2021 Global Channel Trends

Martyn Brownlie, channel sales director UK at Sophos shares the three security-related trends he thinks will most impact the channel next year.

The year 2020 has been a challenging one for many organisations and it has driven unprecedented change in the workplace. Among other things, digital transformation programmes that were expected to be rolled out over a period of years were accelerated to be implemented in just weeks. There may not always have been enough time to think about IT security.

As businesses gradually return to some form of normality during 2021, channel partners have an ideal opportunity to help customers reassess and enhance their security.

1. Growing demand for managed security services

In the wake of a year that has again seen ransomware gangs make millions, businesses are increasingly turning to managed service providers (MSPs) to help them with protection. There’s common thinking among many businesses that they can manage cybersecurity themselves, until they can’t. For such businesses, a ransomware incident can cost them huge sums of money and put incredible pressure on IT teams that may not necessarily be equipped to cope due to a lack of resources, skills or technology. It’s usually at this point that they turn to service providers for help.

Already, we have seen huge growth from our MSP community, which now supports more than 13,500 MSPs worldwide, a 54% YOY increase from Q3FY21 versus Q3FY20.

The reason for this is simple...Resource-constrained businesses are realising that it is cost-effective to use managed services, which add expertise without the additional headcount. With the threat of ransomware only expected to increase in the coming year, MSPs have a tremendous opportunity to secure organisations from complex ransomware, like WastedLocker and Dharma.

2. Increased focus on cloud security

Over the course of the past decade, cloud computing has stepped into the spotlight within business IT and it is steadily on the rise. This year we saw exponential growth for cloud computing. With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing employees to work from home, businesses have had to quickly shift the bulk of their IT estate to cloud environments. For many organisations, some form of remote-working is likely to be here to stay and cloud-first strategies will be ever-present.

For the channel, this will mean greater requirements for server protection, with businesses looking to partners to provide the understanding and expertise needed to secure cloud environments. We have already seen demand for server protection, particularly for AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Evolving buying process

Over the last five years, we have seen businesses purchasing IT and security differently and more strategically. From a tech perspective, there has been a growth in multi- and hybrid-cloud environments, where businesses are cherry picking the solutions that best meet their business needs rather than sourcing everything from one vendor. Interestingly, we have started to see this approach being adopted across a multitude of areas, including the channel.

Customers no longer take a one size fits all approach and work with one partner for everything - instead they are seeking specialists in different areas to ensure that they have the best and most robust support available for any given need. Those channel programmes which tap into hyper-specialisation are becoming increasingly successful, with specialities across technologies, geographies and lines-of-business.

If this year has taught us anything, it’s that the future is hard to predict. But what we can say with certainty is that channel partners will be needed now more than ever. To deliver on this, they will need to ensure that they hone in on their expertise, to demonstrate how they can add value and secure businesses. Likewise, with organisations expected to be operating with a reduced workforce, managed service providers will be in high demand to bolster IT teams, providing a round the clock service for businesses. As we slowly move to a light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic, there is a big opportunity for the channel to help businesses survive and thrive.

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