What Tech Investments Must You Make Now to Manage Data Overload?
Data is the fuel of every digital business. It’s how you listen to, learn from and connect with your customers. Businesses are generating tidal waves of data every day, and their growth and success is increasingly tied to their ability to harness the power behind those waves by rapidly acquiring, analyzing and acting on the insights they provide. Businesses must prioritize investments in emerging technologies if they hope to take advantage of all the data available to them.
How should you prioritize your tech investments right now and what can these investments mean for your business?
5 Essential Tech Investment Priorities
You can manage data overload by focusing on five key areas for investment. These investments can help you automate manual processes, acquire data without human interaction, and manage your network traffic more seamlessly. Let’s consider the value of each area:
The Edge. Investments in edge computing provide the lynchpin to the other technologies listed here. Edge computing will ultimately enable your business to take advantage of emerging tech. What do we mean by edge computing and what makes it so critical to enabling your other digital business initiatives?
Edge computing describes a distributed computing topology that moves computing infrastructure closer to the actual source of data. Think about it in terms of geographic distribution: rather than data being processed centrally in a data center, it is instead processed closer to the devices using that data to provide real-time experiences (smartphones, autonomous vehicles, IoT devices, etc.). Because data computation, processing, and storage are distributed, edge computing frees up bandwidth, reduces latency, and improves processing speed.
How do you invest in the edge? At CenturyLink, we have a saying: “The network is your data center.” Creating cloud storage in the network closer to where data is created and consumed enables the edge-driven business to gain data insights faster than their peers and deliver better consumer experiences as a result.
Artificial Intelligence. The purpose of artificial intelligence (A.I.) is to automate manual processes, detect network anomalies, and provide strategic insights. The most recent IDC guide on A.I. spending found that businesses spent $37.5 billion on A.I. systems in 2019 and predicts a $97.9 billion spend in 2023. There are many areas within a business where A.I. investments can be made. The IDC guide found the three top use cases for A.I. were customer service agents, automated threat intelligence and prevention systems, and sales process recommendation and automation. Where you choose to make your A.I. investments will depend heavily on your business sector and the specific needs you have.
Machine Learning. Machine learning (M.L.) is a subset of A.I. that allows systems to learn from data and continuously improve from experience. Like A.I., M.L. investments must be driven by your business type and its specific needs. One key area where investments in M.L. can help is in relieving the load on your network teams. The point of machine learning is not to replace humans, but to do what computers do better than humans: dispassionately process and analyze huge data sets. For your network teams, this can mean automated scaling up or down of network resources without human intervention, log analysis to uncover problems faster, and relief from some of the most menial jobs associated with network administration.
Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) describes devices—meters, sensors, monitors—that collect data without human interaction. For those devices to deliver on their promise, they require rapid delivery and processing of real-time data. IoT investments include the devices themselves, a high-speed and geographically dispersed network to deliver data, and the ability to quickly analyze and act on the data the devices provide.
Consider a manufacturing facility that fits its equipment with IoT sensors to measure fluctuations in temperature and wear. The goal is to process that information in such a way that triggers warnings when measures exceed acceptable norms. In a perfect world, those triggers would allow maintenance crews to proactively repair or replace machines just in time and only when needed. Ideally, this would save the facility money both in capital expenses and in preventing unplanned downtime.
Software-Defined Networking. Software-defined networking (SDN) technology redirects traffic without relying on hardware to make decisions. CenturyLink sponsored a study executed by IDG that sought to define how SDN improves the enterprise. The study found that enterprises that deploy SD-WAN, hybrid WAN, Ethernet WAN, or a mix of all three realized these benefits:
- 91% of enterprises saw network speed/performance improve up to 29%
- 90% saw improvements in networking costs of up to 28%
- 79% saw improvements in multilayered network response to security threats of up to 31%
- 74% saw improvements in on-demand connections of data center to public cloud of up to 34%
Investments in SDN create more efficient, faster IT and network operations, and improve productivity of network teams.
How to Set Your Priorities
Defining specific business needs and use cases is the first step in setting your priorities for tech investment. This starts by assessing where you are now. Determine whether you lead, lag, or hold an average position compared to peers and competitors in your same sector. Choose areas in which tech investments could make the most impact, either internally (operational and capital savings) or externally (improved customer service or market targeting). Find the metrics that will be affected by improvements. Then, start small projects that can affect those metrics. Build on your successes to gradually grow your tech investments.
Some organizations may have the capacity to manage some or all of these steps on their own. If your team is small, or if they lack the experience to assess tech investments, you may need to call in IT consultants who can walk you through these steps and find the optimal solutions for your business.
Do you have tech investments in place to manage data overload? Download the CenturyLink ebook, Beyond transformation: How data drives the Digital Business to learn more about how and why you need to prioritize these investments.
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