This year, the whole world has experienced enormous shifts in how we work, learn, socialize, shop and overall go about our daily lives due to the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 has dramatically impacted all aspects of our existence – including our reliance on technology and the role it plays in personal and professional spaces.
At the end of last year, when we published our 2020 IT forecast and IT resolutions for the new year, we had no inkling of the pandemic that would soon spread across the globe and completely change how businesses in all industries operate. The novel coronavirus has accelerated some changes that were already in motion and altered the IT solution landscape in various ways.
As you consider how to adjust your IT strategy and road map in light of the ongoing crisis, here are some notable tech trends to watch as we look forward to 2021 and beyond.
1. The cloud is more popular than ever.
Even before the new virus caused a mass move to remote work arrangements, a large number of businesses had already embraced cloud solutions because of their flexibility, scalability and numerous other benefits. Last year, almost all (94 percent) of the organizations surveyed for the RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud Report already utilized cloud computing in one way or another.
The need to accommodate people working from home as COVID-19 led to widespread shutdowns has only intensified the cloud’s appeal. Many companies have turned to Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) platforms, for instance, to replace on-premises phone systems and keep everyone connected while logging in remotely.
The 2020 State of the Cloud Report from Flexera confirms that the crisis has accelerated adoption rates: Nearly 60 percent of enterprises said COVID-19 would probably result in higher-than-previously-expected levels of cloud usage.
2. Zero-trust architecture makes more sense as part of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.
The shift to remote work solutions and infrastructure has also created new points of vulnerability, necessitating a shift in how businesses approach cybersecurity. At the same time, malicious actors have ramped up their efforts to infiltrate private networks with COVID-19-themed scams and schemes.
For instance, our CISO recently published a blog entry on coronavirus-related phishing schemes, which are also a common way to distribute ransomware. Proactively working to protect your company’s network and data is more vital than ever.
Some businesses have turned to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to ensure security while everyone works from home. However, VPNs have made headlines for potential issues. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (DHS CISA) has warned that without regular patching, updates, and multi-factor authentication, enterprise VPNs could lead to data breaches.
Zero-trust architecture has emerged as an appealing alternative to VPNs. This framework involves being skeptical of everything inside as well as outside your network, according to the CSO article “What is Zero Trust? A model for more effective security.”
Like cloud solutions, zero-trust networks are enjoying a significant popularity boost due to COVID-19: Between 2019 and this year, the portion of organizations in North America with either a zero-trust initiative already on the books or plans to create one in the next 12 to 18 months went up 275 percent year-over-year to 60 percent, according to The State of Zero Trust Security in Global Organizations report from Okta.
3. Digital transformation efforts got an unexpected boost and remain essential.
Before the pandemic, we already knew that the world was becoming increasingly digital, and consumers’ expectations were subsequently evolving. To deliver a great customer experience (CX) and stand out in the marketplace, businesses across all industries have embraced new technologies like the cloud and the Internet of Things. A 2018 Gartner survey found that the vast majority (81 percent) of marketing professionals in charge of CX anticipated competing either mostly or completely based on that factor by the time we hit 2020.
The pandemic has jumpstarted digital transformation initiatives for many organizations by speeding up the adoption of new tech like cloud phone systems and zero-trust architecture. With face-to-face interactions still qualifying as a potential health hazard, some businesses will likely continue on that accelerated track and adapt to a world that’s more digital and virtual than ever before.
4. Businesses need third-party IT support more than ever.
As companies around the world continue to seek to empower distributed teams while also searching for ways to contain costs due to the pandemic-driven economic downturn, it seems likely that many organizations – particularly small and midsize businesses (SMBs) with limited internal resources – will turn to managed service providers (MSPs) for assistance.
A March 2020 CompTIA survey found that only 41 percent of professionals said their organizations had strong technical capabilities related to remote work, and 67 percent said they were either somewhat or very likely to engage with a third-party provider for assistance with their remote work set-up.
By working with an MSP, businesses can often lower costs by only paying for the services they use, while also gaining access to a team of tech experts with the skills needed to tackle digital transformation, cybersecurity and other pressing needs. That can make a huge difference for companies looking to thrive long-term despite the current crisis.
Overall, the future remains fairly uncertain. However, technology has emerged as a powerful force that allows us to stay connected and productive despite social distancing. Investing in IT and embracing new tools that boost efficiency and facilitate collaboration is essential for any business that wants to deliver a standout CX.
If you have any questions about the tech trends to watch discussed in this blog entry or would like assistance with IT strategy and road mapping, our team of trusted advisors would be happy to assist you. We believe in IT as a transformational force that can empower businesses across all industries to overcome obstacles and achieve long-term success.
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