Innovating At The Edge: Is This The Future of SMBs?


No matter the sector, all have been significantly impacted by the pandemic and irrevocably changed. We must now ensure that businesses of all sizes can bounce back better than before.

SMBs are vital to building a stronger, more resilient, innovative future for industries across the EMEA region. Nimble by nature, the ability of SMBs to adapt and flex to changing circumstances puts them all in a strong position to tackle the challenges of the immediate future.

With this in mind, we can expect to see a new wave of innovation from small businesses as they reemerge into a new type of workplace. In part, yes, but to truly speed into the future, they will need a solid AI-powered and predictive network to support remote and in-office work. This will mean employing an agile and adaptable IT network that pairs end-user mobility with enterprise IoT to increase efficiency, personalisation, and productivity.

Small yet mighty

It wasn’t long ago that digital tools were only available to a select few organisations with the capacity to budget for specialised DevOps teams. Now though, those hotly sought-after tools have been democratised and are available in mass through As-a-Service applications. For example in the retail space, As-a-Service offerings can enable SMBs to offer personalised, customised, digital and social experiences to their customers through real-time access to operational, financial and customer data across various channels. Small businesses now have the same armoury and tools available to compete in the premier leagues of business.

No longer does size, or even location for that matter, present such an obstacle. Larger, more distributed organisations are at the mercy of complex supply chains – these being made up of various stakeholders, often from different countries or even continents. While smaller, more localised businesses aren’t immune from such issues, with the right technologies, they’re well placed to be delivered while others face blockages to delivery and production deadlines.

At the Edge of change

Enter the Edge – where data is generated where the business operates as opposed to in the cloud or at a data centre. Put simply, where users, devices and ‘things’ come together. With the Edge, small businesses have the ability to cope with and process vast amounts of data that can fuel their decision-making in real-time. In the hospitality sector example, data will become increasingly important for SMBs, as customer concerns grow around safety and hygiene. Providing contactless check-ins, restaurant payments, and supporting applications for food orders will increase the data each SMB is dealing with.

The network plays a pivotal role here, moving data and connecting people to apps and services. From anywhere, at any time. With the Edge though, the network is even more important with requirements going far beyond just standard connectivity. The shift to hybrid working means such networks are now bound by human capacity and experience – only being as secure and agile as the operators managing them.

In fact, our recent – At the Edge of Change Report – found that most IT decision-makers globally said there is a skills shortage impeding their ability to unlock the power of the data produced in their organisation. Undoubtedly, this is a repercussion of the limit the pandemic has put on businesses’ budgets. SMBs especially may suffer here, with their ability to employ a dedicated IT team that can ensure the network is managed correctly restricted.

Enter AIOps

With the sheer volume of devices connecting to any given network, manual human intervention is simply no longer practical. Which is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in to save the day.

AI allows teams to develop policies that leverage context, such as the user role, device type, certificate status, location or day of the week to make quick and accurate automated decisions. By leveraging AI correctly, adjustments can be made even before network issues arise.

Solutions such as Aruba’s ‘Edge Services Platform’ (ESP) are based on nearly a decade of experience in developing AI solutions and accessing a deep historical data lake to train the machine learning algorithm. The platform works automatically with 95% accuracy to identify problems that would typically take an engineer hours to solve.

The added benefit of AI-driven platforms, is that they allow you to reallocate employee time, meaning they can focus on more critical tasks and planning for the year ahead.

Ultimately, to keep up with today’s challenging and unpredictable economy, businesses will need to update and redefine their network and IT. With the wide-scale democratisation of DevOps services and consumers’ growing desire to look more locally for products or partners, SMBs are steadily climbing the ladder and becoming a force for their larger counterparts to reckon with.

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