If you’ve been following any of the latest business and technology headlines, you’ve no doubt heard how 2017 will be the year that ground-breaking technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence will create new paradigms in our healthcare systems, schools, universities, and enterprises. Even small and mid-sized businesses (SMB) stand to gain immeasurable benefits from these technological advancements, helping managers to understand, manage and measure businesses operations and customer interactions in ways that were never possible before. We’ll have the opportunity to become more efficient, innovate faster and ultimately, make better decisions as long as we have the network foundation required to sustain this innovation.
Here’s a look at three types of technology that can help you establish the groundwork required to get ahead in 2017:
Fiber is the foundation of any business technology stack with its inherent speed and scalability. With fiber, you’re driving on a supersonic raceway; without it, your business will operate like the digital equivalent of driving on a dirt road. Fiber has the speed needed to enable complex technologies where every nanosecond counts. Fiber networks provide uncompromised performance and distinct uptime advantages with split-second data processing and the ability to upload and download files at the same fast pace. As the technology landscape becomes more complex and our patience for “load times” diminishes, it’s extremely important that businesses have a network that can run everything from basic business functions like conferencing and cloud uploads to some of the more powerful applications, like data mining and artificial intelligence. I’ve seen plenty of retail establishments leverage fiber and it’s fast, dependable connectivity as a competitive advantage to attract customers into their business. But if they wanted to go a step further, the store or restaurant could leverage fiber to access cloud-based business intelligence applications and better understand their customers’ preferences and buying habits.
Similarly, I’ve consulted with larger companies who also leverage fiber for cloud-based applications, but in addition to business intelligence, they also rely on it for instantaneous access to cloud-based procurement, sales and customer service applications, data backup and server processing environments. Many of these companies also have dispersed workers and need fiber to power online collaboration and video conferencing solutions. Fiber provides the gateway into an incredible set of IT services that enable businesses to delegate their IT challenges over to a trusted provider whether for business intelligence, email and security services or simply removing plain old phone systems off desks and putting in new IP telephony devices with advanced features. In my experience, fiber lays the groundwork for business growth and advancement while helping a business achieve maximum savings and efficiency.
Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN)
Having multiple office locations has always been a bit of a headache when it comes to IT. First, there’s the capital investment for the networking equipment that has to be considered. Then, how do you manage and maintain it? That’s where SD-WAN comes in play. With SD-WAN, SMBs have cost-efficient, secure, cloud-based WAN connectivity that not only supports the bandwidth-intensive, dynamic nature of today’s applications, but also reduces the need to spend money on proprietary hardware and expensive network transport. SD-WAN can securely connect a business to a public or private cloud or as in the case of a branch office, to a corporate network. Expect adoption of SD-WAN to continue to expand as companies gravitate towards virtualization of traditional, physical networking functions that allow them to pay for only the networking requirements they have now and the flexibility to adapt service to changing requirements at a moment’s notice without waiting 60 or 90 days for a hardware installation. For even more benefit, businesses can turn to a service provider for SD-WAN management, eliminating the need for IT staff involvement, perfect for companies without IT staff or for those businesses whose IT department is focused on other initiatives. With SD-WAN, a business can go from technology ideation to revenue- and customer-impacting activities in a matter of days, a must-have in the day and age of immediate gratification and competitive market pressure.
I believe that today’s businesses are caught between the benefits of the hyper-connected enterprise and the ever-growing number of smart, sophisticated cyber attacks. This perfect storm of the new digital economy and increasing security threats creates serious risks for businesses and for the people who manage them. Whether you own or manage a coffee shop and are processing customer credit cards, process patient information for insurance companies or manage global acquisitions, you require encrypted, secure transactions to protect not only your networks and company data, but also to protect your customer and patient data from falling into the wrong hands. The real question becomes how do you balance hyper-connected, open commerce while also protecting against sinister activities, whether it’s fishing and DNS attacks or identity theft? For many SMBs, security is seen as a complex and expensive undertaking, and the threat landscape constantly evolving with formidable adversaries. Consequently, many companies will wait until there’s an incident before addressing security vulnerabilities. For example, the first time a company experiences a DDoS Attack, it might take employees an hour or more to figure out what is happening and then another hour or two to mitigate the problem. During this time, the company website is down, customers can’t complete purchases, customer satisfaction dwindles and sales revenue is lost. However, Managed Security Services (MSS) can relieve a business owner or IT manager of the complexity associated with proactive security preparedness. With MSS, the managed security services provider (MSSP) provides consulting services, vulnerability assessment and advanced detection and analysis to thwart attacks and protect.
The technology landscape is morphing at warp speed. Autonomous cars, drones, voice-activated artificial intelligence devices, smart homes and even smart cities are becoming the norm rather than the exception. Yes, all of this new technology could potentially hold hidden security vulnerabilities, but it also holds the promise of a hyperconnected reality that can simplify our lives, save our businesses money and potentially provide our customers with instantaneous gratification with advanced products and services.
Ultimately, the benefits that these technological advancements afford us far out-weigh any potential risks. I believe that 2017 will definitely be the year of expanding paradigms and supersonic advancement.