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How to solve the biggest issues facing IT professionals in 2016

In the world of IT there is a constant struggle against the tide to make sure a business is running smoothly. That precious break before the New Year can give IT gurus a much-needed moment to take their foot of the throttle and take stock of what lies ahead.

To help IT departments as they move forward in 2016 Ipswitch has run some research amongst over 2,685 IT professionals, which looks at the key topics keeping them awake at night. Here I summarise some of the findings and some tips on how to tackle them as we enter the New Year:

Security is the number one concern

After a year of extensive cyber threats it’s clear that a complex attack could happen at any time on nearly any part of the network. From Ashley Madison to TalkTalk, these highly-publicised data breaches have catapulted security to the top spot in our survey with over 25 per cent of respondents highlighting it as a major concern. As cyber criminals become more sophisticated and better-funded, the reality is that we are simply not doing enough to keep up.

Heading into 2016, the focus for security needs to be data protection. In the security category, data breaches stole first place whilst securely transferring data ranked at number two. End users often won’t consider the risks when selecting a method to transfer information, and unsurprisingly data that is mid-transit has the highest probability of loss. Planning your approach to security is essential, and will help you understand where your system is weakest.

Privacy will undergo a huge overhaul

There are enormous changes to the way data can be acceptably transferred coming in 2016. From dealing with the impact of the recent European Safe Harbour ruling to the upcoming EU Data Protection regulations, businesses will find privacy at the forefront of their agendas. For technological giants such as Google and Amazon as well as businesses using services like Dropbox, there can be serious implications for companies storing data long after it has been transferred. In any case, keeping up with evolving security threats whilst meeting new privacy standards will prove to be one of the biggest challenges of 2016.

In light of these changes, another issue highlighted by the research as a concern was found to be compliance. Whether it is the healthcare, financial or legal sectors, many industries require full transparency and must secure their business-critical data. With the introduction of new data privacy regulations, all business will have to understand and comply with what is being asked of them. Auditing the movement of data is an excellent way to implement a strategy that will help a business meet those compliance requirements.

This is an issue that stems far beyond the IT team, and whilst IT professionals are right to be concerned about it, responsibility should fall to all departments handling data to understand the restrictions and legislations that apply to the company. An awareness and education programme could well benefit an organisation to help share the burden of compliance.

Standing out will be a major challenge

It seems that IT teams are also looking to innovate and need to tackle issues in application performance and monitoring. This area was the second most prevalent concern and gained 19 per cent of the total votes in this category. The two main problems highlighted to overcome were visibility (50 per cent) and networking performance (34 per cent).

In today’s IT landscape, these two concerns are inseparable. As networks become increasingly demanding and dispersed across many platforms and devices, every aspect of the infrastructure from applications, servers, connected devices and virtual environments must all be monitored in order to optimise efficiency and highlight any performance issues.

Keeping up with new technologies will prove as difficult as ever

As advances in technology continue to push on at an unprecedented rate, the influx of new devices such as smart watches and fitness bands as well as the streaming of high-bandwidth content will put pressure on IT pros. When deploying new technologies, managing user devices and ensuring new technologies are compatible with the existing infrastructure a clear plan of action must be put in place. This will make sure the IT department isn’t left gasping at the starting line. In addition to precise planning, implementing automated systems to tackle repetitive tasks will open up your time to spend on managing IT infrastructure and business-critical operations.

Training staff when new technologies are implemented could save time and trouble later down the line, increasing efficiency and productivity whilst ensuring that employees are making the most of the technology available to them.

Making the most of 2016

It’s clear that IT professionals have a lot on their plate, with a broad range of concerns that include data protection and management, storage, device management, automation and reporting. Working in the background, IT teams often work wonders battling internal and external issues from external threats, employee devices or simply the volume of work generated internally. The simplest solution is this – don’t attempt everything. Decide what is achievable for your department and follow through with your improvements.

Michael Hack, Senior Vice President of EMEA Operations at Ipswitch

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Makistock