IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Mission Impossible: Forecasting Tech in 2021

After a year of unprecedented turmoil, predicting what lies ahead isn’t easy. Seven brave experts agreed to help us try anyway. By Rich Freeman

MAKING PREDICTIONS ABOUT THE FUTURE is a risky proposition in the best of times. In these times, it’s all but impossible.

How many of us, after all, anticipated a global pandemic and epic recession 12 months ago? And despite the accelerating arrival now of coronavirus vaccines, how many of us really know what to expect from the year ahead?

“We’re completely in uncharted waters,” observes Paul Dippell, CEO of managed services consultancy Service Leadership.

In the latest instance of an annual tradition, however, ChannelPro asked Dippell and six other brave experts to take their best shot at forecasting what 2021 holds in store for key markets and companies. Here’s a look at what they told us.


The biggest, safest bet for the security market this year is that channel pros will spend some of it rectifying mistakes their clients made last year when everyone rushed to turn living rooms into offices.

“There were a lot of business decisions that were made out of necessity to deal with this new reality that we had in front of us, and a lot of it wasn’t done securely,” observes Ian Thornton-Trump, CTO of Winnipeg, Manitoba-based MSP Octopi Managed Services and chief information security officer of threat intelligence vendor Cyjax.

Ian Thornton-Trump

Fortunately, he continues, hardening work-from-home environments isn’t rocket science. Many of the most effective measures, like implementing multifactor authentication and whitelisting applications, are relatively simple, familiar to most IT providers, and affordable. “There are creative solutions that don’t cost a lot of money to implement,” Thornton-Trump notes.

Protecting data not just at home but in server closets, data centers, and the cloud is even more essential than before too, he adds, now that ransomware perpetrators have begun exfiltrating files before encrypting them, and then threatening to make the data public if victims don’t pay up. The best fix to that danger, which Thornton-Trump urges channel pros to prioritize in the months ahead, is embracing data lifecycle management. Bad guys can’t steal information that you’ve already deleted.

“The more data you have, the greater your risk,” Thornton-Trump notes.

Attackers won’t be the only source of risk this year, he predicts. Law enforcement agencies are belatedly getting serious about punishing hosting providers, certificate issuers, and the companies they serve for “misprision of felony,” or knowing about a crime like ransomware but failing to report it.

“I’m starting to see the U.S. Justice Department try things that have never been tried before,” says Thornton-Trump, pointing in particular to charges filed last August against Joseph Sullivan, Uber’s former chief security officer, for his role in the alleged cover-up of a $100,000 payment to cyberthieves who made off with some 57 million rider and driver records.

“We’re going to see a full-scale effort at the national and global level to start cleaning up the internet,” Thornton-Trump contends.

Cloud Computing

Lauren Nelson, vice president and research director for cloud computing at Forrester, has security on her radar too. Adoption of infrastructure and especially software as a service skyrocketed in 2020 thanks to the coronavirus, she notes. All those newly deployed solutions introduced new vulnerabilities, however.

Lauren Nelson

“How do we make sure that we’re able to bring new things to market, create new digital experiences, without exposing our organization to risk?” Nelson asks. “There’s a lot of focus on how do we weave security checks into those new products.”

Such concerns, set to become increasingly prevalent in 2021, won’t slow the cloud’s growth trajectory. “We kind of had a lot of rhetoric in early 2020, late 2019, that cloud was coming out of hypergrowth, and that’s no longer the case,” Nelson says. Indeed, Forrester expects the public cloud infrastructure market alone to expand 35% globally this year to $120 billion.

Another big number in 2021 will be the percentage of people who work remotely at least part of the week even after offices have fully reopened. Forrester expects that number to triple in the U.S. from 8% before the pandemic to 24% after it.

Keeping those people productive and engaged, Nelson warns, may prove trickier than many businesses anticipate. Giving a dozen meeting participants equal chance to be heard is hard enough when everyone’s in Zoom. It will be harder still when some people are online and others are in a conference room.

“They’re going to [need] not only technology to support remote work, but also … skills and training that makes it truly interactive,” says Nelson of home workers.

About the Author

Rich Freeman's picture

Rich Freeman is ChannelPro's Executive Editor

ChannelPro SMB Magazine

Get an edge on the competition

With each issue packed full of powerful news, reviews, analysis, and advice targeting IT channel professionals, ChannelPro-SMB will help you cultivate your SMB customers and run your business more profitably.