IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) can be the backbone of a business. It builds efficiencies and creates value. However, it is “behind the scenes” and is not always appreciated or even acknowledged at Board level where the focus is on empowering internal clients to deliver business strategy and accomplish goals.
Yet, as the director responsible for IT in your business you need to keep abreast of relevant innovation, and understand the threats and opportunities as they become apparent. To help you prepare for the future we have outlined some of the key IT topics you should be considering now.
Microsoft security threats
On 14 January 2020, Windows 7 will reach end of life (EOL). That means Microsoft will discontinue support. It also means all security updates will come to an end. So, if any of the PCs in your business are running Windows 7 and are connected to the Internet or your network, you can’t expect them to be protected against hackers. It’s time to upgrade to Windows 10 or run the risk of a costly data breach. Advanced, improved and continually-updated, Windows 10 is the most secure version of Windows ever made.
In October next year, Office 2010 will also reach EOL, so make sure your business is ready. Additionally, Office 2016 will move to Extended Support. This means that it will still receive free security updates for another five years, but you will need to pay for non-security updates and any support requirements. Ensure your systems support staff are aware of all these milestones and have a plan in place to move either to Office 365 or Office 2019 in good time.
The benefits of serverless computing
Serverless computing is a new way to implement cloud computing in your business. It’s a method of renting server space in the cloud, but only paying for as much as you need.
Once, any company wanting to build a web application had to own the physical hardware. Then came the cloud, where a fixed amount of server space could be rented remotely, but that meant companies had to buy more space than they need. It was the only way to make sure they didn’t go over their monthly limits and break their applications. What’s more, a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack could quickly shut down your online presence or end up being very costly.
With serverless computing, you only pay for what you use. The space allocated to your applications expands and decreases based on your computation needs, and you don’t have to reserve a fixed amount of monthly bandwidth. The term ‘serverless’ isn’t strictly accurate, as there are still servers being used, you just don’t have to worry about them. If you haven’t already, it’s worth exploring serverless computing and evaluating how it can reduce expenditure.
Life on the edge
As cloud and serverless computing continue to proliferate across businesses, data can, theoretically, be held anywhere in the world. This means that if your data is too far away from the device that wants access to it, you could suffer from high latency (a noticeable delay between requesting the data and receiving it).
This is where edge computing comes in. It allows workloads to be located closer to the customer, at the network edge. This could mean carrying out some of the processing on the user’s computer, on the processor inside a connected device, in a router, by an ISP, or over a local edge server. The key thing to know is that edge computing is done in close geographical proximity to the device, unlike cloud servers or a business’s own servers, which could be located long distances away from the devices they communicate with. As well as decreased latency, benefits of edge computing include a reduction in both bandwidth and server resources, along with a decrease in the associated cost. Edge computing is poised to power the next wave of business transformation, so it may be worth raising the topic with your IT provider when considering strategy or system performance with them.
An eye on AI
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are becoming commonly-heard terms in business. AI can help data systems and companies do more in less time, by recognising patterns, discovering data trends and acting on them.
AI has a wide range of uses. It could predict and reduce customer churn, decide on the most effective pricing strategy, talk to customers online using chatbots, or play out the results and consequences of taking different business decisions. Escalating problems can also be identified, understood and acted upon at an early stage, before they reach critical levels.
Keep an eye out for AI when you’re considering upgrading your existing products and applications. It isn’t an individual product. It will be embedded in other tools, and the products your company already uses will also begin to utilise it. You cannot afford to miss the AI opportunity.
Dealing with digital diversity
Successful business outcomes depend, in part, on your company’s ability to quickly evaluate and implement new technological ideas. And in a world where there’s a solution for almost everything, the rapid proliferation of hardware and software can easily become a drain on resources. Instead of improving performance and identifying opportunities, your support staff could end up with a disconnected array of systems that impede business progress. Combine this with the vast array of digital devices available, and the potential for wastage is magnified exponentially.
Visibility, understanding and management of assets will become key elements of business performance. Make sure you designate someone to revisit your digital inventory and use that information to implement a strong digital diversity strategy. It’s a balancing act between providing tools that complement the working styles of your employees, exploring the most effective routes to doing business, and keeping profit margins as wide and sustainable as possible.
The BDO difference
Here at BDO, we understand the challenges that the non-technical board member faces when they become responsible for IT. Our Technology Advisory Service (TAS) team has an extensive hands-on track record of delivering strategic, operational and technical IT advisory services. We’ve developed our services with the non-technical board director in mind and we provide management and support services to suit each client’s needs.
Find out more about BDO’s practical independent advice and IT support services.
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