IT matters: How to get ahead in 2020
Kevin Drinkall, EMEA Professional Business Market Development Manager at Zyxel.
At the turn of the decade, the key to business success remains essentially the same. Companies, large or small, need to find a way to do more with less – and it is the same in IT. Those who manage to reduce their overheads while improving their computing and networking infrastructure will be best placed to drive bigger business benefits. At the core of these efforts will always lie a secure, fast and reliable network that empowers each worker in the business to get their tasks done efficiently and with minimal risk of exposing sensitive data.
In the past 12 months we’ve seen a number of exciting announcements and trends that have taken off to make a huge impact on the IT sector in the new year. The crucial step for businesses and resellers alike is to ensure they are well acquainted with the promising new technologies. Most vendors run insightful webinars, publish handy guides and whitepapers to help educate the market on what’s there to gain from the innovations and how they can be best deployed. These days, there is little excuse for not understanding how new technologies can benefit a business, and those who stay ahead of the curve are the ones who will see the greatest ROI.
Having this knowledge enables IT managers and resellers to make smart choices about their next steps and ensure that no opportunities are missed. Going into 2020, there are three key areas that need to be prioritised by those wishing to get ahead of the competition.
1. On the wave of Wi-Fi 6
802.11ac Wave 2 was originally hailed as the next big thing for wireless networking in 2017 but failed to deliver outside lab tests. Following that disappointment, we are now beginning to see the first applications of the next wireless standard, 802.11ax – or Wi-Fi 6. This technology is most likely going to be one of the most rapidly deployed standards because of the improvements it delivers.
For example, in ideal or rather “lab” settings the standard can carry up to 10 Gbps – a huge leap forward given that today the fastest we usually see in real-life installations without Wi-Fi 6 is 866Mbps (due to the client). Of course, we won’t be reaching the promised 10 Gbps in real deployments, but the speeds are already so much more impressive than what we are used to that we will see wireless speeds surpass the 1Gbps (LAN) speed even heading towards the 5Gbps mark.
Yet, the beauty of Wi-Fi 6 is not just in its high speed, it also fixes a lot of density problems. We all have more devices connected than ever before, and the capacity of our access points is now stretched to the point where they simply can’t cope. The new wireless standard utilises cellular network technology to cater for the modern busy environments, by communicating with multiple devices at once in a much more orderly fashion by using timing slots much like speed dating to make sure everyone gets their fair share of access, put in layman’s terms. For businesses the decision is simple – just think about the multitude of devices, from smartphones to IoT, that would instantaneously become much more efficient with Wi-Fi 6.
2. Switching on the multi-gig and PoE++
This may be one of the best kept secrets in the world of networking, but switches have received a major enhancement that the industry hasn’t seen for the past ten years. The evolution of switches has been very stagnant but towards the end of 2019 multi-gigabit switching became a focus point. These switches will become even more vital because they now enable us to introduce higher connection speeds over existing cabling infrastructures.
When thinking about Wi-Fi 6, one of the key considerations is the cost of implementation. Wi-Fi 6 enabled access points do not present a huge financial outlay, whereas upgrading the existing data cabling to meet the new standard in a building becomes very expensive. Businesses must not only consider the cost of the hardware, but more importantly the labour that goes into replacing the cables. Moving into the next year, we’ll see more businesses wanting to achieve higher data throughput and the introduction of multi-gig switches makes that much quicker and more affordable.
Also, many switches now offer 802.3bt PoE (Power over Ethernet) capability under the name or PoE++ or Ultra PoE and this is a very significant change. In simple terms, this PoE standard delivers 60 Watts when powering a device from a switch. With the increasing number of PoE devices launched on the market, such as Wi-Fi 6 APs, LED lighting or fully powered PoE monitors, this presents further opportunity for businesses to reconsider how much they need to wire-up their premises.
3. Automated network security and data governance
Media attention to network security hasn’t slowed down over the past year, but it is still worth questioning how much businesses actually know about threat management and what technology is out there to help them. Resource-poor SMBs need to find ways to manage the high demands on data governance within their limited budgets and teams. The deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) as a solution to this problem may seem too futuristic, but it has become more realistic and achievable than ever – even for small businesses.
We have not moved much further from the initial GDPR panic around protecting sensitive data, and the increase in cyber threats – from hacking to ransomware – is making it imperative for businesses to pay close attention to this area. Investing in advanced threat protection (ATP) solutions that leverage AI, ML and cloud technologies will be the difference between thriving and struggling companies in 2020.
ATP essentially scans anything that enters the network and when it detects unknown files or software, it checks it against a cloud threat system that leverages from AI and Sandboxing technologies to identify a potential threat and immediately isolate the threat. As soon as an ATP discovers a new threat it also updates the database so that any other connected devices are aware of it immediately. This automated and simplified approach to network security is perfect for SMBs as it takes out a lot of hassle, lowers the risks and does not require in-depth understanding of the issues. Resellers on the other hand are able to provide a proactive approach to threat monitoring, moving away from the reactive management of the past.
Succeed through setting priorities
With so much going on, it can be difficult for businesses to decide what to focus on first. Arguably, the benefits of Wi-Fi 6 are extremely tempting, but without the foundations in place, the new wireless standard will hardly impress. Access points and switches must work hand-in-hand if companies want to see prompt ROI without the vast spending on replacing existing cabling. Upgrading to multi-gig switches could therefore be a good starting point, especially if you intend to increase capacity as well as speeding up the connectivity speeds. If you have a lower density of devices, then your investments in the wireless technology may also deliver the necessary improvements.
In summary, investment in security solutions needs to be prioritised in order for businesses to make 2020 a success.