By Martin Hodgson, UK Country Manager, Paessler AG
2020 has been a year shaped by the pandemic. In the history of the world, there have been few events which have impacted society and life so greatly. But, as with all things, people learn to adapt; we find new solutions to complicated challenges.
Technology has been at the forefront of our minds. Without its functionality, many office-based businesses would not have been able to enable remote working for employees during lockdown. Technology is paramount to pivoting operations in this way; all of us have benefitted from being better connected, just when we needed to be – video conferencing, collaborative platforms and chat channels are just a few examples of how we’ve made this happen.
Technology has indeed been a lifeline for companies throughout this year. In 2021 we will see a continuing trend for the high valuation of tech and digitised solutions in the workplace, wherever that may be.
But keeping these tools online and available doesn’t just happen by magic. For a business to run problem-free and enable employees to do to their job efficiently, a proactive approach to technology monitoring can help to catch issues early and nip them in the bud.
IT management changes in 2021
In terms of changes for IT in 2021, with the likelihood of remote working being still very much the norm, we’ll likely see a lot more proactivity from the user’s side when it comes to troubleshooting IT problems.
Businesses will start training and helping remote workers identify how to source their own knowledge and find out, at a base level, where things may be going wrong in order to fix the problem themselves. Some common examples of easily fixable problems are video conferencing falling apart at the user’s side rather than through issues with the corporate platform. In addition, there’s often an inability to connect to corporate systems, not because the VPN isn’t working, but due to settings being changed accidentally by users.
Companies must empower remote workers to do their due diligence and resolve issues with tools at their own disposal when possible. Users can use a web portal to access office systems to see if internal systems are up and running – people can gain their own sort of monitoring literacy. It can just be at a surface level, but it adds a bit of proactivity and helps users know where they stand or what they need to do in their own capacity to fix problems.
In addition, with security in IT for 2021, companies need to ensure that there’s absolutely no options other than good behaviour when it comes to cyber safety. Default systems that people utilise, with BitLocker encryption, cloud secure systems, and encryption on SharePoint spaces for working on live documents, can all ensure that it’s almost impossible to not be secure.
The biggest frustrations with IT for 2021
In 2021 we’ll likely see a continuation of frustrations around remote working issues. From surveying IT users in 2020, we’ve found that by a country mile the biggest challenge was connectivity issues for employees working from home. Second to that was access to video conferencing technologies. Remote workers are still likely to not have it right as many avoid best practice methods for the sake of speed. Users are often not sorting out software updates on time and not investing in signal boosters to help with connectivity if they’re far away from a router; it’s often quite hard to make users change bad habits like these.
In 2021 there will also be a greater call for enhanced IT monitoring as people expand the types of software they use. Newly introduced software will require a new set of monitoring to ensure that problems like downtime are avoided, and we’ll see IT admins training users to manage such issues themselves. Admins already have a number of tools for monitoring basic connectivity, such as sharing a traffic light view of service availability with users. These can help users work out for themselves whether the issue lies with IT or their domestic ISP.
Cloud migration in 2021
In 2021, IT leaders will prioritise cloud virtualisation; the move to the cloud will stop being a one-time process. Cloud virtualisation is where IT sets up virtual servers, storage and operating systems for users. With this, IT can build apps and services for remote workers in a way to fit suitable virtual cloud platforms; it is an improvement on the traditional hardware-software relationship.
We’ve already seen first-hand that people don’t need to be at work to be working. As a long-time advocate of home working, I see that users will demand more flexible options for working and new IT structures to get their work done. This will result in a shift away from papered working or in-office models of working. There will instead be a consistent focus on live editing and creating documents in the cloud space – the cloud is ripe for collaboration, since it easily enables separate remote workers to connect online with a lessened reliance on in-office physical hardware.
In addition, with cloud software, there will be a continued move towards convergence of Operational Technology (OT), IoT, Industrial IoT (IIoT) and IT. This is where the power and flexibility of IT can really make a difference to businesses relying on older or siloed systems – particularly in the monitoring space. There are so many benefits to this convergence that it can only go in one direction. There are few OT systems that do not rely on IT in some way, a good example is CCTV. We typically think of this as a security provision, but in industry it’s often an OT. Aside from this, process and machine monitoring onto a single accessible platform has many benefits – and the potential for significant cost savings for many organisations.
‘Anywhere operations’ in 2021
‘Anywhere operations’ are increasingly becoming the norm and we’ll see this trend continue in 2021 as users call for increased portable functionality.
Tech companies will soon provide this as a standard if they aren’t already doing so. IT admins for instance might want live updates on software monitoring on a smart wrist device; people want to be connected in the ways that suit them the most. This can often mean having the tech in the palm of your hand or on the back of your wrist. We’ve moved a long way from the bulky IBM computer mainframes of the 1960s, so there’s no reason for technology companies to fail in meeting new portability precedents.
From an IT monitoring perspective, systems being implemented today and in 2021 need to have the remote working element baked in from day one – home workers are no longer in the minority. The type of monitoring you deploy depends entirely on your role; an IT department with a client base serviced by a cloud application still has an obligation to check its health. Even those organisations with 100% cloud apps will also still have infrastructure, which needs to be maintained and monitored.
A summary of what’s on the horizon for 2021
The continued focus on remote working will likely have a massive impact on how IT is managed in 2021 and beyond. We might eventually see businesses relocate offices out of urban centres as the overheads from keeping an inner-city commercial rental will be superfluous to needs.
IT will be central for life inside and outside the office. Inside the office, as some people tentatively return to normal working conditions, IT will need to ensure that there’s a strong standard of operations and a lack of downtime of business-critical IT infrastructure. Outside the office, with some of the workforce splintered in remote working set ups, IT will need to ensure access to work systems and security procedures for employees. 2021 will be an opportunity for IT teams to boost remote capabilities, reshape infrastructure and continue to keep business operations seamless for the benefit of remote working teams.