Security remains a top investment priority for IT amid mobile workplace evolution

That’s the word from Cisco’s TechWatch 2013 report, which found that this year IT decision makers will look to pave the way for greater connectivity by investing in IT infrastructure and collaboration technologies.

IT decision-makers face numerous market evolutions that are challenging and testing IT infrastructure and networks. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trends, cloud computing and big data have seen end users become increasingly demanding with the experiences they expect to receive. At the same time, next-generation workspaces will be a reality for three in four (76%) businesses by 2016, which are investing in new technologies to enable distributed working environments.

The IT department is under pressure to carefully manage these growing trends, but there remains the need to balance investment against streamlining and security.

“In 2013 we can expect to see IT get back to basics,” said Ian Foddering, CTO at Cisco UK and Ireland. “The macro challenges which IT decision-makers face are clear and well-defined, but what TechWatch shows us is how IT intends to meet these challenges. The research shows us that whilst cost-cutting and reducing complexity is important, creating an environment where IT can support – or indeed drive – innovation within the business is paramount. The IT department is more crucial now to future development than ever before.”

He said that three key pillars have emerged:  simplify, protect and change and grow. “Get the first two right, and you pave the way for innovation, greater connectivity, next-generation workspaces and ultimately a shift towards the ‘Internet of Everything,’” he added.

After network performance (51%), businesses said that increased security threats (48% enterprises, 44% SMEs) are the most significant challenges facing businesses over the next 12 months. Thus, improving IT security (60% enterprises, 55% SMEs) is one of the main spending priorities over the coming 12 months, surpassed only by reducing overall IT costs (60% enterprises, 56% SMEs).

“There is overwhelming support for greater remote working, and it is encouraging that businesses are taking measures to protect important information and help maximize data security,” Foddering continues. “This is essential if, as the research shows, 76% of all businesses intend to operate as future workspaces in the next three years. However, simplifying and protecting an organization’s infrastructure can only take you so far. In order for businesses to prepare themselves for the future, they must be willing to embrace change and use it to drive, rather than inhibit, growth.”

The security landscape will most certainly change profoundly. Within the next three years, 76% of companies think operations in their organization will be structured on the basis of the most efficient use of skills and resources, regardless of where they are located – 15% say this is already happening. This is reflected in terms of technology investment: enterprises are more likely to have deployed collaborative software (79%) and network performance management (78%), but both enterprises and SMEs have prioritized the investment of remote access technology (78% and 77%, respectively).

Foddering concludes, “The network lies at the heart of much of this change. Networking performance was found to be the greatest challenge facing IT at the moment, up significantly (15%) amongst enterprises compared to 2011. Organizations will need to work closely with strategic partners, like Cisco, who understand the needs of the public and private sector and who can guide them through change, if they are to successfully solve today's business problems and shape their organization for the future.”

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