Study: MSPs See Opportunity With Internet Of Things, But Are Slow To Act

Few MSPs are actually taking steps to add Internet of Things technology to their portfolio, even as most recognize the importance of it, an AVG study out Wednesday found.

About 77 percent of MSPs said they plan to expand their services and product portfolios with Internet of Things technologies, while 18 percent of SMB customers said their MSP was ahead of the curve in that area, the study said. In fact, a large majority of MSPs, 70 percent, said they felt they needed to step up their game to meet customer's expectations in the Internet of Things.

Those MSPs who don't take advantage of the Internet of Things are missing out big time, Marco LaVecchia, VP Channel Sales, AVG Technologies, said.

"The Internet of Things is the next curve for the IT services industry and those who don’t offer services for it are likely to struggle to continue to be relevant to their own customers in the future," LaVecchia said. "The scope of what MSPs are having to deal with and manage is increasing. Elevators in casinos, CCTV security systems, environmental control systems, just to name a few. Everything is connecting to the network, and MSPs need to implement platforms that can be customized to the needs of their customers, otherwise they face extinction just like many businesses that have come and gone through the modern Internet era in the last 22 years."

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[Related: Accenture Sees Huge Opportunity For VARs In Industrial Internet Of Things]

Meanwhile, customers are clamoring for the technology and are willing to set aside budgets for it, the study of 1,770 small businesses and MSPs in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany and Australia, found.

About 62 percent of customers said they had budgets assigned over the next 12 months specifically for Internet of Things-type technologies, with 49 percent saying the budget was "moderate" or "substantial."

Thanh Nguyen, solutions architect at Houston, Texas-based Accudata Systems, said what surprised him most about the study was that so many MSPs aren't taking advantage of the Internet of Things. He said that Accudata sees an immense opportunity with Internet of Things technologies and is making big investments in that area. Accudata recently signed a partnership with Honeywell Analytics to bring a wireless gas detection solution to companies in the oil and gas industries.

"Here at Accudata, the whole drive for us around creating our IoT practice is really focusing on bridging that gap, helping educate not only our business partners but also educating our customers on the IT side, to let them know that this is not just an industry fad. This is a trend we see a high adoption rate with," Nguyen said.

There are also significant opportunities around data analytics, he said, and helping customers plan for edge computing to handle all of the data.

However, the opportunity isn’t without its challenges, Nguyen said. In particular, he said security and cost have been barriers to convincing customers that they should get on board with the Internet of Things. Accudata isn't alone in worrying about security concerned with the Internet of Things -- seven out of ten clients in the study said they need to take extra steps to secure their data and networks if they push into the Internet of Things.

The problem is getting better, though, as technology continues to evolve, Nguyen said. He said major advancements from vendors with secure wireless technology, such as Cisco and Palo Alto Networks, have helped mature the market to the point where solution providers such as Accudata can deploy the solutions successfully.

Economies of scale in RFID and sensor technologies, Nguyen said, are helping making it easier for companies like Accudata to roll out Internet of Things solutions. As billions of sensors and RFIDs are being shipped annually, costs are being driven down to a more affordable level, he said.

Going forward, he said that a challenge will be finding enough talent to support the best technology out there. He said it is tough to find talent that really understands the technology, but expects that "will always be an issue." He said vendors, such as Honeywell, have been particularly helpful in helping recruit new talent and provide training for current employees to keep everyone up to speed. MSPs on the AVG study agreed, with 58 percent saying they feel they need to join up with cutting edge vendor partners to be successful.

While Accudata has already dived full on into Internet of Things solutions, Nguyen said it wouldn't be difficult for other MSPs to do the same. For those looking to get their toes wet, he recommended really understanding the customer businesses, identifying business problems and then using current technology that is repurposed using the Internet of Things to solve their troubles.