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How Managed Service Providers Can Help Higher Education Address the Challenges Brought On By COVID-19

Empowering Higher Education: How MSPs Tackle COVID-19 Challenges

From outsourcing IT services requests, to managing cloud migration, to improving security architecture, managed service providers (MSPs) offer their clients a variety of services to navigate the increasingly complex, unpredictable technological world. 

With COVID-19 and the sudden onset of remote operations, enterprises began looking to MSPs to fill IT gaps—nearly 60% of respondents in one survey agreed that MSP adoption increased.  Higher education is one example of an industry that could (and did) benefit greatly from MSPs. With the rapid shift to remote operations, higher ed institutions used this technology to rapidly adapt their IT infrastructures to the demands of the pandemic. As remote learning persists and the future remains uncertain, MSPs will continue to be critical partners to these organizations, helping them address the challenges brought on by the pandemic as well as those beyond it. 


Challenge: Most colleges and universities have increased their reliance on digital resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, adopting things like video conferencing tools and learning management systems (LMS) to support remote students and teachers.  The IT teams at higher education institutions carry most of the responsibility when it comes to investing in and overseeing the rollout of these new applications—but if they lack the expertise to drive adoption and utilization, these efforts may fail.

How a managed services provider can help: By leveraging the IT expertise of an MSP, academic IT departments can receive the help they need to be successful. For example, if a university decides to stick with a hybrid learning model (and provide a mix of online and in-person learning during and after the pandemic), they have to purchase laptops or other personal tablets for their students. These additional devices are the responsibility of the school, and need to be optimized with video conferencing tools and other applications that account for the new needs of the students. 

And by partnering with an MSP, colleges and universities gain the extra bandwidth and expertise necessary to ensure remote learning projects are executed successfully. Instead of hiring and training additional IT staff members to oversee these efforts—which can take time, and cause a lag in the school’s ability to meet remote needs—colleges can simply outsource all of the help they need with an MSP. 


    Challenge: With all of the new infrastructure that higher education institutions had to adopt to support remote learning, IT departments are challenged to keep their networks secure—particularly as hackers look to capitalize on this digital shift. According to the 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, the rate of ransomware attacks within the education sector has increased dramatically this past year, making up 80% of reported malware-related incidents compared to 48% the prior year. Accenture Research’s 2020 Cyber Threatscape Report, predicts this trend will persist. 

    How a managed services provider can help:  Experts have recommended that schools continue to prioritize cybersecurity. But in many cases, the already-thin technology departments of academic institutions are struggling to keep pace. But with an MSP, colleges and universities can get help in securing their networks and user activity both on premises or in the cloud. MSPs can provide schools with additional, knowledgeable staff members who can help in addressing the increased number of security concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.


      Challenge: The depressed economic activity brought on by the pandemic reduced the availability of funding for public higher education. As a result, many schools have been forced to furlough or lay off staff. As of October 2020, employment in state government education dropped by 49,000 jobs and employment in private education fell by 69,000 jobs according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

      Some experts predict academic institutions will feel the economic impact of the pandemic for many years to come. Some public institutions never fully recovered from heavy cuts to their budgets in the wake of the Great Recession. This may also be the case for post-pandemic colleges and universities, and state disinvestment in higher education could become the norm. 

      However, these short- and long-term budgetary constraints stand in contrast to higher education’s need for more IT support. 

      How a managed service provider can help: Instead of making the costly decision to hire full-time employees to fulfill these specific needs, universities can save money by partnering with an MSP. For example, higher education institutions might not need a full-time server specialist or desktop support technician—with an MSP, instead of committing to the ongoing financial burden of hiring more employees, colleges and universities make  one monthly payment for a specific kind of IT support or expertise as-needed. 


        The changes brought on by the pandemic have been difficult to manage for many of today’s schools, but they aren’t going away anytime soon. Experts predict that most schools will remain completely or partially remote until 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted higher education’s need for MSPs—but this need won’t disappear once students, teachers and staff start returning to the classroom normally. As educational technology improves and grows, so too will the need for MSPs. 

        To learn more about Netrix Managed IT Services and how they can help higher education institutions navigate this challenging time, contact us today.