Let's take a look back on what happened.

St. Louis IT Support Rings in a New Year

I’m not sure anyone wants to spend time thinking about all that happened in 2020. Let’s be honest, it was a lot.

The early spring of 2020 saw the nation plunged into uncharted territory of pandemic response. Highly populated urban areas were hit hard, while rural communities went largely unaffected, leading to a divisive culture over health precautions and restrictions as nation and state wide policies were poorly tailored for some communities, while being vital for the health and survival of others.

The lockdowns led to job disruption and work-from-home.

With shutdowns came unemployment and the work-from-home migration. While some workers had no choice but to continue going to work as front-line employees in essential businesses like grocery stores, hospitals, and emergency responders, others were kept home due to furloughs and layoffs. Lucky workers were able to keep their job but work remotely, leading to a huge adoption of collaboration software like Zoom, slack, and remote desktop access as offices went from taking up 1 room to taking up 30. For some businesses, this was a revelation, as they realized that much of their office space could be sacrificed to let workers cyber-commute. For others, it was troublesome, as people unused to the tech space were tasked with troubleshooting wifi, security, video conferencing, and more.

Remote work led to an increase in cyber security risk.

The mass migration to remote work also created a ripe space for cyber criminals. Phishing attacks targeting disrupted and displaced workers capitalized on confusion. Hackers turned their attention to newly popular programs like Zoom and GoToMeeting. In healthcare IT, the need for tight security was high as the OCR and insurance providers made special provisions for telehealth. Although the demands were increasing on healthcare IT support, many offices found their plates impossibly full with staffing restrictions as closed schools kept many parents home from work, and others with health concerns chose to continue working remotely as long as possible. This caused many needed business development projects to be set aside, as medical practices focused on survival and delivering excellent, safe, and secure patient care.

The pharmaceutical world raced for a vaccine.

In the drug development world, a race was underway to create a viable vaccine to COVID19. In our own backyard, both SLU and Washington University held vaccine trials in St. Louis. With funding and attention squarely on “Operation Lightspeed” both stock markets and cyber criminals reacted. Healthcare infrastructure around the world was targeted with hacks and exploits, and the Pfizer breach simply highlighted that even standard operations, if not carefully moderated, can lead to data breaches.

What can we predict for next year?

Looking forward, many businesses are still trying to catch up, if they were lucky enough to survive the shutdown. Restaurants and small independent stores who could not easily shift their business model to online or contactless sales suffered, with political gridlock offering little relief. As the virus surges across the country, including the rural communities that were relatively shielded before, more lockdowns may be imminent. How will businesses pivot to meet the challenges of 2021? And will their risks pay off if a vaccine returns the economy to a pre-covid normal?