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Predictions: the technology your business needs in 2017

As time continues to fly, we’re now into 2017 and we’ve already seen plenty of predictions for the year ahead. Most of those predictions involve Brexit, Trump and the possibility of World War 3. But what about the future of business technology? Digital transformation is the buzzword of the moment; 67% of business owners have accepted it is inevitable, but only 4% are prepared. Here’s my top prediction for the tech that’ll drive your business in 2017 – all of which will assist you on the road to digital transformation.

The cloud

The cloud isn’t a new concept, with most businesses using cloud services in some capacity. When you mention the cloud, most people think about cloud storage. That’s indeed how the cloud started, but we’re now seeing a wider range of cloud hosting capabilities, including cloud-hosted applications. Microsoft’s flagship CRM and ERP solution Dynamics 365, which will launch this year, will be hosted in the cloud. The productivity suite that we know and love in Office 365 is largely cloud-based too, with new features being added continually and more to follow in the first part of 2017. This doesn’t spell the end for on premise applications, but we can expect a bigger shift to cloud hosting and computing services that we saw gaining real traction during 2016.

The cloud has matured to provide a stable platform for IT, telecoms and those traditionally on premise services, like data storage and application hosting. There have been concerns around the security of cloud services – particularly with the iCloud hacks plaguing celebrities – but realistically, how secure is your unlocked server room with your systems all connected to the internet? To have a sensible discussion around migrating to the cloud, risk assessments should be considered on both sides.

Recently, Microsoft became the first commercial cloud provider to be granted a Department of Defense (DOD) Level 5 Provisional Authority (PA) for infrastructure, platform and productivity services.

Business Intelligence (BI)

Similar to the cloud, BI isn’t a new concept either. The shift we’ve seen with BI means it’s more accessible and more in-depth than ever before. Whilst it’s still not seen as essential for many businesses, BI can be one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. It can tell you what’s working for your business and what’s not working, allowing you to adapt your business services to suit your customer needs and, ultimately, deliver a significant ROI.

At TSG, we were early adopters of Qlik’s powerful next-gen BI and data visualisation tool, Qlik Sense. It’s a step up from basic BI systems that only present data to you. Qlik’s intelligent associative model allows you to spot hidden trends and patterns that you might have otherwise missed. It takes business intelligence to the next level, and presents your data in an interactive and visually appealing way.

For those of you on Office 365, Microsoft’s Power BI tool integrates with your other business-essential Microsoft applications and also allows for interactive presentations of your data. You can see analytics in all of your Microsoft tools, which adds an extra dimension to your day-to-day work.

I expect BI to become more mainstream in 2017, as more business leaders understand the huge value it can bring. 

Cyber security

A BAE Systems survey found that 57% of businesses experienced a cyber-attack in 2016, with the average cost to the company of £300,000 – but for one in ten of those businesses, it cost over £1 million. Many of those attacks come in the form of Ransomware, which accounts for 25% of all cyber-attacks in the UK.

With those damning statistics, it’s clear that cyber security needs to be high on your business agenda. Cyber criminals are getting ever more sophisticated, and are developing new methods of attack and infiltration regularly. We’re going to see an improvement in cyber security regulations this year, but that alone won’t stop the hackers. Recently, we’ve seen Ransomware hackers offering victims a way out if they pass the virus onto their friends, and valuable data used as a bargaining chip, with the threat of deletion or distortion if the victim doesn’t comply.

We recommend Sophos Intercept X as an addition to your malware defences; it’s been specifically designed to prevent and remove Ransomware, and if you’re hit by an attack it strengthens your systems to make a future attack less likely. And it’s always a good idea to back up your data, whether that’s physically or in the cloud. Disaster recovery solutions like Datto are leading the way in protecting your data should the worst happen, whether that’s a Ransomware attack or the destruction of your physical servers.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT became a huge talking point in 2016, which saw a significant rise in the amount of internet-connected devices around the world. It’s largely the domain of the tech-savvy consumer at present, but we could see this move into the business arena in 2017. Young, fresh start-ups will have the opportunity to lead the way in introducing the IoT into business.

The IoT can affect your business in two key ways; in the way you collect and use data to inform your business decisions, or in the products you sell. The IoT doesn’t just refer to devices typically associated with connectivity like mobile phones, tablets or laptops; most items can become part of the IoT and likely will – even cows! Yes, you read that right – last year saw the dawn of the Internet of Cows – sensors attached to farmers’ cattle to track their movements, location and even their health. Similarly, Microsoft teamed up with Purell makers Gojo to track hygiene amongst hospital staff with sensors on doors and hand sanitisers. The data collected is used to improve levels of hand hygiene amongst hospital workers; this data is the key to utilising the IoT within business. 

If your business manufactures products, it’s time to think outside the box and consider how you can use connectivity and sensors to improve your products in a way that will, in turn, benefit your customers. Connected lighting and heating home systems are becoming more commonplace, and it’s often the first example given when discussing the IoT. The Internet of Things isn’t going away anytime soon, so it’s time to look at how your business can utilise it.

Find out more about the Internet of Things from our Technical Specialist, Karam Haddad.

Augmented reality

Although the concept of augmented reality isn’t new, it still feels distinctly futuristic. Augmented reality differs slightly from virtual reality, in that it adds to a user’s existing environment through technology rather than creating a new one. Pokémon Go exploded onto the scene in 2016, as users could catch virtual Pokémon overlaid on their surroundings via their phone camera. 

Augmented reality presents some really interesting opportunities for businesses. We’ve seen it enter the retail space, with furniture companies like Ikea allowing customers to visualise how their sofas will look in their actual living room. In a construction setting, you can visualise how a new building will look in its eventual location. Car manufacturers can envisage how new or replacement parts will look on their vehicles (speaking of cars – expect to see the first driverless taxis on the road this year). It’s not necessarily for all businesses, but there are many out there who can take advantage of this exciting technology.

Containerisation

If you hear the word containerisation, your mind might jump to cargo shipments. That’s where the term originated, but it’s now taken on a digital definition. In simple terms, it removes the need for a server operating system and simplifies your infrastructure set-up. Applications can be set up on a single machine, which allows for greater flexibility and portability.

Containerisation isn't widely used yet, but the Microsoft Server 2016 has been designed with containerisation in mind. Google also works in the containerisation space with Kubernetes. The involvement of these big digital powerhouses indicates that containerisation could enter the mainstream in 2017.

GDPR

Although the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) doesn’t come into effect until May 2018, businesses must start preparing for it now if they haven’t already. Data security is essential, and companies whose data is breached will face significant penalties. And you can forget about keeping your breaches under wrap – the GDPR will name and shame you, with a requirement that any data breaches must be reported. 

Hackers are targeting your data because they know what a business critical asset it is. Ransomware is encrypting your data and holding it hostage, phishers are stealing it, and other malicious malware distributors are destroying it or sharing it. It’s the number one tool at their disposal in our digitally-driven world.

Data encryption is one of the safest ways to protect your data. As connectivity and mobility increase in the business world, so do the risks of data breaches. You can read my thoughts on encryption and data in more detail in this previous blog. Using a robust technology like Sophos Safeguard will cover your back and ensure you’re prepared for GDPR. 

It’s also sensible to have an option of data retrieval should the worst happen. We’ve spoken at length about the importance of backing up your data securely and regularly in our security blogs, and it’s only going to get more important. As mentioned above, solutions like Datto ensure you’re never without your data if it’s compromised, lost or stolen. Disaster recovery could be the thing that keeps your business running.

Are you prepared for the business landscape in 2017? Do you have any of these technologies in place and if not, which ones are at the top of your agenda? Speak to TSG today to find out how we can help you on the road to digital transformation.

 

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