By Andy Jonak
As we roll 2019, as with all years, I like to take some time and look back on what I've seen as the things that were the most impactful to our business and our customers over the past year. All in all, it was an excellent year for our company, Vicom, and for our customers (both existing and new), as they continue to grow their IT and, most importantly, continue to use IT as an essential innovation tool to help improve their businesses. IT is such a big and vital part of how companies are run today, and 2019 saw that play out, and it will continue into 2020.
I always like to preface that what I describe below is what we've seen affect our business—the things we've seen and experienced with our firm and our customers. I also always like to say that these aren’t earth-shattering, so there will be nothing here that surprises you. Many are in line with industry predictions overall, a few are probably are not, and many are somewhat consistent on what we see year over year in IT. So please sit back, relax, open up your mind and let me give you my take. They may or may not agree with your take, but you know what? That's OK, but after all, it is my blog so you'll have to listen to my thoughts, reflections, and yes, sometimes, rants.
Here are what I consider the top things that we've seen throughout 2019 that were impactful to our business and our customers. Let’s get going.
IT Value Continues to Grow in Terms of Business Importance
This shouldn't be anything that surprises anyone. IT has always played such an essential role in running our businesses and will continue to do so. These beautiful/terrible (depending on your perspective) "tools" called IT that we use tend to run some of the most important aspects and functions of our businesses. Think about how you would run your businesses if IT just went away. We'd all be in a lot of trouble.
As new solutions and applications are released, it seems that their importance has increased and continues to do so. But this past year it seems to feel a bit different. Perhaps it's due to the continually improving economy, or maybe it just because more people continue to understand that IT is much more than just an expense and can help drive the business forward. Or perhaps much than just understanding it, firms are embracing it and using IT as a differentiator to assist the business by driving innovation. I hope this trend continues, and frankly, I don't see how it can't continue.
The Cloud, the Cloud, and the Cloud
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the cloud here, but 2019 is an interesting year in regards to the cloud as I see it. The cloud has become just part of how things are done. It’s not that it’s not sexy anymore—it is—the cloud is just a big part of the way IT is delivered today. Many firms continue to adopt a cloud-first strategy, where their new apps and workloads are created for the cloud-first—if they can be. That’s still a consideration for firms, where they ask if it makes sense to put their apps in the cloud and just because they can put things in the cloud, does it means they should?
We all know that using the cloud over the long term is more expensive versus on-premise technology (see point further down the list), especially if it’s not managed correctly. We see firms being much more prudent about costs for IT, especially this year. That means that firms are still looking for better ways to manage their cloud costs to ensure they are efficient in how they spend their IT money, and especially, their IT infrastructure money, including cloud. We also see firms more embracing of solutions to help them put controls in place to manage their cloud spend, while also ensuring they remain in compliance.
A continuing interesting trend we see firms looking towards solutions that have hooks to the cloud—and here’s the intriguing part—whether they need the cloud hooks or not. We work with firms to evaluate the solutions they are considering to ensure that they will work in a multi-cloud environment, whether they plan to take advantage of it or not. So they want these solutions to work in the cloud, irrespective if they plan to use them in the cloud.
More Efficient Operations
A continual trend we see is being more efficient in their operations, but more so this year: firms are looking for better ways to control the efficiency of their IT infrastructure environments and are embracing solutions to do that. These solutions will monitor and measure efficiencies and then move workloads or spin up new workloads or instances automatically. IT is expensive, we all know that, and firms want to be as efficient as possible in terms of how they use it. They don’t want to buy more of it; they want to buy less and make better use of what they have. That trend will continue and probably will be on my list for next year too.
More Efficient Applications
We’ve seen firms more heavily invest in APM solutions this year versus years past, and it makes sense. Applications are the lifeblood of every business, and we continue to be more and more dependent on them each year. Firms seem to be much more cognizant of that this year, so hence the investment in APM.
APM helps you understand how your applications are running—how they are coded and let you know the dependencies associated with each and how they are affected. Poor app performance? Do you blame the code, the network, the storage? In years past, hard to know, but with these new APM solutions, it tells you precisely what, where, and why your applications are affected. Excellent stuff that’s so important as our apps continue to be business differentiators.
On-Premise Computer and Storage is Still Important
My first point is on the cloud, on how it’s a big deal in which we are all heavily invested. But we still see many of the firms that we work with actually investing more in on-premise compute and storage technology, versus the cloud. Why is that? Same reasons as always: costs, control, compliance, performance, but costs are one of the big ones. They feel they can get more for their money by keeping certain things in house versus fork-lifting their infrastructure, apps, and workloads to the cloud. We see firms are doubling down on buying hardware and I don’t think that’s going to change.
By the way, the firms that we work with and see doing this are NOT firms that haven’t bought into the cloud way of doing things. These are progressive users of technology and leaders in their industries—by no means laggards—but they feel more comfortable doing things on-premise. The caveat to that is that they want solutions that can hook into the cloud if needed. Who would think that we would see firms continue to buy more technology, versus using only the cloud, but that’s precisely what we are seeing.
HCI Grows in Popularity
Hyperconverged Infrastructure continues to grow in popularity over the past year but hasn’t exploded the way many would’ve thought. Firms have absolutely embraced HCI and the fact that all of the major vendors have an HCI solution in the marketing helps to validate HCI’s importance in the market. Firms are not just using it for RO-BO environments, but for specific areas within their data center environments. Look at the new backup solutions out there where many based on HCI, and appliance-based. Firms like the applianced approach to infrastructure and HCI can provide that. This one will continue into 2020.
New Ways to Backup and Protect Data
A big one for 2019. People are looking for better and more efficient ways to backup, protect, tier and have access to their data, and 2019 proved that out. There has been a significant surge in new modern solutions that provide this in simple and effective ways. Firms are no longer looking to continue investing in big monolithic storage backup solutions that are complicated, expensive, and hard to use.
These new solutions make it easier and bring the applianced approach to your backups, protection and tiering of data. Oh, and while these solutions can be expensive, they tend to be a lot less costly than those big monolithic solutions. Plus a lot easier to manage, so fewer resources needed and less complexity. This one will undoubtedly continue as the amount of data we create, consume, and store continues to grow.
Security Challenges for both Large and Small Businesses
This can perpetually be on the list where security is always a challenge with firms. Breaches and Ransomware continue to be challenges that firms will have to deal with regularly. A few of our more prominent customers were hit with security issues that we have helped resolve. What we find this year is that both large and small firms are being affected by it.
That’s not the fascinating part. Our ProServ MSP division works with SMB customers and helps them to remain secure and resolve security issues when they happen, as well as provide solutions to protect and train them to minimize its chance of happening. What we’ve seen is a trend with the smaller firms we work with expecting to have the same security protection and resolution capabilities without having to pay what our large enterprises pay. Now there are lots of solution providers that are more than willing to oblige by introducing robust security offerings for the SMB that rival solutions that in the past were only available and affordable to the enterprise but are priced for the smaller firm. That’s what’s fascinating.
MSP for more than just SMB’s
As mentioned above, we have a division called Vicom ProServ that is an MSP where their main focus is on the smaller firms looking to support their environments. ProServ was started almost 3 years ago and continues to grow as many firms need help in supporting and optimizing their IT environments, but don’t want or can’t hire IT people. What we’ve also seen is some of the larger firms we work with are looking towards our MSP division to help them support their remote offices or other divisions within their larger enterprise. That is an exciting thing that happened quite a bit this year—larger enterprises leaning on our MSP division to fill in their gaps for support.
Containers and More Efficient DevOps
Containers have been popular the past few years, but this year it seems that our customers are much more embracing of them and looking for better ways to manage their container environments. Firms aren’t just downloading Kubernetes, but turning toward enterprise, paid, distributions for their DevOps environments. That is helped firms get to market much quicker while also allowing them to move them in and out of multi-cloud environments as needed. It seems like as of late that the big thing our customers want to talk about is their container and Kubernetes environments, and that’s an excellent thing. That means they are using their IT efficiently and creating applications quicker than ever while getting them out there faster than ever before. This is a big one that will continue to grow and trend for us in 2020.
Demanding Value in IT
The economy is booming, and firms are (prudently) spending more on their IT which is a good thing, especially since that’s, well, what we do. But because we see more spending and investing in IT, there is a big increase in firms making sure they are getting the value they expect out of their IT. That means making sure that what they invest in better do its thing. It’s expected to bring more efficiency and help the firm be better at what they do. We’ve seen a bit uptick in this this year where firms feel they’ve invested a lot in this IT stuff and it better give the value they need and expect. That’s a great segue to the next point.
Support is Key to Success with IT
This continues on the point above, but we see that firms this year continue to be much more concerned with making sure their IT does what it’s supposed to do, and support is key to that. Not just “help me fix it when it’s broken” support, but “help me make it better” support. They want to know how they can get IT to do more to help them be a better business. That’s what we see firms looking towards this past year and a big part of why that happens is excellent support—whether provided internally or via a trusted business partner. This leads firms to lean on their IT solution providers and MSPs to assist and we’ve also seen a significant uptick of placements in our Staffing division where firms need resources and want to lean on us versus hiring new people.
So that’s it, that’s my list for 2019. These are the things we’ve seen that have been significant to our business this past year. These are the things that have affected our customers and how they use, approach, and spend on IT. Many of these things are also interrelated if you think about it since each one can affect the others.
2019 was an exciting time for us, for our customers and the IT world in general. That’s what’s kept me in the IT world for 25+ years—seeing how these technologies, solutions, and IT providers (like us) continue to help customers drive the ball forward in terms of their businesses. I’m proud to be part of an industry that so essential and critical to how firms run their business. Think of the challenges that companies would have without the technologies and services I mention above. How would they run? Not very well based upon on much we rely upon them, and because of this, we’d better make the best of them. That’s clearly how our customers feel, especially when you look at the list above.
I am confident that 2020 will be another exciting year for us all and perhaps we’ll see a few new technologies or trends that make my list for next year. I very much look forward to writing it in December of 2020.
What do you think of my list? Do you agree? Have these things affected you? I bet for many what was discussed here has and will continue to affect you. That’s what IT is all about. Let's make it a great year.
Wishing you business and IT success in 2020.