December 21, 2020
Sponsored by Kaseya
It goes without saying that 2020 has been quite a year, with each month feeling like it has tried to top the last. And while 2021 may not start off much different, it will hopefully end on a higher note than it began. For MSPs looking ahead to the year to come, there are many lessons to be learned from what just transpired. In the IT world, the pandemic didn’t necessarily start any major new trends as much as it accelerated those already in progress. When looking at 2021 trends, the expectation is a continuation of these transformations, and MSPs that have been adjusting on the fly should anticipate more of the same.
So, looking both in the rear view and the horizon, what are the biggest 2021 trends MSPs should be planning for? And how has 2020 set the stage for how to survive and thrive?
Remote work is here to stay.
Remote work didn’t begin in 2020, but nearly every industry got a crash course in how to do it at scale for a sustained period of time. While many businesses are eager to get their workforce back into the building and lots of employees realized they prefer their workplace cubicle or corner office to the kitchen table, the consensus is mixed.
Workers who previously never had the option to work from home have now had a taste of it, and some will prefer to maintain the status quo at least some of the time long after vaccines have quieted the viral storm. Trading off water cooler chat and free breakroom coffee for no commute, sweatpants and flexibility is pretty appealing for a broad swath of professionals.
At the same time, some organizations are realizing that a fully or partially remote workforce isn’t just manageable but may be preferrable. Whether it’s giving their staff some additional work-life balance or the bottom-line savings that come from spending less on rent and furniture thanks to a smaller physical footprint, some forward-thinking companies are considering their alternatives when it comes to office space.
However, beyond adapting corporate culture, IT demands inevitably increase in this scenario. More remote workers mean managing additional endpoints connected to insecure WiFi connections, personal devices being used for business applications and a much less homogenous IT environment.
To properly support customers in this environment, MSPs must similarly shift to a “remote-first” mentality: Yes, there will be employees, devices and potentially servers in normal offices, but remote employees should be considered the norm rather than the exception. This means creating IT environments and system access that is completely agnostic to what location or network is in use.
It also means patching and upgrades are more important than ever. All those endpoints need the latest security updates installed pronto to avoid the rampant traps cybercriminals are laying these days for unsuspecting users.
Collaboration tools are another effective way to combat any loss of productivity for MSPs themselves as well as their clientele. Whether it’s Microsoft Teams, Slack, Trello or other asynchronous platforms, vital information can be shared regardless of where folks are sitting or what their particular work schedule looks like.
Increasing support volumes.
Remote work isn’t just about change in location, it’s also a shift in how individual employees approach IT to begin with. Instead of on-site IT support on company-provided devices, they’re now trying to keep a combo platter of personal and business-owned endpoints connected to the network and running essential software and services.
This has led to a dramatic increase in support tickets for some organizations. Whether they can’t get on the VPN, can’t access a particular system, or need to transfer data from one place to another, the increased complexity of these arrangements has many workers clicking and calling for tech support.
MSPs without an integrated service desk solution in their solutions stack should consider bringing one online. Many of those tasks can transition to fully self-service solutions with auto-remediation of common tickets, leaving your technical staff free to work on tougher problems or system maintenance.
Cloudy days ahead.
Migrating core applications and systems to the cloud wasn’t new in 2020, nor will it be new next year. But the pace of digital transformation has hastened, and with it is an increased appetite for moving more and more functionality and data to cloud-based solutions–even in industries such as hospitality, healthcare and education that were previously hesitant to make the move.
Cloud management platforms simplify the work facing MSPs supporting these customers. These help MSPs manage this new infrastructure, and cloud assessment tools provide a huge time savings by spotting security gaps and generating reports that technicians need.
Cloud and SaaS apps shouldn’t get a free pass when it comes to backup and data recovery, either. Far too many firms assume their data is being backed up by these providers as part of the monthly or annual fees, but that’s often not the case. Using a SaaS data protection platform ensures the data in Office365, G Suite, Salesforce.com, and other common solutions is always backed up and ready for a speedy restoration if things go sideways.
Belts will remain tight.
While some businesses have held relatively steady during the pandemic (and a few have even seen growth and increased profits), the overall economic recovery will take multiple years. Even when COVID-19 is something we refer to in the past tense, there are still many questions regarding how quickly old behaviors will return to pre-pandemic levels (if they ever fully do).
Clients will be hedging their bets and less willing to spend freely than during true boom times. This means additional scrutiny for their current contracts and relationships, as well as seeking opportunities for additional savings.
MSPs also aren’t immune to this phenomenon themselves. Many MSPs had to furlough or cut staff when things got tight, and may not have the cash to bring them all back. Maintaining service levels when your endpoint-to-technician ratio surges above 100 can only be achieved via automating IT tasks and increasing technician efficiency.
Using a remote monitoring and endpoint management solution takes care of much of the heavy lifting, keeping customers happy and freeing up resources for strategic initiatives MSPs must invest in for long-term growth and stability.
The bad guys aren’t slowing down.
If anyone thought a global pandemic might create a crisis of conscience for cybercriminals, they can rest assured nothing of the sort transpired. Instead, malicious attacks have merely adapted to the new state of things, finding plenty of soft targets along the way.
While phishing attacks, ransomware and data breaches are nothing new, the rapid switch to remote and an increased reliance on IT systems for business continuity have made it an easier and more profitable game. The net result is a 400% increase in cyberattacks.
To combat this onslaught, MSPs must be proactive for themselves and their clients’ sakes. Antivirus/antimalware is a given, and email protection solutions can stave off phishing attacks that can lead to far worse outcomes.
And to prepare for any attacks that do penetrate your defenses, a backup and disaster recovery solution provides another layer of protection to help quickly recover and stand-up essential services with limited downtime. Tying your firm’s ability to protect client data and systems to their agreement to include these protections as part of their overall managed environment helps everyone stay covered.
Preparing for an uncertain future
Getting back to “normal” may take a while, and some things have been irrevocably changed. But proactive MSPs can make the most of the current situation and position themselves well for the eventual recovery by focusing on these key areas.
IT’s strategic importance has only been strengthened by everything that’s transpired in 2020, so don’t be surprised to see even more businesses looking for help in the year to come. Tracking these trends and investing in the tools, expertise, and automation to scale efficiently will make all the difference.
Jim Lippie is GM & SVP Partner Development, Kaseya.
This guest blog is part of a Channel Futures sponsorship.
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