Tim Conkle Forbes Councils Member
CEO of The 20, an exclusive consortium for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) aimed at dominating and revolutionizing the IT industry.
The perfect storm of 2020 has pushed the tech industry into uncharted territory. It’s one thing to ask, “What would happen if everyone started using my product?” It’s something entirely different when they actually do, though.
The world’s sudden shift to work from home has affected almost every aspect of the tech industry. Businesses need to account for security, scalability and ease of use more than they ever have for this transition. Technology has gone from vitally important to just plain vital.
One of the most obvious issues when work from home started was how hard it pushed scalability questions. Your office server was theoretically fine, but now it needs to manage a heavier load than it ever has. Video and phone systems have been taxed as well. Employees can’t just go down the hall anymore; they need to call, conference or chat.
Most chat solutions were good for basic communications, but few platforms were tailored toward the specialization and scalability required to replicate the nuance of an office. You need one-on-one communication, team collaboration and tiered groups. Email can work, but if every minor conversation turns into a thread, you waste time and productivity.
Meeting software has become essential. It’s not enough to just have communication internally — now you host clients virtually or put on webinars.
On-premise solutions finally have a reason to move into the cloud. SaaS reached a tipping point where it has become practically cheaper than on-premise for many applications. It makes sense, though: If your onsite connection is a bottleneck, you need to host elsewhere. You can virtualize it in the cloud or just move everything over to SaaS.
The limitations and scalability of file-sharing services, email providers, cloud desktops and more have all been thoroughly tested by work from home. There are winners and losers.
The scalability problem is compounded with security concerns. Who hosts your chat and how safe is it? People have gotten to where they have no qualms tossing a password through chat for convenience’s sake. What else is there and who can see it?
Zoom bombs and similar mishaps have become common, but they can have a malicious side. The wrong person in the wrong meeting can compromise your business. What happens if staff catches wind of an upcoming layoff? That’s a bad enough spot to be in as it is, but it just gets worse if your hand is forced too early.
The move to work from home means you go from uniformity to a plethora of disparate environments you can’t really control. You go from controlling the security of the herd with big guns to having to make each one independent and secure. Permissions and access become even more critical.
The move to the cloud means the move to a new security stack with new concerns. The move from on-premise to the cloud or SaaS is a leap of faith. You trade control of the entire solution for scalability, and not all platforms are created equal. You also have to make sure everything you use can integrate sanely.
What happens when the intern gets ransomware, connects to the VPN and has access to important files? One bit of laziness or ignorance can cost days or weeks of productivity in an already difficult economy.
The tech industry is hit by this since your customer doesn’t care whose fault it was; they just care it happened. Even if they don’t blame you, a compromise can still cost the business. The problem existed before, but the increased profitability of a successful hack raised the ante.
Ease Of Use
Unless you already have a comprehensive system to remotely train staff in place, it’s hard to explain complicated systems. The systems you pick need to be easy for the user and easy for administration. You can just forget it if it requires your users open a port on their home router since most won’t even know they have a router (unless they’re in woodworking or tech).
A solution that offers fewer features or costs more will be more valuable if it’s easier to use. UI/UX choices that didn’t really matter before (because someone technical was doing everything) have become deal-breakers with the rapid decentralization of the workplace.
An office might have put up with a product that was harder to use because it was cheaper or did more, but now that someone can’t just walk down the hall for the answer, usability is paramount. This is making or breaking tech companies. AWS might win on the specs per dollar for a given task, but if Azure is easiest to migrate to, that comparison doesn’t mean as much or necessarily even matter for the current discussion.
How Work From Home Is Reshaping Technology
People have been able to work from home for some time, but few companies anticipated their solutions having to scale to everyone working from home. That top-of-the-line VPN may be great, but your 150Mbps/50Mbps connection isn’t for 25 employees tossing huge files around.
You don’t have consistency, but you need consistent experiences. You’re no longer securing a single location or a couple branches; you now need some way to make sure every employee’s work machine stays safe in a network setting you have no control over while putting the rest at risk. To top it all off, everything needs to be easy for your users to use and for you to manage.
Work from home is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and the tech industry has been pushed to its limits in the race to keep up. We’ve hit a new wave of consumerization for technology. The cloud isn’t a technical decision anymore; it’s a necessary one. Stakes have changed and those in the tech industry are having to push themselves harder than ever to remain competitive.