If you’ve heard the term “future-proof” used to describe technology and thought it was a crock, that’s understandable. We’re used to technology that has a definite lifespan. For instance, a 2019 study showed that in spite of what we pay for our smartphones, the average American will update their device in only three years. Similarly, many of us update our laptops every 4.8 years. And we kind of have to. Technology advances so quickly that endless updates eventually slow a device to an unusable crawl. So surely “future-proof” technology is some far-off dream, right?
That depends on what you mean by future-proof. According to Techopedia, future-proof “describes a product, service or technological system that will not need to be significantly updated as technology advances.” While it acknowledges that all technology will eventually need to be replaced, the idea behind future-proofing is to use better materials and design to lengthen the lifespan of the technology we have.
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Future-proofing is Not New
Future-proofing might sound like a flashy buzzword, but the concept of thinking ahead isn’t. Back in the 1940s and 50s, my grandmother worked as a telecommunications engineer for Bell South. She studied trends in population growth in rural South Georgia and used that data to plan phone networks that served the state into the 2000s, when the average person began shifting to cell phones instead of landlines. Similarly, urban planners work with a future-proofing mindset, considering population growth or decline, population shifts, and the infrastructure that will be needed to support populations in a city. Such planning dates back at least to the Greeks (and probably further).
But it’s not just infrastructure that can be future-proofed. Car manufacturers create cars with great fuel efficiency in anticipation of consumers’ increasing concerns about the environment, changes in fuel costs, and government regulations. Many traditional cable networks have created streaming platforms to keep up with the growing number of consumers leaving cable. Just like these industries, there are steps your business can take to ensure the technology you invest in (and rely on) will support you for a long time.
Advantages of Future-proofing
A key component of future-proofing is creating flexibility. Down the road, that flexibility will allow your business to pivot when it needs to change or adapt. Because we can’t really see the future, only make predictions based on current trends, it’s much better to invest in flexibility than to count on a single, specific technology powering your business.
Another benefit of future-proofing is that it saves you money. Buying and implementing new technology is expensive, not to mention the production costs when employees are inconvenienced or have to learn new software. In contrast, future-proofing extends the life of your technology. And while the up-front cost of future-proofing can be higher, in the long run you will save on repair and replacement costs. You’ll also avoid employee downtime and paying for stop-gap measures when your systems fail to meet your needs.
Examples of Future-proofing in Practice
Future-proofing sounds great. But what does that look like in practice? What kind of technology should my business future-proof? Here are a few examples.
Building Future-proof Networks Designed for Growth
When network engineers talk about future-proofing, they’re not talking about networks that will never get outdated. Instead, they’re talking about a mindset that takes the future into account. By looking at a business’ current needs, the way technology is evolving, and the way a business is currently growing, engineers can make predictions about a company’s future needs. Then they take these future needs into account when building the network.
Some things network engineers consider when future-proofing a network are scalability and bandwidth. Scalability refers to how easily a network can be expanded to serve a growing business. This is related to bandwidth, or the amount of traffic your network can handle. As your business grows, more employees and customers will be accessing your network. It will need to be powerful and efficient enough to support that traffic without slowing down, glitching, or crashing.
Security is another important consideration for building out a network. Increasingly, more and more businesses depend on cloud storage and cloud applications. Some businesses are continuing remote work for at least some of their employees. And businesses are collecting more personal data about their customers than ever before. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of this shift and the number of cyberattacks is increasing rapidly. These security breaches can cripple large corporations and decimate small businesses. For this reason, network engineers have to keep security top of mind while designing new networks.
Designing Future-proof Websites
A website is the face of your company and the heart of your marketing. Increasingly, consumers expect businesses to have a website where they can find information, testimonials, and contact information for the business. But paying for a website to be designed or redesigned can be expensive. That’s why it’s important to future-proof your site from the start.
The first step is to choose a good CMS, or content management system. A CMS is a website building tool that stores all the information for your website, and you probably recognize the names of some popular ones like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace. Choosing the right CMS is important because it’s literally the foundation of your site. Sometimes it’s tempting to go with a free or low-cost CMS, but it’s smarter to go with something more established. A robust CSM should offer multiple plans for you to choose from, with each plan outlining additional features and functionality you can take advantage of as your site grows.
Another important consideration is responsive design. A website built with responsive design will automatically adapt to different screen sizes and mobile devices. As more and more people rely on their phones to access the internet, it’s increasingly important that your site be navigable no matter what device a consumer is using.
One of the best ways to future-proof your website is to be smart about the code you use to build it since some code is easier to change and works with more varied types of software. Remember, flexibility is key. If you aren’t familiar with web coding, there are many reasons to hire a web developer. A good developer can work with you to create a site that is easy for you to maintain on your own if that’s what you prefer, but if your site gets lots of traffic or your site functions as an online store, it can be well worth it to pay someone to maintain it as you go.
Factors to Consider when Future-proofing Your Business
Future-proofing technology is not easy. It requires a team that understands current trends and the strengths and weaknesses of the type of technology your business uses. But according to experts at the University of Massachusetts, there are some key factors you can keep in mind to guide you through the future-proofing process:
- Does the technology you’re investing in meet your current needs as well as needs you know you will have in the near future? You can’t predict every need your business will have, but there are capabilities you know you will definitely need.
- Will you be able to update this technology in a few years? Systems or software that cannot be easily improved will become outdated much more quickly. They will also limit your flexibility down the line if you need to change things up.
- Are you investing in something that will quickly be replaced with a newer, better version? If so, will you benefit by waiting for this newer technology? Is this newer technology significantly better, or is it a product with minimal improvements from the previous generation?
- Do your upgrades fit your budget? There’s a balance between investing enough and investing too much in technology and it helps to consider the probable longevity of the technology you’re investing in. For instance, you aren’t likely to upgrade your phone systems as often as the PC’s your employees use. Landline phone systems just don’t receive the kind of game-changing upgrades computers do. So investing now in a higher quality phone system you might use for a decade makes sense. In contrast, if you want to be able to upgrade your employees’ PC’s more frequently, then a mid-range computer might be more cost-effective than the highest-end machine on the market.
Ready to Meet the Future Head On?
TracSoft’s IT team is here for businesses who are ready to invest in future-proofing. We can build a custom network for your business or upgrade your existing network to carry you further into the future. Looking to move from spreadsheets to automated databases? We do that, too!
Ready to move to a beautiful, functional, future-proof website? Contact us today to get started with our expert web developers and graphic designers.
Because we put cybersecurity first, you can rest easy knowing your TracSoft products are safe, reliable, and will work the way you envisioned. We work with you to meet your needs no matter your industry.
Call to schedule a free future-proofing assessment and discover how TracSoft can launch you into the future—and beyond.