I’ve read a lot of the tech trend articles in the last month attempting to predict the next big thing in 2020. I couldn’t help but laugh at all the writers throwing out AI, deep learning, and automation, along with many other buzzwords. Unless your name is Musk or Bezos you probably are not building sentient robots this year. So for the rest of us, what practical technology project should we really be focusing in the next 12 months? I was struck by the number of articles that talked about 5G wireless technology. While there is a hot race to be first to market with this technology, it takes years for the infrastructure and equipment to make it into the field. For that reason, I think 5G might make a list in 2020 at the earliest, and more likely 2021. And while Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning were also prominent on most lists, for most businesses these tools are likely to be functioning in the background behind tools you already use (particularly in marketing). This list identifies five practical projects that will most likely apply to every business in 2020.

Its Time Get Serious About Cyber Security

We start with the biggest one, and really this should be the top trend every year. Even if you think your business is not susceptible because you don’t have important data, you would be wrong. Hackers and bad actors are not just looking for data they can steal from your business. They are also looking for delivery mechanisms (your email system) and resources for their network (your computers).

What you should be doing: every business is different, so its best to contact an expert and get an analysis. But major items to look for are to enforce strong password security, establish multi-factor authentication, ensure every machine has virus and anti-malware protection, and ensure you have solid firewall. It also makes sense to have an information security policy.

Update Servers Reaching End-of-Life

Cyber-security is a big enough problem without running on outdated equipment. Many brands of hardware are approaching end of life and end of support. Server operating systems such as Windows Server 2008/2008 R2 and SQL Server 2005/2008/2008 R2 are either already at end of life or will be in 2020. Old equipment and old operating systems contain old vulnerabilities. Ukraine’s power infrastructure was attacked by taking advantage of its old computers running outdated operating systems. Leaving old servers up is irresponsible and just inviting a catastrophe. You should update these immediately. If the expense is a blocker, consider moving these systems to a cloud provider. This takes away the upfront expense of buying new servers, and it takes away the long-term maintenance of upgrading the hardware.

Desktops and Laptops need updates too

Just like hardware, Operating Systems such as Windows 7 are also approaching end of life. In addition to the cybersecurity issues, the problem here is also compatibility with software updates. As soon as systems hit end of life, vendors will generally no longer support you even if you are under warranty, and they certainly will cease to provide updates. One solution we are keeping our eye on is Microsoft’s 365 solution. This is different from Office 365… which is actually part of the bigger Microsoft 365 solution. The Microsoft 365 solutions can actually provide you with a continuously updated operating system as well as a strong cybersecurity solution, all bundled with the Office 365 products you already use every day. And, oh by the way, you can also add in a Voice over IP (VoIP) phone service as part of the whole solution… consolidating cybersecurity, communications, and productivity into one product suite with sweet savings too.

Marketing Automation and AI

OK, I finally slipped in Artificial Intelligence. Its such a behind the scenes technology that most consumers don’t realize that’s what they are experiencing. In business, AI has a lot of uses, most commonly through image and media recognition, and natural language processing. Think of the bots on websites that triage your customer services issues before handing you off to a live person. Marketing Automation has been around for awhile now, allowing businesses to target segments of their customers with specific messaging. However, the technology now exists to really target individuals instead of whole segments. Just as a bot can respond to your questions, an AI powered marketing system can decide what emails and messages to use to target individuals. This dynamic and granular targeting will be able to give your business actionable insights to drive personalized engagement and proactive decision-making.

Get Smart with Internet Connected Tech

IoT is really starting to penetrate the marketplace in both consumer and business products. More and more devices that are internet connected and are capable of gathering vast amounts of data while providing insight into our daily lives. Several of my kids toys this Christmas were internet connected. My bike trainer is internet connected. And now more and more business-related devices are too. The leading edge of this trend is using IoT for building operations. Sensors in trash cans tell maintenance personnel exactly which rooms to service, lowering labor cost and waste. Food safety and regulatory compliance can be enhanced with refrigeration monitoring, alerting management to failing equipment and saving labor costs spent on mundane recording tasks.

I hope everyone has a successful 2019 and that you seriously look into updating your security, software, and platforms (on-premise or cloud-based). I’m really excited about the IoT space as well. I strongly encourage you to look into all of these things, and feel free to reach out if you want more information about these topics or anything else.