Prepare now for these 2023 Technology Trends
The Year of the Rabbit, 2023, is sure to present a unique mix of challenges and opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Labor shortages, wage and expense inflation, supply chain constraints, international hostilities and economic instability are all forces expected to continue impacting companies. SMBs, due to their size and limited resources, are particularly sensitive to the resulting pressures.
Many organizations are subsequently entrusting technology to gain efficiencies, improve performance and manage expenses. Vistage—the CEO coaching group and peer advisory organization for SMBs—reports 86 percent of decision-makers expect a recession in 2023. Yet, 51 percent expect to increase technology spending by an average of 21 percent. Such is the role technology plays within SMBs as they strive to remain current and competitive.
Just what technology trends should business owners expect in 2023? Exactly where are companies directing information technology (IT) investments? Reviewing various predictions and forecasts surfaces some recurring themes.
Network connectivity—including access to the Internet, web-based applications and cloud services—continually surfaces as an important 2023 concern. Sure, organizations typically already have traditional cabled local area networks in place and usually some form of WiFi, but the improved performance, capacity and flexibility of more advanced wireless options are increasing in importance.
New WiFi 6 and 6e (802.11ax) standards, impending WiFi 7 (802.11be) technologies and cellular providers’ 5G expansions are introducing more networking options. These new wireless networking technologies offer businesses fresh connectivity opportunities boasting faster speeds, beam forming advantages for more robust and uninterrupted connections and the freedom to more reliably work from new locations. Employees, customers, partners and others no longer must operate from traditional sites. These networking innovations and investments permit accessing email, team collaboration applications, cloud platforms and similar elements, all necessary daily tasks for so many workers, reliably and securely from more locations.
The changes may also prompt some organizations to upgrade existing infrastructure, if they seek to remain competitive by providing flexible working arrangements and robust and reliable accessibility options that enable working in new ways and from nontraditional locations. While some innovations, such as blockchain solutions, may not yet prove ready for many SMBs, maintaining pace with new wireless connectivity standards will become increasingly important. As such, businesses should revisit how well their networks are connecting employees and enabling 2023 workflows.
In addition to security capabilities, SMBs should ask whether their wireless solutions function as required. Wireless upgrades might prove a compelling option for some firms needing to update, better secure and improve their network infrastructure to more effectively service new post-pandemic workflows.
Other than for Carbonite, Dropbox, gmail and QuickBooks, many SMBs may be unfamiliar with the broad range of other cloud-based solutions that can assist their businesses, operations and employees. The growing popularity and adoption—sales are up 32-percent and 17-percent, respectively—of Microsoft 365 and Apple iCloud services is helping raise interest among SMBs as to other capabilities and needs that can be offloaded from on-premises installations to the cloud. Maintaining applications, databases, servers and software onsite often requires employing additional technology professionals, incurring significant capital expenses for assets that depreciate rapidly and bearing patching and support burdens. In many cases, these responsibilities can be eliminated by migrating services and applications to the cloud.
For example, cloud-based next-generation antivirus technologies employ artificial intelligence and machine learning innovations to better detect and minimize cyberattacks and improve endpoint protection, monitoring, reporting and effectiveness. These new cybersecurity solutions work well, in part, because they securely leverage data, information and trend statistics collected and disseminated using the cloud. Web-based collaboration, calendaring, file sharing, messaging, business continuity and disaster planning and industry-specific applications all offer the ability to reduce or eliminate many on-premises capital and support expenses while also, in many cases, introducing enhanced disaster recovery and security capabilities.
Significant operations, cybersecurity, cost and maintenance and management improvements are available to many SMBs willing to embrace cloud solutions and upgrades. From hosted Exchange email to line of business (LOB) software, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for SMBs to generate better results maintaining such technologies in-house. Cloud services and applications offer opportunities to offload corresponding functions and support, while better enabling companies to focus on other aspects of their business at which they excel.
SMBs unsure whether they’re optimizing cloud options should perform a review and determine whether on-premises solutions are working as needed or could be outsourced to permit achieving cost savings, security improvements and performance enhancements. A brief assessment of solutions managed onsite can explore and review what applications and services—including business continuity and disaster recovery functions—are performing as needed and which might benefit from a cloud migration, especially as other firms have already moved various solutions to the web or are in the process of doing so. Expect more headlines touting cloud-based alternatives in 2023 as this sector of the technology industry continues to grow.
Blockchain and the metaverse, along with artificial intelligence (AI), are evolving technologies also appearing on many 2023 trends lists. While blockchain developments and metaverse virtual realities show much potential and will continue evolving, AI—the process in which computers imitate human behavior—is more widely directly benefiting numerous small and medium-sized businesses.
For example, many companies are already employing AI to automate common tasks, such as frequently repeated workflow steps or data entry processes. In other cases, AI and its close cousin machine learning (ML)—which permits computer systems to learn and adapt—are enabling many antimalware solutions to better detect and mitigate cyberattacks and helping companies improve delivery schedules and estimates. Businesses are also using AI to better track leads, improve sales efforts and determine which marketing investments are generating the greatest return.
SMBs can begin identifying opportunities where AI deployment may suit them well by reviewing their operations workflows. Frequently repeated processes, manual forecasting and data-based decision-making can, in many cases, safely be automated to improve accuracy and efficiencies and even lower costs when data is regularly selected from the same sources and reporting processes are standardized.
Organizations should also review their software solutions, whether for tasks commonly performed across a variety of industries—such as occurs with Human Resources, accounting, sales and customer relationship management (CRM) functions—or for industry-specific operations—as is frequently necessary within the dental, health care, legal, manufacturing and other industries. Developers are increasingly releasing software solutions that incorporate AI and ML to better assist customers in managing their businesses, more accurately predict demand and perform a host of other important actions.
You’ll likely hear of the need to “modernize” IT in 2023. Vistage is among those already using that word to describe the necessity of updating computer hardware, software, cloud applications and managed services to better support the shift to remote working. Similarly, Forrester predicts that, in 2023, business leaders will try forcing employees back to the office, but “with disastrous results.”
Remote and hybrid work arrangements are likely here to stay. SMBs should ensure their network infrastructure and systems provide the capabilities and flexibility required to support employees working from nontraditional and remote locations. In addition to providing flexible work arrangements, reliable network connectivity and robust software and services access to staff working outside the office and even at odd hours, SMBs must take particular care securing the corresponding infrastructure, systems and data.
Considering multiple authorities and government agencies recommend even small firms deploy a business-grade firewall running active security services, SMBs should ensure their networks are protected by such devices and properly configured to permit only authorized connections. Network monitors should also be deployed and actively monitored to assist reporting and mitigating any attempted or successful breaches.
Firms having questions as to how best to support remote workers, migrate specific solutions to cloud-based services or confirm their firewalls and network equipment are properly and securely configured should contact a qualified IT services provider for an assessment. Most MSPs should be willing to provide a free network preparedness report. Should an initial review point to the need for significant upgrades, a second such assessment can help confirm the initial recommendations. After receiving consistent network upgrade recommendations, however, an SMB should recognize it’s likely time to modernize its IT infrastructure.
One element appearing on every 2023 technology priority and trends lists in some capacity is cybersecurity. Risks from unauthorized access, disgruntled employees, malicious actors and ransomware attacks have likely never been higher. SMBs should regularly review their cybersecurity strategies and protections to ensure they remain current and effective, but the beginning of the year is particularly timely. Firewalls age, active security subscription services expire, endpoint protection agents occasionally become corrupt or stop working. Only by regularly reviewing and adjusting all aspects of an organization’s security strategy can firms properly protect themselves from an ever-increasing range of risks and ensure those safeguards continue working as intended.
With continuing international hostilities and corresponding state-sponsored cyberattacks on private-sector businesses, networks and data, it’s more important than ever for SMBs to protect themselves. Everyone from technology experts to government authorities—including the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)—recommend businesses implement the following minimum cybersecurity protections:
- Set centrally managed antimalware programs to automatically conduct regular scans.
- Enable strong anti-spam filters to help prevent phishing messages from reaching users.
- Filter network traffic.
- Update software and patch hardware firmware.
- Require multifactor authentication.
Further increasing the difficulty of securing an organization’s network and systems, a growing collection of devices—including HVAC controls, door access systems, refrigeration and humidity monitors, life safety alarms, security cameras and lighting systems—are being connected to corporate networks. This Internet of Things (IoT) trend, in which various physical objects and sensors possessing their own monitors and software that connect to existing networks to report data and surface alerts—inadvertently expand an organization’s existing threat surfaces by providing additional nodes through which hackers can compromise devices, establish presence and infiltrate a network.
Zero-Trust security and digital immune systems are two additional trends you can expect to hear more about in 2023. Both concepts are related to cybersecurity, too.
Expect to hear more about Zero Trust, the security strategy and safeguards organizations embrace by trusting no one. All network and computer users, whether working locally in the office or connecting remotely, must provide valid credentials and authenticate before being permitted to access any network services, file shares or other information. Multi-factor authentication, which requires users complete an additional step confirming their identity, continual user validation technologies and next-generation endpoint security platforms are also part of Zero-Trust strategies that work to continually confirm users identities and permissions.
The digital immune system (DIS) strategy is another cybersecurity-related trend forecast to gain more momentum in 2023. Defined by IT consulting firm Gartner as an approach that “includes practices and technologies for software development, automation, operation and analytics,” DIS uses those elements “to create a superior user experience and to reduce system failures that impact business performance.”
By interconnecting various components, including supply chain application security practices and analytics, SMBs can apply the strategy to improve their “immune” systems. Subsequently, even small firms can better react to and resist operations and security threats.
All SMBs should regularly review their cybersecurity safeguards. Firms should also consider their business continuity plans and confirm just how well those disaster recovery plans could restore operations in the need a cyberattack succeeds or other crisis occurs. Requesting an assessment can help ensure you’re meeting the bare minimums recommended by experts and authorities and that any needed adjustments are addressed quickly to help ensure safeguards remain active and properly configured.
Predictions are tricky
While forecasting the future is always risky, it’s a safe bet these technologies will impact small businesses. Preparing now can help forward-thinking SMBs get in front of these trends and begin reaping the benefits sooner rather than later.
Still have questions? Reach out to Louisville Geek. Our technology experts are happy to assist. Call us at 502-897-7577 or email [email protected].