IT Support for Edge Computing: Strategies to Make it EasierIT Support for Edge Computing: Strategies to Make it Easier
Now that IoT and initiatives like Industry 4.0 in manufacturing have pushed IT to the edge, how does IT support them? By reinventing support. Here are seven strategies.
May 24, 2022
By 2028, the edge computing market will soar to more than $61 billion, based on research conducted by Grand View Research. This represents a compound annual growth rate over the next six years of around 38.4%.
Unfortunately, the IT staffs that must support this growth of edge technology in companies are not expanding by 38.4%.
It’s time for IT to decide just how it will support all of this technology on the edge. Here are seven strategies:
1. An account management approach
IT vendors commonly assign account managers to major customer accounts for the purpose of managing relationships. If an issue arises, this account manager “point person” can summon the necessary resources and follow up to see that work and/or support is completed to a satisfactory resolution.
IT can profit from the account manager approach with end users, especially if users have an abundance of edge applications and networks. An assigned business analyst who coordinates with tech support and others in IT can be the contact point person for an end-user department whenever a persistent problem occurs. This account manager can also periodically (at least quarterly) visit the user department and review technology performance and IT support.
End users are more apt to communicate and cooperate with IT if they know they have someone to go to when they need to escalate an issue.
2. Zero-trust networks that ease the security burdens on technical support
From a security and a governance standpoint, ensuring that IT assets at the edge are secure and that only those authorized can use them, is paramount for IT. It’s not realistic to expect end users to enforce security and governance on their own, and when they don’t, a breach can become a major support issue.
Zero-trust networks, which monitor every IT asset that is on them, automate the IT monitoring and security process to prevent incidents. If there is a breach -- or the addition of a new edge IoT solution that IT isn't aware of -- the network immediately sees that and issues an alert.
3. Preemptive maintenance
Network routers, workstations, industrial robots, drones, sensors, etc., all have failures if they aren’t properly maintained. Today, there is preemptive maintenance AI analytics software that monitors edge IT assets, issuing alerts whenever a potential failure is detected. This gives technical support the opportunity to remedy a problem before anything actually fails.
In many cases, these “fixes” can be done remotely from a central location. This saves IT technical support travel time and expenses.
4. Automation of software upgrades and system/network backups
Failure to aggressively upgrade software and firmware for security vulnerabilities and performance improvements is a major contributor to the technical support workload. By using a software and firmware automation software that automatically applies new updates when they are issued, IT can avoid many of these upgrade-related technical support issues.
The same rule of thumb applies to network and system backups.
Automating the backup process creates recovery points for these assets and helps end users avoid downtime. At the same time, automated backups and failovers allow groups like technical support more non-stressful time to review what occurred in an incident, and to devise a solution so it won't happen again.
5. Including technical support at the application design table
There is no area of IT that is more qualified to give insights into how and where networks and systems are failing than technical support. This is because technical support is out there every day hearing about problems from end users, and then trouble-shooting the problems and deducing how they are happening.
If technical support knowledge of where system and network pitfalls are occurring on the edge are used in initial application design processes (which they aren’t in most cases), it is highly likely that the initial application design will be created so it will sidestep many of the existing trouble spot issues that existing applications are plagued with.
Doing this builds customer satisfaction because systems aren't always breaking. Fewer system breaks also ease technical support’s workload.
6. Technical support input into vendor management
Large enterprises have separate vendor or contract management departments that are there to manage vendor relationships. Typically, these relationships revolve around contracts, performance and also vendor service issues.
The vendor management function can be enhanced if technical support is providing vendor management regular feedback about the success (or lack of success) with each vendor in issue resolution and performance optimization. This is especially true for edge technology, where vendor support isn't always mature.
7. Placement of support personnel in distributed locations
In some situations, edge technology is so dense that it makes sense to deploy IT support personnel directly at the edge, instead of keeping support centralized.
A need for fast, in-person technical support is important in edge medical network and equipment maintenance, and also in automated manufacturing operations. Continuous onsite support may also be needed at major field offices, or for field work involving drones and other distributed IoT.
If there is a definite movement of mission-critical IT away from the data center and out to the edge, CIOs and other IT leaders should take a hard look at whether it makes sense to decentralize IT technical support personnel so direct support can be available at the edge.
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