Ransomware attacks have been increasing globally over the years, and thousands of companies around the world have been affected as a result. Ransomware attacks, also known as Cyber-attacks, occur when a company’s online systems are hacked, taken over and locked unless a large ransom is paid.
Since the global pandemic has struck early last year, the FBI reported a 300% increase in cybercrime. This rise can be attributed to hackers taking advantage of increased online activity of knowledge employees while they are working from home. This current scenario represents a great opportunity for hackers. Remote workers have in fact accounted for a security breach in 20% of organizations. Phishing scams on the rise amongst the pandemic have included links asking for donations, as well as emails from professional-looking addresses luring individuals to open attachments which then implant malicious programs on the victim’s computer. Ransomware can also start through “drive-by” downloading, which happens when a user visits an infected website, and malware is downloaded into the user’s drive unknowingly.
The world’s largest ransomware attack to date has just recently occurred, and Canada was lucky to avoid any big hits. This month, Kaseya, a Florida-based Information Technology company, was hit with a ransomware attack that affected companies in 17 different countries, including the U.K., Sweden and Mexico. The company was hacked by a Russian-based gang who call themselves “REvil”, who somehow maneuvered their way into the IT company’s seemingly secure system. Experts said that this has been the most sophisticated cyber-attack the world has seen.
Kaseya’s customers include hundreds of businesses internationally that are too small to have their own IT department, hence they outsource their security systems from the technology provider. The impact of this unfortunate ransomware attack was felt globally. In Sweden, at least 800 Supermarkets that used Kaseya had to close their cash registers for three days. In New Zealand, many schools had to remain offline while their security systems was looked into.
However, the impact that may be felt on Canada’s economy isn’t fully known yet. V. Gupta, BDO partner and cybersecurity expert expressed concerns that “Kaseya provides a critical piece of infrastructure that a lot of organizations leverage, especially in Canada,” he said. “The number [affected] could certainly grow … the impact is still not fully known” The consequences of this attack could lead to large losses for the Canadian economy, specifically for small and medium-sized businesses who outsourced their IT software from Kaseya.
This is not going to be the last ransomware attack that affects the world globally. Companies now more than ever have the responsibility of taking extra precautionary measures when choosing to outsource any software. The Canadian government may start implementing regulations for any companies outsourcing such software to remain in full compliance and safety. In the meantime, Canadian companies need to take extra steps to educate employees on how to avoid these phishing scams.
It has been over a year now since a large number of Canadian knowledge workers – workers whose jobs involve handling or using information – started working from home. For some of us, it has been a dream come true – we have been able to wake up a little later, save an hour or more per day commuting to the office, and spend more time with family. Others however, miss the daily banter with their colleagues and the sense of a normal routine.
Overall, a lot of Canadian teleworkers workers seem to prefer a hybrid workspace, meaning the ability to work from home some days, and go into the office on others. Based on Stats Canada, eighty percent of current teleworkers indicated that they would like to work at least half of their hours from home once the pandemic is over.
Canadian companies are embracing the future of the hybrid working schedule and giving employees a choice in whether they have to return to the office. Deloitte Canada has already announced that they will give their staff total flexibility over where they want to work post-pandemic, and many companies are following suit. What will the hybrid workplace mean for Canadian companies?
The ability to source more diverse talent
Companies that give employees the flexibility from working from anywhere they’d like – office or home – will have the benefit of being able to recruit and hire the right talent from different cities or provinces in Canada, or diversify even further by recruiting globally. The benefits of expanding your talent pool outside of your city can include cost savings, hiring faster and diversification.
Less office space
Many companies will find that they will be able to fit their staff in half of the space they once used. Companies may start to lease out their office space, which will provide them with more capital to inject into other projects.
These companies may move away from traditional assigned offices and workspaces and focus on collaboration rooms where employees can come and go when they need to work from the office. Telus has announced that they will be incorporating a mix of coworking spaces, collaboration rooms and wellness stations as they give employees freedom to choose where they can work from.
A focus on Cybersecurity
Companies will need to focus on privacy and cybersecurity now more than ever. With the majority of employees working remotely, legal and private documents that normally would have been handled in person are being scanned and signed virtually. With the rise of DocuSign and similar software, paper copies have become a thing of the past in many organizations.
With a permanent shift towards remote work there exists a concern for how data is being accessed and stored. Companies may need to invest more in Cybersecurity infrastructure to ensure they remain privacy compliant for their clients, protect their employees and prevent data leaks.
The pandemic shifted our perception of what an office job should look that. One thing is certain; and it’s that remote work is here to stay for the majority of Canadian companies. Companies need to adapt and remain flexible to remain competitive and viable as they navigate through the new normal.
Most channel partners are happy to put the 2020 year in the rearview mirror and concentrate on new money-making, customer-satisfying strategies for a post-pandemic world. As this group starts to claw their way back to what business was like before the pandemic, the impact of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns are still bringing serious challenges to channel partners in North America especially when it comes to data protection.
If there is one thing business has learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and the many stay-at-home orders from governments is that it has put a major strain on business continuity. It has also made the IT department reach new levels of anxiety as so many of its workers are now remote.
As the business world settled into this new mix of remote and workplace operations in 2020 and 2021, they began to put serious thought to modernizing its data protection plans. There are five main reasons for this, according to Veeam 2021 Data Protection Report, are:
The acceleration of cloud.
Modernization of IT environments.
Loss of data/failed backups; and
These five factors have led to many channel partners seeking new ways to modernize data protection in a post-pandemic world.
Dave Russell, vice president of Enterprise Strategy at Veeam, (the co-author of the report along with Jason Buffington, Veeam’s vice-president, Solutions & Product Strategy) pinpointed ransomware along with overall cybersecurity as top priorities for CIOs in a post-pandemic world.
“CIOs are looking for features and solutions that can overcome ransomware. At the end of the day, we are not a security company, we have hired a CSO, but it is fair to say the everyone in the data centre and everyone in the company has a role to play in security, but if you think about the greatest security vulnerability it is with the employees and fishing attacks,” Russell said.
A modern data protection approach, Russell suggests, must have best practices around digital hygiene.
Digital hygiene, Russell adds, is not specific to Veeam but can include items such as creating different passwords and separation of key resources and data on different networks so not everything can be compromised or access at the same place.
“Cybersecurity would still be a concern even without the pandemic. IT is still scared about cybersecurity because they do not know what the threats look like and how they evolve and change. In a post-pandemic world cybersecurity jumps to the top,” he said.
If there is another reason beyond the five mentioned for developing a modern data protection strategy in a post-pandemic world, Russell believes it is digital transformation. COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on digital transformation. According to the Veeam 2021 Data Protection Report, there was a massive increase in digital transformation speed in 2020, with 54 percent of organizations accelerating their digital transformation plans. Meanwhile, organizations already into their digital transformation journey ramped up their investments in this area. For example, 91 percent of organizations in the first few months of the pandemic increased cloud services usage in support of the many remote workers that were now in their midst.
Russell commented about an intersection of digital transformation that occurred in 2020, where some put their heads in the sand and took a pause because of COVID-19, while others saw it as perfect timing to “double down” on digital transformation.
Modern data protection does have a major role to play in digital transformation as it improves the overall data connection, accuracy, capture and protection. “And it surfaces up data to the cloud for sharing. We know that digital transformation will be backed on data and so it has to be protected.”
DRIVING THE RIGHT OUTCOMES
The ultimate outcome for business is to ensure peace of mind. Russell speaks to building confidence in an organization to deliver data at any time, any place and on any device. Currently, the spend on backup and data recovery versus cloud and SaaS solutions has a seven times gap. But the heightened state of ransomware in the wild has now made modern data protection a board-level discussion. From Russell’s experience, approximately five percent of data has been recovered. “The situation could become worse,” he said, “if they never had to recover their systems.” The issue stems from the IT team knowing there is a problem, but the business side not being up-to-speed. “There’s an old joke. What is your DR plan? It’s an updated resume,” Russell added.
HOW DO YOU GET THERE?
Russell envisions organizations making high probability type bets, as stated earlier in this article, ultimately prioritizing defending against ransomware. “That’s the big disaster other than a hurricane.”
One area is data protection-as-a-service or DPaaS for managed services providers in the channel community. Another is Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service or DRaaS. Both offer the ability to reduce IT costs while providing always updated solutions and peace of mind knowing that disasters can be averted.
A best practices approach can certainly work in this area especially for enterprise backup for physical and virtual servers. One thing to look for is a solution that is purpose-built with an onsite backup appliance and secure replication to the cloud. By implementing this type of as-a-service solution organizations will get the benefit of leading-edge technology, data deduplication, encryption, cloud storage and multiple retention capabilities.
The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has put more focus on digital transformation and the as-a-service market not just in North America, but also in Europe.
The Jolera Interview Series talked to one of the top leaders at Veeam Software in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East (EMEA) in Riccardo Sbarboro, the head of professional services for Veeam in EMEA about the state of the as-a-service market in Europe and surrounding areas. Sbarboro, who has been in the IT sector for more than two decades, said the market in Europe for as-a-service has become a real revolution since the COVID-19 crisis. Sbarboro, who is based in Milan, Italy, only knows too well what COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown did for the Italian region.
According to Rabo Research, Italy’s gross domestic production volume shrank by about 17 percent and it is believed that the economy will not fully recover until the year 2025. This on top of the more than 100,000 deaths because of COVID-19.
But those companies that took to the cloud immediately and provided remote working solutions or were well on their digital transformation journeys more than weathered the storm in Italy.
“In these days, all the companies have IT at their core now. And they are speeding up their innovation plans, while still limiting upfront costs. The anything-as-a-service business model, for many partners, are showing benefits,” he said.
One of the many challenges Sbarboro and his team at Veeam faces covering Europe, Middle East and Africa is that this region is the greatest melting pot of languages and culture in the world.
“In EMEA there are many groups with diverse cultures and differences,” he added.
At Veeam, the organization realized from the start that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to be a tough period for all involved and they put their focus on health and social interactions with staff, partners, and customers.
“I was lucky to be at Veeam during this time because we made it easy to grow in the difficult months. Veeam was fair and supportive and did not make it all about business,” he said.
One of Sbarboro’s many duties is running the channel partners at Veeam for the EMEA region, and this has provided him with great perspective on how COVID-19 has impacted the channel in many countries. Those partners that aligned with Veeam have experienced some of their best quarters in their history, even during the pandemic and lockdowns.
“Those that invested in digital transformation and Veeam benefitted because our offerings are 100 per cent aligned to that. We are aware of this particular situation and the impact is real, but those who reacted sooner and stayed on the right side of innovation were safe,” Sbarboro said.
For Sbarboro it is too early to talk about lessons learned from COVID-19. He says in an emergency you try to survive and minimize the impact and then look back on anything you may have learned later on.
“We are not there yet, but one of the things I’m sure about is those companies that were ready with as-a-service and digital transformation activities better sustained their business and the communities around them than those that did not.”
One of the strategies Veeam adopted was to enrich its portfolio of solutions by strengthening partnerships with leading providers in the as-a-service market. The partnership with Jolera has enabled Veeam in Europe, Middle East and Africa to continue to support its position as a 100 percent channel-driven organization while enhancing the technical skills to deliver value-added and reliable professional services for Veeam product portfolio implementations.
Jolera was one of a select few that were chosen by Veeam to be part of its Accredited Service Partner program also known as VASP.
“VASP is the special forces for projects about data management. We had several hundred applications, but just 50 were selected and Jolera is one of them. Jolera was since the beginning of this process one of the most promising partners we had, and the deeper the analysis the more the capabilities and the technical knowledge was evident. We are very happy to have found such a partner and we are looking forward to develop further this relation,” Sbarboro added.
Also, during the Jolera Interview Series, Sbarboro spoke about his passion for mentoring and coaching and about a unique endeavour called the Gentleman’s Ride in Bergamo.
Kevin Peesker has been at the helm of Microsoft Canada for three years now and, in that time, has spearheaded the subsidiary’s transformation into an as-a-service power. He has also taken a significant number of channel partners along with him on this ride.
But he is not stopping with the channel. Peesker is also driving an agenda to skill-up Canada’s future leaders by investing in a digital literacy agenda that focuses on three key areas: students, new entrants in the workforce, and current jobseekers. He believes that this will not just transform business, specifically small business, but also key sectors such as healthcare.
The current COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown that occurred throughout Canada may have put a halt to several industries but that was not the case for Microsoft Canada and many members of the channel community.
“We are in an incredible industry,” said Peesker during the Jolera Interview Series. “The impact on Canada and globally that we are making will be memorable.” But, Peesker added that this journey is a two-way street, and while he and his team at Microsoft Canada are fully engaged, it’s time for everyone to get involved and participate.
It’s clear that this journey is an as-a-service endeavour. According to Peesker, the as-a-service market has become a value-driven engagement that brings about consistent annuity revenue streams for business while delivering a better level of service to customers.
“It’s a proactive way to engage in the mid and long-term. Microsoft has moved to this model at scale globally. In Canada, the vast component of our revenue is as-a-service, more than 70 percent. We are committed to providing a scalable development of offerings and innovation that gets into the hands of the customer as soon as possible,” Peesker added.
Microsoft Canada surveyed 670 business decision-makers across Canada. Some of those polled are from companies with ten employees or fewer to large enterprises. It looks like most Canadian business leaders, big and small, agree with his optimism. Approximately 69 percent of Canadian business leaders recently surveyed by Microsoft Canada say they are confident that their business will survive the pandemic into 2021, and just over half (54 percent) believe their organization will be able to adapt to whatever the upcoming year might hold, this includes a second wave of the pandemic.
“There are several bright spots from this research. I’ve been calling it our Darwinian moment. Those organizations that have leveraged the benefit of technology are not just surviving but thriving. In contrast, those stagnant organizations or those that did not respond to digital transformation have been impacted. Those that put in place a digital strategy, anchored by cloud and data, were able to scale when the pandemic hit their business,” Peesker said.
Also, during the interview, Peesker talked about one of his passion projects: Digital literacy in Canada along with artificial intelligence, the Microsoft Surface, and find out what Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, said to Peesker about flexible, hybrid work strategies.
As the year 2020 gets kicked to the curb, and we usher in 2021, we collectively look into the crystal ball to figure out what may occur during this year in the IT industry.
To do this, we talked with Diane Krakora, founder of Partner Path in Silicon Valley, to make five bold predictions for 2021. Krakora is one of the most influential channel strategists in the industry. In more than two decades of work, Krakora has crafted some of the more progressive channel programs for some of the industry’s biggest names, such as Cisco, Citrix, Dell, Dropbox, Microsoft, SAP, and VMware.
Krakora, along with her colleague Jay McBain, Principal Analyst, Channels, Partnerships & Ecosystem for Forrester Research, developed these five key predictions for the IT marketplace. During the Jolera Interview Series, Krakora reveals the top 5, while providing insight on each.
McBain was a previous guest on the Jolera Interview Series, and you have to watch that video here.
5 Predictions for the 2021 IT Marketplace
Marketplaces will be integral.
This was a 2020 prediction for Krakora and McBain. B2C marketplaces such as Amazon, Alibaba and eBay are making moves to solidify themselves in the B2B sector. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, growth in marketplaces soared. Find out how marketplaces can add to or compete with other indirect channels.
Non-transacting partners will drive an ecosystem approach.
Non-transacting partners are organizations a bit unknown in the marketplace but yet are driving cloud-based technology purchases. “The old partnering models, frameworks and programs won’t fit the future constellation of partner types,” Krakora said. The reality of the situation is that these channels such as dealer networks, wholesale distribution networks, resellers, retailers, franchises will all be a significant factor in 2021. Find out how this trend is impacting the as-a-service market.
Methodologies will develop to influence the influencers.
This prediction stems from the trifurcation channel model of 1. non-transacting advisors or influencers before the sale, 2. transacting partners and 3. services partners that implement and integrate solutions. What this means is there will be five different partner influencers guiding a customer through their primarily digital journey, on average. The challenge here is to influence as many people as possible. And, there could be a fourth methodology in play for 2021 to go along with non-transacting, transacting and service partners.
Partners will be rewarded based on customer adoption.
In subscription or consumption-based business models, what are the true measures of success? Well, Krakora predicts it will be “adoption” for 2021. Similar to other subscription models, the measures of success will not be revenue or profit, Krakora predicts, but “adoption.” If you get adoption of your product, you get retention and renewal. So which partners are driving customer adoption? How do you measure and reward that adoption, will all be key questions for 2021? However, if you get adoption of your product, you get retention and renewal. Find out how to best drive customer adoption with this prediction.
You will know your ecosystem multiplier.
It’s time to promote your ecosystem multiplier, says Krakora. The marketplace needs to figure out every dollar of hardware, software, and services created or enriched because of the dollar of product sold. “They want to hear there is a big enough pie to make it worth their while to join your program, get certified and direct their mindshare towards your products,” she added. Expect to see about 80 percent of your future partners becoming non-transacting partners. This means you are going to have to make it worth their while, revenue-wise, to join your program, get certified and direct their mindshare towards your products.
During the interview, Krakora summed up the unforgettable year of 2020 and provided key takeaways for the channel community.