The volume and complexity of data flowing through today’s businesses can swamp even the largest companies, but it can be especially challenging for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Data must be recorded, managed and transmitted efficiently and safely. It also must be shielded from potential breaches while arriving at its destination at ever-faster speeds. Those increased complexities are proportionate to the growing need to automate these tasks in support of productive, growth-oriented business performance.

Because IT investments for these purposes can cost a lot of money, SMBs must look for solutions as well as the technology service providers that can reliably support these technologies and optimize their value.

Specialized Resources Protect SMBs from Cybercrime

Most SMBs don’t have the staff time and talent to adequately deal with cybersecurity. According to the Webroot 2015 SMB Threat Report, less than a quarter of the SMB IT decision-makers surveyed in the US, UK and Australia had dedicated personnel assigned solely to that task. And more than two-thirds weren’t sure they could fend off a cyber attack.

This is where the support of a technology service provider becomes especially valuable since they have the specialized resources for round-the-clock protection—even on a virtual basis. This allows the SMB to stay focused on doing business and gives internal IT staff time to address other essential business needs. An ITSP or MSP can also help SMBs to better prioritize their IT security budgets and even mentor and augment in-house IT teams to achieve a company’s overarching IT mission.

Moving to the Cloud

In recent years, key security functions, including email and web security, identity and access management, tokenization and encryption, vulnerability assessment and web-application firewalls have moved into the cloud.

Many ITSPs are now moving their SMB clients to cloud-based security because it’s easier and less costly to deploy and maintain as well as upgrade those types of solutions than on-premises hardware and software. The cloud also provides more options to choose from to better meet the security needs of their clients.

Given that SMBs are a target market for hackers, ITSPs must continue to grow their security competencies and demonstrate those skills to provide expert security solutions  and related services to their clients and prospects.

The data protection value of ITSPs doesn’t stop with an SMB’s own proprietary information. Businesses typically interact with customers, multiple vendors and other businesses on a daily basis and have partnering arrangements with these organizations. Because data thieves can use an SMB as an unwitting conduit through which it can breach a partner company’s data, ITSPs  must consider all scenarios and build a multi layered security solution to prevent that from happening, maintaining the integrity of their clients  data—and their business relationships.

Even where the SMB’s concern is solely its own data, SMBs sometimes don’t know what data is being used, where the data is stored or how users access it. An ITSP can paint that comprehensive data picture so that an SMB can secure its most vital information.

Endpoints and Expanded Networks

The 2016 Metrics that Matter report, based on a Decision Tree Labs survey of more than 1,100 global ITSPs, found that businesses want technology service providers to help them manage the enlargement of communications, commerce and data exchange networks driven by endpoint growth. SMBs recognize that “as these digital flows expand outward through mobility and cloud accessibility, so does the need for management, compliance and security.” The expectation from survey respondents is that the greater number of endpoints will propel demand for secure, file sync-and-share (FSS) services that can relieve SMB worries about managing endpoints without compromising easy employee and third-party access to critical business documents.

Code compliance might not be a top-of-mind reason for SMBs to outsource IT security, but perhaps it should be. Businesses must often update their software to align with the new code requirements stipulated by an ever-shifting and security-conscious regulatory environment. Because ITSP and MSP professionals know exactly how these new laws and statutes will affect businesses, they can accelerate the compliance process and lessen the risk of a business inadvertently violating a law because it wasn’t aware of, or didn’t understand it.

While a strong business case can be made for external IT support, SMBs nevertheless must take care in choosing to offload important data security functions. Taking a cookie-cutter approach won’t work. There are a plethora of security solutions on the market, so it’s important to select a partner that has made security a focus, and one who stays on top of the security issues of the day. SMBs need to feel confident and be assured that their technology service provider has the expertise along with the very latest security technology solutions to protect their most valuable asset—business data.

Len DiCostanzo is senior VP of channel development at Autotask. Read more Autotask blogs here.