If 2020 was a year of adapting, 2021’s theme was perseverance. It’s impossible to look back on the year in the channel without mentioning the obvious — COVID-19 continued to impact the workplace and reshape our approach to technology, events, and collaboration.


As businesses settled in to a second year of “the new normal” (tired of that phrase yet?), many workplaces shifted from fully remote to a hybrid work model that provides greater flexibility. However, supporting hybrid work for clients also necessitated constant vigilance from MSPs as cybercriminals continued to take advantage of the pandemic by increasing the volume and sophistication of attacks. The hybrid model extended to channel events as organizations began to move back to in-person events (often still mixed with remote attendance options) by the end of the year, helping the community stay connected throughout.


Let’s explore more of the top moments in the channel from the past year.


The focus on remote work shifted to hybrid work.

In 2020, we were all thrown into the deep end of suddenly adopting remote work, and MSPs had to quickly support new business technology needs such as remote collaboration and changed security requirements.


However, in 2021, a new buzzword emerged: “hybrid work.” This meant “work from home” became “work from anywhere.” MSPs had to shift client conversations once again, this time to a blended approach that offers the flexibility to enable employees to work from home, the office, or the coffee shop – while protecting endpoints and data no matter their location.


The cloud became more important than ever for building a foundational IT stack for this “newer new normal.” The current MSP challenge is to provide clients’ workforces with access to the resources, data, and collaboration tools they need to be productive from any location while providing comprehensive cybersecurity to combat today’s increased threats.


Security threats grew in volume and sophistication.

If there’s one thing the channel talked about the most this year, it was security. Ransomware attacks became so prevalent, impacted so many organizations, and were in the headlines so often that they moved from an IT problem to a concern for the general public.


A large contributor to this onslaught was, of course, the continued pandemic. In the move to remote work, businesses that didn’t take steps to address new security vulnerabilities were exposed and presented a larger range of entry points.


Below are some of the top security incidents that impacted the channel in 2021:


Kaseya ransomware attack — This security event targeting MSPs started on July 2 when hackers launched a ransomware attack on Kaseya’s remote management software, then demanded $70 million for a decryption tool. The attack spread from MSPs to their downstream clients, impacting between 800 and 1,500 businesses worldwide, with the hackers claiming to have hit 1 million endpoints.


Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack – This attack brought ransomware to the awareness of the public, as it created gas shortages that impacted daily life throughout much of the U.S. South and East Coast. According to a consultant who responded to the attack, the hack was the result of a single compromised password – demonstrating the absolute necessity for businesses to train employees on password best practices and deploy tools such as password managers.


Changing cyber insurance policies — Massive ransomware payouts in 2021 are leading to an overhaul of how insurance carriers provide coverage for cyberattacks. Businesses can expect rate increases, higher deductibles, and policies requiring risk mitigation such as enforcing multi-factor authentication (MFA), employee cybersecurity training, deploying endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools, and keeping software up to date.


The channel continued to stay connected as a community.

As businesses started to allow employees back in the office, many channel events began transitioning back to in-person events. Some events deployed a hybrid model that included capabilities for remote attendance through video – demonstrating the effectiveness of blending both remote and in-person options to accommodate differing comfort levels, appetite, and budgets for travel.


Here are some of our favorite events that helped us stay connected in 2021:


Channel Strong Bus Tour (The MSP Initiative) – At the start of 2021, we were all dealing with screen fatigue and the mental health impact of little or no human interaction outside our homes. Necessity is the mother of invention, and COVID safety requirements combined with the need to find ways to connect led to the creation of the Channel Strong bus tour. The Channel Strong team trekked across the country in March, May, July, and September to host safely distanced outdoor gatherings. The tour allowed the channel community to responsibly interact with one another and the vendors that support them. The tour also hosted a canned good collection that was donated to local food banks along the way.


2021 Channel Strong Bus Tour


Xchange (The Channel Company) — This August event was the first attempt at getting back to the in-person gatherings we used to know and love. Turnout was great and it was energizing to network in-person with our channel community again.


NexGen (The Channel Company) This October event was geared towards more mature MSPs who had to meet a threshold before they could attend. The content was excellent, and we had some amazing conversations!


ITNation (Connectwise) Held in November, this was the last channel event of the year, and it didn’t disappoint! There was great content along with fun events that allowed the channel to reconnect and unwind.


You can bet Pax8 was there alongside you at all these events, enjoying the connection whether virtual or in-person. And we got amazing feedback for our channel presence this year, winning awards such as:


    • • Q1 SMB TechFest – Best Distributor
    • • Q2 SMB Techfest – Best Channel Program
    • • Q3 SMB Techfest – Best Partner Program
    • • Xchange March – Xcellence in Keynote Presentation, Xcellence in Booth Strategy, Best in Show
    • • Xchange San Antonio (in-person) – Xcellence in Boardroom Execution, XCellence in Solution Pavilion Strategy, Best in Show
    • • NexGen – Best Executive Boardroom, Best in Show
    • • IT Nation Evolve – Top Business Value Driver


Ringing in 2022

What’s ahead next year? It’s no surprise that security will remain a top focus. Pax8 expects 2022 to be a year of maturation for MSPs in the security space, so we’re continuing to develop new ways to help our partners level up their security skills. Look for an upcoming Security Foundations course in Pax8 Academy, new Pax8 Professional Services for support in aligning to CIS controls, and additional resources to help you become more defensible.


We’ve also got a full calendar of Pax8 events such as Mission Briefings and Bootcamps lined up for next year, so bookmark our events page to stay in the loop on when registration opens. As always, you’ll see us out and about at channel events both virtual and across the country.


See you in 2022!