Some 56% of IT leaders will allocate more than 40% of their IT budgets to cybersecurity in 2021.

On top of that, 37% listed “improving cybersecurity protections” as their top IT investment priority for this year, according to a recent Syntax survey of 500 IT decision-makers.

Survey respondents said the investment spike was due to a major rise in cybersecurity attacks during the pandemic last year. More than three-quarters, or 77% of decision-makers reported that cyberattacks became more frequent after the pandemic began, with 40 percent saying the increase was “significant.” To combat the rise in those attacks, 90% of IT leaders purchased new cybersecurity tools and while 93% said these tools made cybersecurity easier — they aren’t entirely satisfied.

According to the survey, 91% either employ their own security operations center (SOC) team or in-house security talent — and only 9% use a cybersecurity managed services provider (MSP). However, of those decision-makers using an in-house solution, 83% say they’re considering outsourcing within the next six months.

Most IT leaders, 79%, cited a reduction in headcount at the beginning of the pandemic as a reason they turned to outsourcing. Operating with a smaller team presents significant challenges for IT departments tasked with adapting IT systems for remote work and managing an influx of support requests.

Although 28% of decision-makers said working with fewer IT employees was a top challenge, teams with reduced headcounts reported a higher rate of accelerated digital transformation. Additionally, 92% of companies that laid off IT staff said COVID-19 accelerated their digital transformation compared to 71%  of those that did not experience department cuts. An accelerated digital transformation rate reported by companies with reduced IT staff correlated with higher rates of outsourcing and use of automation.