Knowing the direction in which IT is headed can help companies prepare for the opportunities and challenges those changes might bring. However, many small and midsize businesses (SMBs) do not have the time or resources to keep up with IT changes since there are so many of them. Further, it can be hard to discern which ones are most important. To help highlight the changes deserving SMBs’ attention, here are five IT trends they should know about:
1. Data Privacy Regulations Will Become More Common
More data privacy regulations are likely on the horizon. The high rate of data breaches coupled with the controversial data-collection and data-sharing practices used by some companies (e.g., Facebook, Google) are prompting more people to rally around data privacy laws.
Some governing groups have already responded to people’s cries for more privacy. For example, the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect in May 2018. A month later, the California State Legislature passed the California Consumer Privacy Act.
SMBs should keep abreast of the data privacy regulations being enacted and check to see whether they need to comply with them. The latter is not always readily apparent. For instance, companies do not have to reside in the European Union to fall under GDPR’s jurisdiction. Any organization that processes or stores the personal data of EU citizens is required to comply with GDPR, no matter it is located.
2. More SMBs Will Turn to Chatbots
To gain and retain customers, a company needs to quickly respond to their requests for information and answer any questions they might have. However, staffing a customer support desk 24 x 7 can be expensive.
One way companies are addressing this dilemma is by using chatbots, which are also known as virtual assistants or virtual agents. These software programs employ advanced technologies such as natural language processing and machine learning to simulate and automate conversations with humans. Chatbots can also help with routine tasks such as arranging meetings and collecting data.
Chatbots are becoming less expensive to purchase. Plus, companies have the option of buying prebuilt chatbots or building their own. Thus, chatbots are a practical solution for SMBs that want to be highly responsive to potential and existing customers.
3. Integrating Cloud and On-Premises Resources Will Become a Priority
With 96% of companies using at least one cloud service, it is safe to say that businesses have whole-heartedly embraced the cloud. However, companies’ cloud resources are not usually integrated with their on-premises resources. This can lead to a myriad of problems. For instance, a manager might want to break down product sales by customer age to analyze the buying habits of different generations. However, he might find that he is unable to do so because the customer data is stored in an on-premises legacy system while the product sales data is stored in the cloud, with no easy way to combine the two datasets.
In 2019, companies will begin to understand the importance of integrating on-premises and cloud resources, according to IDC experts. They predict that it will be a top IT spending priority for half of SMBs by 2021.
4. Companies That Want to Deploy Systems Using 5G Will Have to Wait
In December 2018, AT&T became the first wireless carrier to go live with a mobile 5G service in the United States. Although AT&T was the first, it won’t be the last. Other wireless carriers will likely follow suit.
Businesses are already looking forward to using this fifth generation of wireless networking technology because it is much faster, provides more bandwidth, and has lower latency than its predecessor, 4G. A survey by Gartner revealed that two-thirds of the polled organizations plan to deploy 5G by 2020. Ways they intend to use it include Internet of Things (IoT) device communications, video conferencing, and video analytics.
However, these companies will likely have to wait several more years. Gartner researchers expect that public 5G networks will not be capable enough to meet the needs of organizations by 2020 because wireless carriers will initially concentrate on providing 5G broadband services to consumers. They anticipate that an infrastructure capable of handling companies’ needs won’t be available until 2025 or later. Although companies could conceivably build their own private 5G networks in the meantime, the expense involved would not make it a viable solution for most SMBs.
5. The Proliferation of Data from IoT Devices Will Increase the Need for Edge Computing
Cisco estimates that IoT devices will generate a whopping 847 zettabytes of data by 2021. To handle the vast amounts of data generated by these devices, many companies will need to turn to edge computing.
With edge computing, the data from IoT devices is processed close to the location where it is being generated rather than being sent to a central location for processing. This allows the data to be analyzed and acted on in near real-time. Besides enabling such fast response times, edge computing helps companies significantly reduce the amount of data that needs to be sent to a central location, saving bandwidth.
Edge computing will be so crucial to handling IoT data that Gartner has ranked it as one of the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019. And IDC researchers predict that, in key industries, a third of SMBs will be using IoT devices and edge computing to collect and evaluate data in near real-time by 2021.