SMB/Mid-Market Spotlight: 2018 IT Trends

by Michael Flannery
February 01, 2018

As a new year begins, it’s a good time to reflect back on 2017, the year of SD-Everything. Software-defined networking and virtualization became a reality for many businesses in 2017. The migration to the cloud has been talked about for years, but now most businesses have officially arrived. The majority of medium businesses are using cloud-based applications for some combination of storage, communications, collaboration, accounting, inventory management and more. Nevertheless, for some, switching to the cloud still seems like a daunting task. However, the trend is not reversing and in order to maximize your IT investments and keep current with the times, the move is inevitable.

2018 holds the advancement and proliferation of cloud-based technologies and also puts a big focus on not only the customer experience, but also the employee experience. Here’s what we can expect to see in 2018.

SD-WAN matures and goes mainstream

2017 was all about early adoption of SD-WAN with a focus on using low-cost broadband Internet connections to reduce overall bandwidth costs, increasing network performance and gaining deeper network visibility.

2018 is all about taking network management and monitoring to new heights. Never before have companies had such granular visibility into what’s going on inside their networks and the ability to prioritize applications accordingly. Optimization is king in 2018. No byte of bandwidth goes to waste.

Research forecasts that SD-WAN adoption will increase to 90% by 2020. As more SMB & mid-market businesses migrate to an SD-WAN environment, it’s important they look for a partner that is well-versed with the technology to get the most possible value. Our own SD-WAN Concierge Service is an example of the type of solution that removes the initial complexity which can be a challenge, even for an experienced IT organization.

Cyber security requirements intensify

Data breaches are the new norm. The problem is that about half of SMBs still don’t take cyber attacks seriously enough. In 2018, one thing is for certain – you will likely become a target of a cyber attack if you don’t have appropriate security measures in place.

Finding SaaS solutions that have built-in security features are highly beneficial to small and medium businesses. 

Tech aids workforce expansion and impacts hiring

Many small businesses plan to add employees in 2018, and point to a booming economy as the reason why. As in many other aspects of their business, they will find technology to be on their side. Gone are the days when hiring was limited to your local candidate pool. With the adoption of cloud-based services such as storage, file sharing, video conferencing and real-time collaboration businesses can pull top talent from across the globe. Not only that, but SMB & mid-market businesses are actually saving on overhead costs by “branching out” and hiring remote employees.

Along these same lines, mobility solutions are becoming a must-have for employees – thank you, millennials, for this trend.  Studies show enabling mobile flexibility – integrating office communications with BYOD smartphones, for example – leads to more positive employee engagement as well as greater productivity. IDC estimates 72% of the U.S. workforce will be mobile workers by 2020. Businesses need to be prepared to attract top talent by offering technology that meets employee expectations. There are many ways to enable employee mobility, but for SMB & mid-market businesses, the simplest and most cost-effective route is to choose a fully integrated UCaaS service (our own OfficeSuite UC is a good example) that enables mobility right out of the box while delivering calling, faxing, voicemail, online feature management, centralized administration and more. A solution such as this makes for happy employers and happy employees in 2018.

Customer (Intelligence) is king; WiFi can help deliver it

Another hot topic for 2018 is gathering and then making use of customer intelligence. For example, knowing the web browsing behaviors and shopping patterns of your customers can help SMB & mid-market businesses make better informed decisions and improve and personalize the customer experience.

The right WiFi solution can also provide your business with valuable data on your customers’ in-store online browsing/shopping behaviors. A solution like Windstream’s Secure WiFi & Analytics provides more than just a secure WiFi connection to your customers – it’s a great means to analyze shopping patterns, engage customers with loyalty programs, showcase the latest promotion or sale and achieve social media interaction.

Capitalize on trends to spur innovation and growth

2018 is shaping up to be a big year for the advancement of the most current network and communications technologies. Has your business laid the foundation for these advancements with a cloud-ready network that will allow you to take advantage of these trends? A trusted third party resource or network service provider such as Windstream Enterprise can be a great place to start to capitalize on these trends and use them to drive your business forward this year and beyond.