Expanding interest in cloud services is the biggest factor driving demand for IT services, surpassing the headline-grabbing but less critical areas of mobile connectivity and “always-on” environments according to a survey of IT companies.

Carried out by Autotask the survey found that tighter security topped the list of IT firm’s clients’ concerns.

“The expansion of the cloud is a golden opportunity for managed service providers,” said Len DiCostanzo, senior vice-president of community and business development at Autotask.

“To capitalise on the cloud’s growth, IT service providers need to focus on expanding their managed service offerings to include cloud services, increasing security and evolving their business model to be more consultative, where they deliver integrated business solutions and trusted service, not just IT support.”

The Autotask survey, conducted in February 2014, found:

• 54% of IT companies say security tops their clients’ concerns, ahead of support for the cloud (52%), mobile-device management (46%) and data management (45%).
• IT companies say they most value their technicians’ technical knowledge (34%), followed by how much customers like them (20%) and how many hours they bill (18%).
• IT companies’ billing rates appear to be rising. Last year, 51% of companies said they billed an hourly rate of $100 to $150. This year, that number jumped to 62%.

IT companies are predicting continued growth this year, the Autotask survey found. 87% of IT companies plan to do the same or more hiring this year compared to last year, according to the survey. In the southwestern US 94% of companies plan the same or more hiring in 2014, the highest rate of any region in the country. Even in the US regions least bullish about hiring – the East, West and Midwest – 87% of IT companies plan the same or more hiring this year.

IT companies cited new client requests (78%), the need for new skills (45%) and geographic expansion (25%) along with the improved economy as the factors driving their hiring plans in 2014.

Click here for more detail and analysis of the findings, the 2014 Metrics that Matter eBook which highlights the findings from the Autotask 2014 IT Service Provider Benchmarking Survey along with an infographic highlighting the key survey findings.

The Autotask 2014 IT Service Provider Benchmarking Survey was conducted by the research firm Decision Tree Labs and included responses from 1,300 IT service providers in North America, Europe and around the world.