By Shawn Brown, President and COO

It’s hard to believe 2018 is over and that it’s time to start planning for 2019. Let’s start with a look at the five biggest IT trends for 2019.

If your business is anything like ours, you spend a lot of time at the end of the year reflecting on the previous year and planning for the next one. As entrepreneurs, we’re always looking for the next big ideas or trends that will help us grow our business, while also reducing risk and increasing efficiency.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of technology trends we think business owners, CEOs, CFOs and IT managers should plan for in 2019. We’ve all heard about new and exciting technologies that are coming, such as autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, blockchain and quantum computing, but this list focuses on the practical technology trends that small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) should care about.

  1. Cyber attacks will continue to increase: If your company isn’t focused on cybersecurity, it should be. From speaking with many business owners, CFOs and IT managers, we’ve learned that many of them don’t realize that most cyber criminals aren’t targeting specific companies. Rather, they’re using bots, artificial intelligence, machine learning and software automation to search the internet looking for vulnerabilities.

According to a recent report released by the Council of Economic Advisers, malicious cyber activity costs the U.S. between $57 billion and $109 billion each year. With numbers like these, it’s easy to see why cyber attacks will continue to grow in 2019.

What types of attacks are we likely to see in 2019? We’ll continue to see known vulnerabilities exploited, so make sure your systems are being patched. Email and phishing attacks are still the main delivery method, and in Verizon’s 2018 Breach Investigation report, 92% of malware is still delivered by email. Ransomware and cryptomining are on the rise, and most of these attacks come from file-less attacks and phishing emails

  1. End-user security awareness training: Since 92% of malware is still delivered by email, it’s important that your last line of defense—your employees—learn how to spot fake and phishing emails. Companies can invest in the best security solutions on the market, but as soon as an employee clicks on the wrong link, it could be disastrous for the organization.

Enterprise companies have been offering end-user security awareness training for years, and now it’s time for the SMB community to get on board. We predict that end-user security awareness training will be extremely important for companies to continue to protect themselves against cyber criminals in 2019.

  1. Security information, and event management (SIEM) and threat intelligence tools in the SMB market: Again, enterprise companies have been using SIEM tools for years to help protect their IT infrastructure. As these tools become more accessible, SMBs can take advantage of them to protect their environments from cyber criminals. These tools provide real-time analysis of security alerts generated by applications and network equipment, and enable security professionals to identify security events.

Another exciting trend for the SMB market is the introduction of threat hunting tools that use cyber intelligence sources to detect what has already slipped past your network defenses. These tools combine validated threat intelligence from intelligence communities and security operations centers, where security experts investigate incidents and network traffic monitors that collect data on your network. 

  1. Multifactor authentication (MFA): MFA isn’t a new technology, but in 2019, more and more companies in the SMB market will implement MFA in every application that supports it. In the past, MFA was treated as a nice-to-have security feature that few organizations wanted to implement. In 2019, it will become standard, and everyone must implement it.

If you run Office 365, you’ll want to be sure MFA is configured on it. What’s great about Office 365 is that you can log in to it from any computer, anywhere, to access your email and files. What’s not great is that anyone with your credentials can also log in from any computer, anywhere, to access your email and files.

MFA will continue to be standard for the next few years. Beyond that, we believe authentication will become more recognition based, and the need for passwords and MFA will change drastically. However, we aren’t there yet, so please turn on MFA everywhere.

  1. IT staffing shortage: As demand for technology and security continue to increase, finding employees with the necessary skill sets will be a big challenge in 2019 In a recent survey conducted by recruiting experts, Hays, and reported in their 2018 US Salary Guide, two-thirds of IT employers said that they face a moderate-to-extreme skills shortage, and 89% said the shortages are negatively affecting their business productivity. Demand for outsourcing technology support and IT security will continue to trend upward in 2019 as complexity increases, risk increases and the shortage of skilled IT professionals increases.

We hope this information helps makes your company better in 2019. If there is anything we can do to help, please let us know.