3 Ways MSPs Can Help SMBs with IoT

  • September 29, 2015
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The introduction of the Apple Watch earlier this year inspired another round of hype for the vaunted Internet of Things (IoT), which the analyst firm IDC defines as a combination of sensors, networking, and analytics that can be combined to create greater production efficiency, better quality of life and a higher level of automation.

Not that hype for so-called “connected devices” had been lacking and needed an infusion. Excitement around IoT has been building for the last few years, with futurists, business visionaries and large technology firms of various kinds touting its burgeoning benefits for consumers and businesses alike. Some pundits have warned that businesses that ignore IoT opportunities do so at their own peril.

A quick look at recent research easily explains this sentiment. IDC’s Vernon Turner predicts the worldwide IoT market will grow from $655.8 billion in 2014 to $1.7 trillion in 2020. That’s a lot of “smart” devices communicating with each other. As technology forecaster Daniel Burrus wrote in a recent column for Wired magazine: “When we start making things intelligent, it’s going to be a major engine for creating new products and new services.”

Still, when wearable devices such as the Apple Watch serve as what Turner called in Small Business Computing the “face of the Internet of Things,” small to mid-size business (SMB) leaders can have trouble relating. At first glance, IoT applications seem intended for either big companies operating in huge industries – such as agriculture and manufacturing – or for individual consumers that want to monitor calories burned during a workout.

That’s why pundits like Burrus encourage people to remember the networking and analytics part of IDC’s definition of IoT. “…The real value that the Internet of Things creates is at the intersection of gathering data and leveraging it,” Burrus wrote in Wired.

So, it’s up to SMB leaders to put the “smart” into smart devices and configure them in ways that deliver value to their businesses and their customers. And more and more Managed Services Providers (MSPs) are helping SMBs with this strategic evolution by providing operational support beyond “saving expense and cutting costs.” Here are three ways:

  • Mobile Device Management (MDM) – Every year, more than a billion smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops that connect people to the Internet are sold. And due to the growth of Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies, a lot of those connected devices are being used for business. More and more MSPs are specializing in helping SMBs cope with this spreading sea of IoT. See the ITinflections post “How to Recognize a Good Mobility Managed Service Provider (MSP)” for tips for finding one.
  • Business Continuity (BC) & Disaster Recovery (DC) – IDC estimates the number of “things” – i.e., mobile devices, machines and appliances – that will be connected to the Internet in some way will reach 32 billion by 2020. Tech giant Cisco puts the number at greater than 50 billion by that date. All the data generated by those things will be of little or limited value if the networks that carry the information are not up and available when needed or difficult to restore when misfortune strikes. Many MSPs specialize in remote network monitoring for BC/DR and other purposes. See the ITinflections post “5 Basics for Selecting an MSP for Disaster Recovery” to learn more.
  • Cyber Security – In the ITinflections post “With the IoTs, the Office Coffee Break Is a Threat to Network Security” explores many security questions related to the rising IoT trend – and how SMBs can work with MSPs to address them.

Tools for monitoring, managing and securing connected devices still are in the early days of development in many cases. But that doesn’t mean SMBs must wait to get moving. In the least, sit down with your MSP to discuss your readiness and the pros and cons of pausing or plunging into the IoT for your company.

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