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How the pandemic has galvanized the rise of the ‘edge’

How the pandemic has galvanized the rise of the ‘edge’
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Covid-19 has turbo-charged the adoption of new technologies across the globe. Remote working has been the main driver behind the move towards digital, enabling businesses to protect employee data, secure networks, and maintain a more stable internet connection. As a result of the pace of change during the pandemic, IT management teams have been tasked with introducing entirely new work processes at an unprecedented rate. This has made it more important than ever to prioritize accessibility, underpinned by cybersecurity and reliability.

Bringing businesses to the edge

With businesses continuing to operate remotely, there’s a growing need to ensure that networks are not overwhelmed. As millions of people around the world continue to log into the office from home, it is no longer sustainable for businesses to depend on large, centralized servers. As a result, to keep businesses ticking along, adopting the edge must become the central plan for companies moving forward – especially for those needing or looking to accelerate their digital transformation strategies.

Edge networks are a strategically dispersed network of servers, which enable Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to provide internet services fully at scale. By removing the need for a central server, data that’s collected and stored on the edge has less of a journey every time an employee or customer makes a request. Therefore, when the network operates on the edge, businesses can respond in real-time to requests from all over the globe without jeopardizing efficiency, speed, or latency.

A relevant use-case for edge networks is boosting the quality of video webinars and the reliability of video conferencing calls. By increasing latency, the edge decreases lag and down-time, enabling companies to render video on any device – to viewers or participants in any location – while providing large software downloads at scale. Utilizing edge networks, businesses have been able to cope with the huge growth in connected users, and the number of requests from these users, during the pandemic.

Another step closer to the edge

While edge networks play a significant role today, there’s still plenty more to come. The boom in 5G and the continued growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to make edge computing even more integral to the ways we work and interact. Covid-19 has fast tracked this movement towards the edge, as the remote workforce has become dependent on connected devices. The edge is ultimately more capable of dealing with the increased amount of data that is being generated by IoT connected and 5G enabled devices. As edge servers are located at this intersection where networks interact and connect with end-user devices, large swathes of data can be transferred at speed and at scale.

An interesting example can be seen in the financial sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. With face-to-face interactions displaced by social distancing guidelines, banks have become increasingly reliant on ‘touch to pay’ devices and online payments. This demand has made it even more difficult to detect fraud and validate the identity of the customer in real-time, with retailers often required to process multiple payments in short time intervals. By combining 5G with edge servers, we can speed up the process, quickly transferring the data, and detecting any suspicious activity. Similarly, for businesses more generally, storing data in this way can boost security as, when the server is located on the edge, it is much easier to mitigate attacks before they get near the core network. As we move closer to the age of 5G networks, the edge will transform the way we share, collect and monitor data.

Building back better with tech

So, while it clearly does not outweigh the significant human and economic costs of the pandemic, the rapid adoption of new technologies and connected devices has been a welcome change in the last few months. Moreover, it’s new technologies that’ll enable us to build back better after the virus passes.

Technology got us through the pandemic, and large parts of society are set to stay online, due to the success of this imposed ’experiment’. Going forward, however, customers will continue to rely on and expect more from tech companies and service providers. Much like the ‘Apple effect’ in early 2010s, once people experience a new high in delivery (as we saw with development of the smartphone) this quickly becomes the bare minimum – the benchmark for every business and especially technology vendors.

While we are already living in the golden era of edge computing, there are still many new developments (and new challenges) to come due to this uptick in demand. The next step for the edge will emerge as end-users themselves become part of the journey. Whether it comes in the form of the adoption of 5G enabled smart-devices, the emergence of connected cars, or the development of a cashless society, edge networks are set to define how we interact, do business and live our daily lives.