As restaurants and retailers work to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, they will be looking for efficiencies and cost-effective ways within their IT infrastructure to support new business initiatives such as BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store). This will require designing a tightly integrated and managed enterprise IT solution vs. piecemeal solutions from multiple vendors since systems interoperability is critically important. To support a BOPIS model, more retailers will migrate to real-time POS (Point of Sale) inventory systems which require a strong and secure network foundation.
On the vendor side, we’ll see continued consolidation and acquisition of smaller niche companies by larger vendors as they fill the gaps in their product portfolio to offer end-to-end solutions.
As IoT and Edge Computing solutions are deployed, this further consolidation will allow easier on-ramp for new applications and functions. Starting with the right foundation will become increasingly more important as companies will need to scale their IT infrastructure easily. SASE is a perfect example of vendors building out additional functions beyond SD-WAN to satisfy the growing demand for secure remote access and cloud-based security. Prior to 2020, many retailers operated the corporate and retail WANs as two separate networks. With SASE, any network endpoint can be supported in a single framework. Use cases that have historically been on disparate platforms like NAC or remote access are now supported on a single vendor ecosystem.
Truly unlimited and uncapped data plans key to broad-scale 5G adoption
More restaurants and retailers will embrace cellular data as a backup for business continuity and migrate to wireless as the primary source of bandwidth for their WANs. 4G/LTE has matured as a very viable technology and delivers the bandwidth and stability that businesses require to run their entire infrastructure. And it represents a significant upgrade from DSL and T1 services. The key message here is that many businesses don’t need to wait for 5G to see better network performance using a wireless WAN connection.
However, truly unlimited and unmetered data plans still hold the key in unlocking the potential and wide-scale adoption of 4G/LTE and 5G alike. Today, businesses must choose a data plan wisely and understand the fine print with regards to metered plans that may throttle bandwidth after a data limit is crossed. Having a wireless WAN strategy in place will ensure businesses are ready to take advantage of 5G when truly unlimited plans finally arrive.
Increased cybersecurity risks on SaaS platforms
There have been several public exploits on SaaS platforms and we expect to see that continue as cybercriminals attempt to exploit weaknesses created as companies expand their public cloud footprint. Recent examples include high profile remote code execution exploits that leveraged software vulnerabilities on unpatched SD-WAN systems. IT departments and integrators will need to make sure firmware is up to date on all devices, and develop a regular and thorough patching cadence throughout the year. Businesses should not be tempted to trade cybersecurity for the convenience and cost of down-market solutions or lax patching practices.
Continued investments in fiber by carriers
As businesses seek to move away from legacy copper-based DSL and T1 services, there will be increased migration towards cable or fiber and even wireless for primary connectivity. Restaurant and retail businesses have long been constrained by bandwidth speeds for upload, and that problem can remain with cable plans that have mediocre upload speeds despite very fast download speeds. While some applications, like Guest Wi-Fi, drive mostly download speed requirements, other applications such as remote monitoring of video cameras drive substantial upload speed requirements. This can force businesses into a more expensive tier with download speeds far in excess of their requirements. Fiber, on the other hand, typically provides symmetrical upload/download speeds more in line with what businesses require for comparable if not lower costs. So, if broadband fiber is available, it’s almost always going to be the better choice for businesses.
Carriers clearly realize this and will continue to build out more fiber capacity this year. This is good news for restaurants and other companies that are leveraging upload intensive applications like video capture and real-time collaboration. Increased availability of fiber (particularly broadband fiber due to its lower cost) will create more competition with cable carriers, which should translate to better last-mile options regardless of the connection type.
Webinar: 5 IT Networking & Security Trends that Retailers & Restaurant Chains Cannot Ignore in 2021
To help retailers and restaurants understand the critical networking and security solutions they must put in place to support contactless transactions, e-commerce, and guard against cybersecurity threats, Interface Security Systems has partnered with Fortinet to host a webinar called: “5 IT Networking & Security Trends that Retailers & Restaurant Chains Cannot Ignore in 2021”. The event will take place on January 20, 2021, at 1 PM CST. Click here to register.
Steve Womer is Vice President of Customer & Solutions Engineering at Interface Security Systems. He has a passion for simplifying the complex. He has been designing and supporting secure network infrastructure solutions for distributed enterprise brands for the past 17 years. His current mission at Interface Security Systems is to ensure customer solutions are built with the highest levels of security and performance with an overarching theme of standardization and scalability.
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