2015 technology predictions vs. 2015 reality

Another year has passed, and now we’ve already come to the end of the first full week of January 2016. As we’re back into the swing of things here in the office, I thought now was a great time to review the technology predictions we made for 2015 and see how they fared.

After 20 years in IT this year it appears that I still have a relatively good handle on the market. I’m no oracle but hopefully, our clients can gain some peace of mind knowing that we are always looking forward. Not simply reacting.

Here’s how our technology predictions stacked up

We predicted... Mobile exploits will grow significantly

What happened in 2015:

I wouldn’t have been surprised if we saw a major breach on a mobile platform but we didn’t really see that, except for a large potential around Android and security certificates. We did, however, see a real uptick in attacks and exploits against applications installed on mobile devices. This is pretty logical really – go for the open window rather than the front door. This will be an ongoing concern throughout 2016 unless perhaps you use a Blackberry device (which the outlook still isn’t looking great for I must say) or a robust MDM (mobile device management) solution, such as Airwatch or Good.

We predicted... Cloud growth continues to spiral up, but becomes specialised

What happened in 2015:

This was pretty much a given really and although the figures aren’t out really out yet some research firms in October are stating global growth of the market at around 30% – Amazon has been reporting in figures that point toward an 80% growth on their side. As stated, the rise of smaller niche players has certainly started to make an impact across all sectors. Although many are simply spinning their marketing rather than truly engineering around particular sectors. I would expect this to change over the coming 24 months.

We predicted... Big data noise will fade down

What happened in 2015:

Thankfully the Big Data noise dropped significantly. It was ridiculous and the market, in general, stopped labelling BI (Business Intelligence) as big data. You’ll see the second coming of BI this year en-masse as firms need greater information to make appropriate business-focused decisions.

We predicted... cloud hype turns to hybrid cloud

What happened in 2015:

Hybrid cloud is pretty much the norm in all but small enterprises. We are thankfully returning to proper engineering – using the right tools (architecture) for the right jobs. In many ways, there has been a reversal. People are using the cloud for their main business operations and replicating key systems back on-site for continuity purposes. The tech is now cheap, the skills aren’t so expensive and are much more widespread – it makes sense.

We predicted.. enterprise security spend increases

What happened in 2015:

Gartner was stating back in September that they expect global security spend to rise to $75.4bn by the end of 2015. That’s a jump of 4.7% which is certainly significant. I would have expected an extra 1-2 % but it appears that the upping of prices of many security systems has led to a prioritisation of spending. Again, I expect spending to rise by a similar percentage in 2016 with all the noise around security threats ‘growth’.

We predicted... All we'll hear is IoT

What happened in 2015:

The noise around IoT has been relatively deafening throughout the year and has continued to grow. Everything is now becoming connected, from old manufacturing equipment (retrospective) through to TVs and heating in the home. We’ve seen 90% of large network operators (over 100,000 IP addresses) actively deploying or have already deployed IPv6 according to a BT survey which will aid in further growth of IoT technologies. Another key point from the same survey is that two-thirds of enterprise companies also signalled IPv6 deployment activity.

We predicted... Business continuity will be demanded by the client

What happened in 2015:

We’ve certainly seen an uptick in the demand for improved disaster recovery and business continuity. Particularly in the finance, legal and manufacturing sectors. Regulators are driving much of this but clients expectations of their ‘suppliers’ are also higher. I’ve not seen any real demand for the ISO 22301 standard (Business Continuity) as I believe that anyone considering protecting their business from disruption understands that this falls into IT security and the ISO 27001 standard covers the whole area.

We predicted... with the rise of the microsoft surface and similar devices, expect to see Apple Devices - particularly the iPad drop in popularity

What happened in 2015:

As detailed people do generally do need more from their device than the iPad can deliver. It’s old tech and for the last seven quarters sales have declined – that’s significant. We’ve seen Microsoft Surface outsell the product, particularly online, with a 45% of online sales vs Apples 17%. Sure online sales aren’t everything but you cannot ignore those figures. Yes, Apple has launched a business-focused iPad device but once behind in the game, it’s a long hill to climb back up. The iPhone is still popular as it’s still superior to the rest of the market for the everyday user in my opinion. This gives Apple a good foothold to pull back from. Personally, I’d expect to see an uptick in the Microsoft Lumia sales in 2016 as they really start to pull the eco-system together.

Robert Rutherford – CEO of QuoStar

Can cloud help businesses go green?

Cloud - How cloud helps your business go green

Cloud computing is more widespread than ever. 84% of businesses in the UK have adopted cloud in some form and 78% have formally adopted two or more cloud services in their business.

But although flexibility, cost reduction and scalability are the most common reasons for utilising the cloud, what is often overlooked is its ability to reduce energy consumption and run a greener IT operation. With policy and customers taking a harder stance on carbon emissions and rising energy prices, many businesses are now looking at ways of running a more sustainable operation – and the cloud is potentially a modern and efficient way of doing so.

How does the cloud help green businesses?

1. Resource reduction

Deploying a cloud-based infrastructure allows a single physical server to run multiple operating systems concurrently. With less equipment needed to run workloads, you can proactively reduce data centre space whilst also reducing your electricity running costs.

2. Shared resources & energy costs

Cloud providers have the expertise to carefully control the temperature and humidity in the data centre required to keep servers at peak performance. You will no longer need excessive machinery in-house to properly cool your equipment, and punishing fluctuations in energy costs can be mitigated.

3. Pay per-user, per-month model

As cloud services providers typically bill on a pay-as-you-go model this encourages users to only consume what they need. The scalability of the cloud means not only can customers increase their cloud capacity when needed, but they can also decrease it as well – lowering their impact and power consumption.

4. Energy-saving technology

Some large cloud service providers will have energy-saving equipment which would not be viable for small businesses to run, due to their cost and operation size. Thanks to the economies of scale though, growing businesses can gain easy access to this greener hardware without having to break the bank.

What are the obstacles for SMEs adopting the cloud in order to go green?

Obviously, the cloud isn’t a silver bullet for every business and its operations. However, in many circumstances, particularly in the SME arena, it’s a good fit and allows businesses access to big business solutions without the associated price tag.

The main obstacles include:

  • Specific applications don’t work well over a long line. This is due to latency sensitivity or the costs associated with the bandwidth required.
  • The speed and availability of broadband technology. A hindrance to small to mid-sized businesses, based in rural areas, without significant budgets.
  • Some large industrial areas don’t have a suitable infrastructure to run high connection speeds. This can be down to aluminium wire or oversubscription.

These obstacles can be difficult to overcome if you don’t the budget to run a leased line in from a point of presence to a considerable distance away. You could bundle together (bond) a number of xDSL type circuits together, and in some circumstances, this may be acceptable, as long as the investment stacks up. If you don’t go cloud then you can get cloud-ready. Start by rationalising applications, and virtualising servers and applications. If you go down this road, it’s unlikely the investment will be a waste.

How can an SME tell if their cloud provider is truly green?

It’s important to remember that data centres themselves run on a huge amount of power. There’s no single technology or initiative that makes a cloud provider green. It has to be a mix. Some factors include off-setting carbon, water conservation in the data centre, access to public transport so staff don’t need to drive, recycling as much as possible, and innovative cooling and heating recovery systems. ISO 14001 does demonstrate a commitment to improving efficiency and reducing wastage within a business from an environmental perspective. However, it doesn’t certify that a company is green in any way.

Being carbon neutral is a relatively significant undertaking that does demonstrate that a business is taking being green seriously. This really is the base standard for a green cloud in my opinion. Typically a third party calculates carbon usage that facilitates a suitable offset vehicle. For example, investment in a CO2 or methane capture project or simply just planting trees.

This is all very well and good but to really be green, I believe the business, particularly the data centres running the cloud platforms, need to be built to be highly efficient. If your business’s top priority is to be as green as possible then ask your cloud provider how they’re powering their data centre to establish whether migrating to the cloud is truly going to help reduce your carbon footprint.

What does the future hold?

The cloud can be greener going forward. To some extent, this will just happen naturally due to rising energy costs. Many providers tag the green badge onto what was is effectively a cost reduction strategy. Old data centres using old technology and facilities will be more expensive to run than new purpose-built, efficient ones. Due to the huge costs involved in powering and operating these facilities, it’s fairly obvious to identify a return on renovation or new build.

Data centre are being moved to colder regions of the planets to reduce the cost of cooling. Alternatively, some data centres in sunnier climates now use solar panels to reduce the chargeable power from the grid.

Obviously, virtualisation is still the big word throughout the IT sector. The more servers you can run on a single piece of hardware using the least power, the better the profit margin too. It’s that simple. Of course, you can also get a big tick in the green box too. Power costs, cooling costs – no business wants to pay for either.

Don’t forget, going green doesn’t just stop at deploying the cloud. There are many other initiatives your business can take part in:

  • Proactive recycling.
  • Educating employees about their carbon footprint and ways they can reduce this.
  • Being energy-conscious with utilities, e.g. heating, lighting, electricity.
  • Managed print solutions to help to reduce paper and resource wastage.
Robert Rutherford – CEO of QuoStar

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7 legal technology trends for 2015

legal technology trends for 2015

In terms of technology, process and systems the legal industry is changing more rapidly than any other sector. It has a lot to get to grips in a short space of time, far shorter than many may believe. Larger global firms have mostly begun to change, but it’s now the turn of the small and mid-market. They need to become much more commercial and competitive in their outlook.

It is particularly smaller firms need to make the biggest changes as they are being squeezed from multiple directions. However, the progress in these firms is often slowed by resistance to change. As well as not having the necessary skills in place within the firm to deliver it. Firms shouldn’t be fearful of the current environment, they should be looking at the opportunity. Particularly to seize the competitive advantage over the competition

I see the following technology trends really taking root in 2015, particularly in the small and mid-market:

1. Customer relationship management

Law firms are now simply service providers. This means that the key to earning revenue comes down to relationships, as much as expertise. As the legal market is now more international, understanding clients is more important than ever. CRM systems have in the past been used as glorified address books, but expect them to be used to gather more intelligence on clients, behaviours and relationships.

2. Process/workflow management

The business operations within many small and mid-market law firms often leaves a lot to be desired. The worst thing is that many do not truly understand how bad things are and how much additional margin can be gained through process re-engineering within a firm, using existing IT systems and people. Of course, cultures can be difficult to change, but partner teams need to be pushing through change in order to remain competitive in a rapidly shifting market. We are already seeing a monumental shift to process re-engineering in the legal sector; it’s exciting to see how small changes can make a real difference to profitability.

3. Automated time management

Time management and capture has typically been a relatively cumbersome process. Some lawyers do it as they go, some at the end of the day, some at the end of the week. This obviously can lead to issues, things do get forgotten or missed and clients are often suspicious of how time is really captured. The rise of passive time capture is now unstoppable and will become a prerequisite for clients very quickly. This method works to the firm’s and the client’s benefit as it’s seen as more transparent. It also stopping billable time slipping through the net.

4. Business analytics

– As every firm should understand, business decisions cannot be made without clear information. Many firms do not understand that the majority of the information that they require to become more profitable is already being captured by their existing IT systems. It can often take a matter of days to bring data and information together to give clarity to ‘gut-feels’, sometimes without any significant cost. Expect to see more demand for analytics and real-time dashboards to allow partners to really see what is happening within a firm.

5. E-billing

– Many other sectors find it hard to believe that firms are not billing the bulk of their clients electronically. I fully understand that it is more difficult for certain departments, but many clients find it frustrating and somewhat bizarre. Personally, as a business owner, I find it slightly concerning if my suppliers cannot bill me electronically. It’s just so much more efficient and cost-effective to bill electronically, and firms are now seeing this in hard Return on Investment figures.

6. Cloud infrastructure

Cloud in law has been treated with great caution by some firms. In all honesty, this has been the fault of the cloud industry, due to overpromising and not pushing back on security concerns. Cloud, in particular, private cloud, is now a norm for most businesses. We are now seeing legal firms gaining confidence in the cloud, and using it to gain the IT platforms they need without the associated capital and running costs. It should be noted that not that many firms will be cloud only within the next 2 years, especially the mid-sized firms, they are much more likely to operate in a hybrid arrangement – a mix of on-premise and cloud-based solutions.

7. Outsourcing

Too many firms are holding onto all elements of IT. This will be inefficient for many firms, increasing the risk to the firm whilst also decreasing profit margins. We are looking at a second, some say the third wave of more intelligent outsourcing. Internal IT teams should typically focus on adding value, leaving the day to day operations and security to the experts. Many firms have been reluctant to outsource, however, now they must do so in order to actually gain more control.

Obviously, there are other areas of IT within legal that will change over the coming year. The interesting thing now is that it’s varying from firm to firm, as it should do. In the future we will see less of the herd mentality in legal, well at least I hope we will.

Technology trends forecast for 2015

technology trends for 2015

As we are at the end of the year, here is my forecast for the key technology trends for 2015:

1. Mobile exploits will grow significantly

We’ve seen a rise in exploits on mobile devices over the last 12 months, across all platforms. This is just the start of a trend, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. The threat landscape is just too big of a target and the rewards for criminals are too great.

2. Cloud growth continues to spiral up, yet becomes specialised

The issue with cloud providers over the last few years are that the majority have tried to be all things to all businesses. This just hasn’t worked and has instead muddied the water, leaving a bad taste in a great many mouths. Expect cloud to continue to grow, but expect more specialist providers too, i.e. for legal cloud services, finance, DaaS, etc.

3. Big data noise will fade down

Big data was a ridiculously overused term in 2014. Yes, there are some real uses for it, but that only applies to a small percentage of businesses, typically the giants with giant pockets. You can expect the return of the technologies in a few years when all of the investment in research and its applications have been made. It’ll then start to slide down the hill until we get some real figures around ROI. We are seeing a big rise of the term ‘Big Data’ in the legal sector, but a big percentage of this does appear to be business analytics badged as ‘Big Data’.

4. Cloud hype turns to Hybrid Cloud

The cloud has been overhyped since the term was coined. The technologies and business benefits are huge when used in the correct hands. However, the cloud isn’t the answer to every IT requirement. Thankfully the voices of the real engineers and business people out there are coming through the noise now. The cloud for many businesses does deliver but is often best when mixed with say an in-house IT system or another cloud platform, i.e. private cloud.

5. Enterprise security spends

The rise in cyber-crime for financial gain continues to rocket as does the number of devices that come into contact with unprotected networks. This alone is enough to make firms spend more on security. The threats are more worrying than ever, but still, the biggest weakness is the unaware employee. If end-user security education doesn’t pick-up, then breaches will just keep happening.

6. All we’ll hear is IoT

You are probably aware of the new marketing drum beating around the Internet of Things (IoT). This will lead to pressure from all angles to connect non-traditional IT equipment onto the network. There will obviously bring significant challenges, particularly around security. You can also expect the IPv6 spectacle to raise its head again throughout the year in relation to the IoT – as without it the trend could be stifled.

7. The client demands Business Continuity

With the growth of the cloud and IT in general as the core of most businesses, clients are now demanding guarantees around how businesses respond to disasters and disruptions of any size. It’s not uncommon for businesses to be audited around this area or for clients to expect certifications such as ISO 27001 and ISO 22301. Expect a rise in these demands in 2015. Actually, expect them around IT security in general.

8. Apple’s enterprise demise

With the rise of the Microsoft Surface, expect to see Apple devices, particularly the iPad to drop in popularity. The device just can’t compete in terms of productivity. A great device when it came out has been surpassed by other devices that do ‘everything the iPad can’ plus a lot more. This will likely lead to a general weakening of Apple in the enterprise.