Contractors' Questions: What were the big IT stories of 2012?

Contractor’s Question: I’m a little bit out of the IT loop from having been on the bench for some of 2012 yet in my new IT contract, beginning 2013, I’m expected to be the ‘go-to’ IT professional. My background is sound but what’s considered to be the latest tech industry developments or, at least, what were the big IT stories of the last year?

Expert’s Answer: 2012 has seen the IT landscape evolve fast, as enterprises have upgraded years of legacy systems and start-ups now regularly enter their markets on the back of revolutionary technology platforms. Among the many highlights of 2012, developments in the cloud seem like a good starting point.

The ramp into the cloud has increasingly become one of the driving forces of IT over the past year. Organisations can now gain access to enterprise-grade systems and service for a fraction of the cost, without any concern for the management and maintenance. Cloud has offered a lifeline to businesses worldwide in tough times, putting many on the front foot when they perhaps would have been playing catch-up.

Thin-client computing has been on the rise for the last few years, generally driven from companies sweating their desktop assets during the down-turn by moving computing onto central server platforms. It's also been driven by cloud delivery and to a lesser extent by BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). It's generally a good thing, as it's typically more secure and simpler to maintain. The rise of readily available bandwidth through 3G, 4G and wireless is also enabling remote workers to access systems as if they were sat in the office. There's no real need for the painful and productivity draining IPSEC and SSL VPNs.

There's been a lot of noise about Big Data in 2012. It's still really in its infancy, and I expect it to remain that way in 2013. Interrogating and manipulating huge amounts of structured and unstructured data to deliver valuable information to a business will remain a focal point for IT in the year ahead. I'd say that generally the whole area is still really delivered on a per-project basis and more or less experimental on every occasion. It's really for the global giants, fighting for the competitive advantage and beyond the realms of being able to deliver a return to the mid and small-markets - at the moment.

Finally, the BYOD space was extremely noisy in the first three quarters of the calendar year. Fortunately that's quietened down, largely because the market wasn’t as big as first believed. We’ll almost certainly see a second wave in the next year but the issue which remains is iPads - where BYOD is really targeted. iPads are not business machines. Yes, some companies are using them but generally just for reading email and .pdf documents. The big test is going to come from the analysis of Microsoft's Surface platform. Will it deliver the best of both worlds, for home and business use? It can, but will it? This will be the first big question of 2013.

Looking ahead to next year the spotlight is on Microsoft. The technology giant is preparing a host of promising new systems for release in 2013 including Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013 and Lync 2013. Coupled with the industry’s high expectations for the new surface platform, the year should be Microsoft’s.

The expert was Robert Rutherford, managing director of IT consultancy QuoStar Solutions.

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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