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Among 2021 predictions, this one is almost guaranteed: Cloud, security, and training will remain key strategies for MSP success.

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2021 predictions
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Believe it or not, 2020 is almost over, and many MSPs and VARs are already gearing up to execute on their 2021 planning. This is also the time when industry experts make predictions about the vital trends and technologies that we should all be focusing on in the coming year. What’s interesting, though, is that just about anyone who made predictions for this year back in 2019 was way off base about what the business climate was going to look like.  2021 predictions have similar challenges given the current state of things.

In the United States, there’s much political and economic turmoil. While a COVID-19 vaccine is on the way, the ongoing pandemic will continue creating uncertainty and business challenges in just about every sector.

Still, our experiences this year–one in which technology companies found innovative and sometimes surprising ways to pivot, serve customers and keep the lights on–point to three key trends that we think will be important.

First, security-centric MSPs will continue to have an edge. In 2021, MSPs’ success will hinge on their ability to continuously assess their clients’ security postures and look for opportunities to improve and address any gaps (both technological and human) that may impact the safekeeping of their data, no matter where it’s at or how it’s used.

Security-centric MSPs will also have new business opportunities to deliver IT services. For example, during the past year, there was a massive shift to remote work environments, where the need to protect users (not just devices) has come into sharper focus. As businesses begin to return to the office following the pandemic, MSPs will need to be even more vigilant in their efforts to ensure their clients’ remote and hybrid work environments are fully protected.

Second, it’s important to remember that transformation introduces, and likely increases, risk. Every industry is going to operate differently as a result of the pandemic. Businesses that embrace the opportunity and transform to meet this new reality are much more likely to survive, or even thrive, in it.

Cloud-based applications and services will play a critical role. The cyber risk created by a shift to cloud computing is a manageable obligation MSPs should welcome in order to assist their clients in this type of business transformation. Technologies like Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) are here to stay, as it has become critical to secure devices at the edge in very distributed environments, and businesses can no longer block threats based on IP addresses or domains. Cybercriminals are now building all kinds of botnets, like TrickBot and IP storm, which we previously identified as targeting internet of things implementations. Because of this, any computer or cloud infrastructure could potentially be infiltrated and weaponized.

Third, every MSP will need to expand its skill sets. Even with the cybersecurity skills gap expected to continue, and despite the lingering pandemic, MSPs must take advantage of any new talent coming into this industry to develop while deepening their existing employees’ skills. In the coming year, we’re going to see greater demand for expertise around mobile device security, especially as rules, regulations and new compliance requirements are put in place around privacy.

MSPs also need to expand their public cloud knowledge, now that it’s become accepted by businesses of all sizes in the wake of the pandemic. Familiarity with public and hybrid cloud architectures, including Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and AWS, will be of great value to MSPs if they can successfully harness the power of these skill sets to drive revenue and business growth.

The pandemic will eventually subside. People will go back to work, and kids will go back to school. But it’s unlikely that companies will get back to what normal used to look like any time soon. The 2020 experience has altered how businesses use technology and how their employees expect to work. MSPs will need to take the lessons of 2020 into account as they prepare to meet the challenges–whatever they may be–of the coming year.

Brian Babineau is Senior Vice President and General Manager for Barracuda MSP. In this role, he is responsible for the company’s managed services business, a dedicated team focused on enabling partners to easily deliver affordable IT solutions to customers.

This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.

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