage and expertise to really help.”

More MSP findings

There were other interesting findings in the report.

Employee burnout is a growing concern with fears of cyberattacks on the rise. Nearly one in five (16 percent) respondents believed the average employee is highly stressed, while 56 percent said stress levels could be defined as moderate. Further, 80 percent of respondents believed their customers are increasingly concerned about being breached by cybercriminals and are looking to them for help, which is creating more pressure on the MSP to deliver.

“A very large part of the response in the data is driven by the shortage of available talent in the market, especially around cybersecurity. There are more than three million open positions in cybersecurity right now, so even with the best intentions and the deepest pockets, being able to meet all the needs and have all basis covered is a challenge,” said Jason.

There are also increasing concerns over regulations and compliance. Thirty-six percent of MSP respondents were confident of being fully up-to-date and compliant with these regulations. Another 36 percent believe that there are too many cybersecurity regulations to comply with. It is no surprise that 89 percent felt their organisations needed further support and education around these regulations. Ultimately, failure to address these issues could lead to both workforce performance and customer service problems further down the line. 

“The fear of cyberattacks are on the rise and business of all sizes are turning to MSPs for specialist help and support. However, added compliance and regulations are putting a strain on MSPs and for the first time we are seeing in our data that employee burnout is a growing concern,” said Jason.

Looking to the future, MSPs expect revenues to grow by more than a third in 2022, with average revenues predicted at $12.12 million this year, compared with $8.93 million in 2021, according to survey respondents. And while managed services are not the sole source of revenue for many respondents, service provision is on a growth trajectory. In 2021, 53 percent of respondents' income came from services, and this is predicted to rise to 63 percent in 2022. On average in 2021, respondents' service offerings increased by four services, but in 2022, 94 percent expect their services portfolio to increase by an average of six services.

Said Jason: “It’s vital that MSPs stand out from the crowd and I believe you achieve this is by having the right mix of services to offer. However, security is still the number one concern as companies navigate through their essential digital transformation, adopting cloud based infrastructure and cloud based applications so MSPs need to become cybersecurity centric MSPs, leading with security at the forefront of their business, addressing the biggest concerns of their customers.

“Those MSPs that do not take this next evolutionary step in their MSP journey toward MSSPs will unfortunately lose out to their competitors and over time may not make it at all.”

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