Whether we like it or not, the world is becoming increasingly connected. The Internet of Things (IoT) has gone from an industry buzzword to a very real phenomenon. Recent figures from Gartner predict there will be 4.9 billion connected ‘things’ in use globally by the end of this year, with as many as 25 billion by 2020.
It’s easy to see why. Just as sales of original IoT catalysts such as smartphones and tablets appear to be plateauing, emerging new tech categories including wearables and eWallets are picking up the baton. It doesn’t end there either. Industry 4.0 and the rise of the ultra efficient ‘Smart Factory’ looks set to change the face of manufacturing forever, using connected technology to cut waste, downtime and defects to almost zero.
However, there’s growing concern amongst IT professionals about how existing corporate networks will cope with the extra strain they are coming under from these new connected devices. Here are the key areas most likely to be giving IT and network professionals sleepless nights and how they can be addressed.
1. Review network infrastructure for potential bandwidth bottlenecks
Many networks were simply not designed to cope with the demands being placed on them today. Furthermore, the modern business world is an impatient place. Just a few instances of crashed websites or slow video payback could soon see customers looking elsewhere. Having the insight needed to spot bandwidth issues before they occur is an essential part of keeping any network up and running in the IoT age.
The good news is businesses often already have the monitoring tools they need to do this, they just aren’t using them to their full ability. These monitoring tools, when used well, provide a unified view across every aspect of networks, servers and applications, not only giving the IT team a high level of visibility, but also the ability to isolate root causes of complex issues quickly.
Efficient use of network monitoring tools can also help the IT team identify problems that only occur intermittently by understanding key trends in network performance. Knowing what these trends are and when they will occur gives the team essential insight, allowing them to plan ahead and allocate bandwidth accordingly.
2. Benchmark for wireless access and network impact
With wireless access at an increasing premium across any network, it is critical to understand how a large number of additional IoT devices connecting this way will impact on overall network performance. By developing a benchmark of the objects and devices currently connecting, businesses can get a far better picture of how the IoT will impact on their network bandwidth over time. This will also help identify any design changes needed to accommodate growing bandwidth demand before issues arise.
3. Review policies – Security and compliance
The proliferation of the IoT brings with it potentially troublesome issues of security and compliance. New EU data privacy due to come into effect by the end of 2015 will affect any business that collects, processes, stores or shares personal data. Indeed, businesses can face ruinous fines if found in breach of the rules relating to data protection. However, it can be extremely difficult to ensure compliance if there are any question marks over who or what has access to the network at any given time. As more and more Internet enabled devices connect to the corporate network, businesses must sit down and formulate their own bespoke plans and policies for addressing the problem. Taking the time to do this now, rather than later, will pay huge dividends in the not-too-distant future. When it comes to security and compliance, no business wants to be playing catch up.
The Internet of Things is undoubtedly an exciting phenomenon which marks yet another key landmark in the digitisation of the world as we know it. However, it also presents unique challenges to businesses and the networks they rely on.
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