Cloud Computing

Web Hosting and Cloud Computing Predictions for 2016 and Beyond: Part 1

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The evolution of cloud and the web touches nearly all aspects of our businesses and our lives. The past few years have provided some indications about how things can change, and how important it is to be looking for the next trends.

As we think about 2016, cloud and web hosting will continue to influence the world we live in.

Some of the trends outlined in this post reflect how clouds will become places where applications and data converge for greater efficiency… but places of convergence are valuable targets for criminals.

Here it goes…

E-Commerce Moves Further Into the Real World
Retail will converge into one platform; Online retailers might venture into real-world locations

We’ve already seen over the past few years how retailers have had to adopt e-commerce in order to compete. But in 2016, cloud technologies promise to get rid of the barrier that separates e-commerce from bricks and mortar shops.

Some of the features that will come are inventory management and logistics, as well as further integration with back-of-house operations like ordering and accounting.

Many of the e-commerce providers like Shopify are offering their own physical Point-of-Sale systems. And companies whose business model is largely based around POS (like Square) are broadening their offerings with useful integrations with e-commerce platforms like Bigcommerce and Ecwid.

Eventually, it will be impossible to provide e-commerce without offering a wide spectrum of integration between accounting, online sales, and physical POS. There are further opportunities for integration with CRM, ticket support, invoicing, etc.

There’s also an interesting trend where successful online retailers like Montreal’s Frank & Oak has used its online success as the basis for a recent delve into real-world stores. So, just as traditional retailers had to adopt e-commerce, online retailers might have to open physical locations to take their operations to the next level.

Website and App Builders Come into Their Own
Web hosts will compete to have the best building utilities; tools to build sites and apps lower the bar but specialists will likely continue to be relevant

Consumer-oriented site builders have a long history, and they’ve come a long way from things like Netscape Composer. The current line-up of tools are becoming more sophisticated, and many have integrations that make it easy to add content from social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Most shared web hosts have had obligatory (and usually quite bad) site building utilities for customers to clumsily build their own sites. The trend for 2016 is that every web host will have to have a modern and sophisticated site builder.

In many ways, the bar has risen for website building tools. Web hosts like Squarespace, Wix and, most recently, PageCloud have put their website builder capabilities at the forefront of their business, showing this is a feature customers care about.

Also, while it’s not exactly a site builder, the WordPress Content Management System essentially provides much of the same functionality needed to build a website. WordPress themes (like Divi from Elegant Themes) make complicated design and functionality easy to implement. Web hosts like WP Engine base their entire business around hosting WordPress users, and mass-market hosts like GoDaddy have come out with managed WordPress products.

In 2016, many web hosts without a good site builder will either code their own or acquire companies with the capabilities they need, or even develop services to support open-source tools.

As web hosts begin to take website building more seriously, companies like Squarespace and Wix will face more competition from traditional web hosts.

While PageCloud has boasted about how its drag and drop interface is revolutionary, it’s doubtful it will catch on because it creates sloppier code than its competitors. In an early preview of PageCloud, it seemed that:

  • It’s main focus is on the desktop experience and the mobile experience is an afterthought;
  • Element styles are in-line to each elements rather using CSS stylesheets that can change many elements at once and encourage uniformity;
  • Limitations in navigation menu tools (combined with the in-line styles) make it difficult to make anything more than a single-page site.

PageCloud’s idea is that regular users just want to make simple pages and don’t care about these details. Despite PageCloud’s ability to signup many initial users, its logic is ultimately flawed because developers would find this a frustrating tool to use – unlike something like WordPress that does a better job of complying with current web conventions and functionality can be extended through plugins.

While you might think website building tools are ideally aimed at DIY consumers who want to bypass specialists, many of these building platforms are used by professionals to simply their jobs. Web development shops tend to use applications like WordPress as the basis for their client sites rather than coding sites from scratch. Any non-standard functionality can be added through readily available plugins or custom-coded as a last resort.

Increasingly, the role and value of digital agencies will shift from their coding abilities towards becoming experts at assembling all the elements of a website (images, text, videos) and arranging them for the client using a variety of tools and seldom touching code.

In 2016, we’ll also be closer towards a reality where more people can build mobile apps, but the biggest developments are really aimed at making things easier for professionals.

This is very clear when it comes to an app development tool like the WaveMaker rapid development platform for hybrid iOS and Android apps. The platform takes a lot of the work out of coding native device functionality (like GPS or camera access) into an application, but it also simplifies application maintenance so that, for instance, continues to work with new OS updates that may scrap some APIs.

New Security Risks for Organizations from IoT and Cloud
IoT devices could be an easy entry point for attackers; New evidence suggests that malware can trick sandboxes and break free from VM isolation; “Ghostware” infiltrates systems and it goes undetected

Just as it seems organizations have gotten used to their security perimeter extending beyond the walls of their data center to external clouds and smartphones, more “things” are about to connect to the network – and this could increase risk. In 2015, we saw proofs of concept for attacks where a compromised IoT device network could provide a foothold within corporate networks to “land and expand” or malware could exploit communication protocols between the devices and the network for a man-in-the-middle attack. Worms and viruses targeting IoT devices could also propagate (and persist) among millions or billions of IoT devices expected to come online in coming years.

According to a report from FortiGuard Labs, the research division of cybersecurity provider FortiGuard, IT will be dealing with more sophisticated malware in the coming years directed at cloud technologies.

Virtualization might not be able to provide the isolation needed to keep threats within VMs. Vulnerabilities like Venom suggest that malware could escape from a hypervisor and access the host operating system, meaning that an infected client system could compromise an entire public or private cloud system.

FortiGuard also predicts a variety of malware it calls “ghostware” because it will erase all indications of compromise, so that organizations cant’s track the extent of data loss or what systems are compromised.

Blackhat hackers are also finding ways to deceive application sandboxes (the bomb disposal container where runtimes can be set off to reveal a malicious payload). Researchers have found “two-faced malware” that behaves differently during a Sandbox inspection so it will pass a sandbox inspection and be able to deliver its payload when executed on the system proper.

2015 was unusual because of the commonplace of “mega breaches” that cost organizations millions in damages, and these mega breaches are likely to continue well into the future, according to a recent poll of Chief Information Security Officers.

And it’s not just businesses like Sony and Target in the cross hairs. Joe Adornetto, CISO of Quest Diagnostics, noted that healthcare continues to be subject to attacks attempting to steal health records. “No other single type of record contains so much Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that is often linked to financial and insurance information and can be used for various attacks,” he stated.

Anything with value, essentially, is fare game for criminals and worth their efforts. This is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

See Web Hosting and Cloud Computing Predictions for 2016 and Beyond: Part 2 here.

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One Comment

  1. Great article. You should add a "print" button :)

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