What a Group of Nerds Predict about IT Businesses in 2021

With 2021 coming fast, it’s time to take stock of where the IT services industry is and where it may be going. While 2020 certainly threw us a curveball, 2021 should hopefully be a little more predictable. With some foresight, you could position your IT business for a lot of success in the coming year.

Over the past year, SolarWinds MSP has invested heavily in education and resources for MSP partners (and will only double down on these investments in the year to come). One area we’ve invested in was the formation of our Head Nerds. They’re a team of dedicated experts who specialize in areas like automation, backup and security, and their entire mission is focused entirely on helping IT service providers skill up in their area of expertise.

With that in mind, we figured it would help to ask them their predictions over the coming year in their areas of expertise. Below are some of their predictions, paraphrased here and edited.


Marc-Andre Tanguay, head automation nerd, SolarWinds MSP

Next year, I expect to see more IT service providers and MSPs adopt automation due to recruiting issues and technology talent shortages pressuring businesses. This will force MSPs to focus on efficiency and invest time into automation. This sharp uptick in automation will cross MSP tools—whether it’s via their RMM platform, a homemade tool, or simply any other solution they can get.

I also predict a potentially mass upgrade of Microsoft Windows 8 and 8.1 to Windows 10. We still see a lot of Windows 8 environments out there, but I expect Windows 8 to have a shorter life than Win7, so I predict we’ll see a lot of companies migrate to Windows 10 in the coming year. As people migrate to Azure AD or Microsoft 365, it makes sense to benefit from all the integrations and security features of Windows 10. Automation will play a crucial role in the heavy lifting during these migrations.

Marc-Andre Tanguay, Head Automation Nerd. Follow Marc-Andre on Twitter: @automation_nerd

Data protection

Eric Harless, head backup nerd, SolarWinds MSP

Over the next year, I believe even more organizations will flock to cloud-first backup solutions. Home-based workforces will continue putting a strain on endpoint backups that have to connect to the VPN to protect data. Instead, cloud-first backup solutions let businesses quickly back up data to the cloud and restore fast wherever they need, which is far more convenient for remote workforces.

Also, as businesses increasingly shift to Microsoft 365, they’ll start to sunset their on-premises Exchange™ and SharePoint® instances. This will further increase customers’ data protection needs, and perhaps be a major driver in the move toward cloud-first backup.

Finally, backups are useless if you can’t recover from them. We’ll continue to see businesses face downtime from the increased threats of ransomware, hardware failures, corruption, and user errors. This should drive businesses to adopt more frequent recoverability testing to make sure their backups are ready to go in the event of an emergency.

Eric Harless, Head Backup Nerd. Follow Eric on Twitter: @backup_nerd


Gill Langston, head security nerd, SolarWinds MSP

Even after the pandemic starts to subside from the potential vaccines, I predict many companies will continue to allow some level of work from home. This means MSPs will need to double down on defending data and identities no matter where the end user is located. This will further accelerate the trend of thinking outside perimeter-based security. Related to this, we should see the focus on zero-trust frameworks continue to sharpen. Verifying someone is using an approved device from an approved location with valid authentication with second factor will become the norm for cloud apps and resources made available to workers remotely from the office.

Social engineering techniques will continue to improve. With more cloud solutions in use due to the work from anywhere movement, bad actors know stolen credentials are the best entry point into an organization. For example, having credentials to Microsoft 365 accounts could allow bad actors to send emails from that user account to the rest of the organization to further their objectives. We saw social engineering levels spike this past year, and we should expect that trend to continue.

Finally, we should expect the complexity of attacks to grow. Gone are the days of a simple attachment infecting one system. Threat actors will get more creative in the ways they evade detection and how they move throughout an environment. Security tools and the people that use them will need to continue to improve their capabilities to detect them.

Gill Langston, Head Security Nerd. Follow Gill on Twitter: @cybersec_nerd

One final prediction

2020 was a tumultuous year to say the least. Yet one thing was clear—IT service businesses have the resilience to weather challenging times and often come out the better because of it. In many ways, they played pivotal roles in keeping the global economy afloat. If there’s one final prediction we could offer, it’s this—IT providers will continue to face change in the coming year, but will also persevere and adapt. 2021 will offer quite a few opportunities for growth, and we should fully expect IT businesses to be able to take advantage.

With the shift toward remote work and increasing reliance on the cloud, protecting your customers’ data wherever they are is crucial, just as Eric Harless says. SolarWinds Backup was built cloud-first to allow for fast data transfers both to and from the cloud so you can protect data and systems wherever they are and still rely on fast recoveries. Plus, if you use SolarWinds Backup, you can attend any of our free boot camps or office hours sessions led by one of the Head Nerds—whether that’s backup, automation or security. You also get access to other free resources, including our MSP Institute, which offers free training on marketing, sales, and business operations. Get access to all these resources and find out how Backup can work for you by starting a free trial today.

Guest blog courtesy of SolarWinds MSP. Read more guest blogs from SolarWinds MSP here.

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