IT for Engineering Firms: On the Horizon In 2024 

IT Consulting

It’s essential that engineering firms stay on top of the latest advances in technology while addressing security concerns and other challenges unique to the industry. So, what IT issues and trends should engineering firms be thinking about in 2024? 

Integrating AI  
Artificial intelligence continues to transform the engineering industry, and companies who effectively leverage the technology have a clear competitive advantage. Its most common current usage is in gathering and analyzing vast data sets at superhuman speed. While its ability to identify patterns and detect anomalies within millions of data points is impressive, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that AI is a tool, not a one-size-fits-all solution. In this use case, success depends entirely on the quality and quantity of data input to train the algorithm.  

AI has been used widely to aid engineers in designing complex systems. A clear advantage in AI’s ability to rapidly simulate and test systems is that it nurtures human innovation. This potentially gives engineers the freedom to be more creative and to “fail” more productively. Ideally, AI will complement, not replace, humans in the workplace–performing menial tasks efficiently and fostering a culture of experimentation that leads to new ideas and inventions. Generative AI is here to stay, and as more firms embrace the technology its full potential will emerge. 
 

Reducing Technical Debt 
As your company grows, new tools and software are added to better help employees do their job. But it’s easy to lose track of which department uses which software and many companies end up buying multiple unnecessary licenses. Reducing your technical debt means consolidating these tools, finding more efficient technologies, and ensuring you are running the latest version of each. 

Technical debt is a business risk and it’s important to take a close look at your technology to find inefficiencies. As your tech stack grows, so does the likelihood that something will fail or become a security risk. Adopting newer, better technology will reduce overall costs, improve workflow and limit security risks. The more efficient your tech stack, the more likely you’ll stay on top of required updates to keep you and your staff safe. 

Internet of Things (IoT) 
In an environment increasingly driven by connectivity, the Internet of Things (IoT) has profoundly impacted the engineering industry. As the market expands, so does demand for expertise in the field. Device integration requires infrastructure solutions that facilitate the collection and transmission of data, and its processing for practical use.  

The ability to gather real-time data from an array of interconnected devices and sensors has given engineers unprecedented insights into systems, structures, and processes, allowing them to optimize operations and predict maintenance needs with greater accuracy.  IoT technology facilitates rapid testing and prototyping, giving engineers the ability to quickly iterate and refine designs. Preventative maintenance can be highly targeted, addressing issues before they become critical, and reducing downtime.  

IoT also plays a pivotal role in sustainable engineering. The proliferation of smart building systems that can adjust lighting, heating and cooling based on occupancy and environmental conditions has led to significant gains in energy efficiency. The demand for “green” technology in residential, commercial, and industrial settings will only continue to grow. Whether it’s optimizing traffic flow in smart cities or designing efficient supply chain networks, IoT insights enable engineers to make data-driven decisions that lead to better solutions. With applications for a wide spectrum of industries, from medicine to aviation to city power grids, IoT will continue to evolve in 2024. 
 

Prioritizing Cybersecurity 
Cybersecurity tops the list of challenges for engineering firms, and adopting a proactive approach to threat detection is crucial. As cyber-attacks become more sophisticated, the risks and potential consequences become more severe. Strict access control is essential to reduce risk and ensure that only authorized personnel can access critical systems and data. Multi-factor authentication and role-based access controls should be used to limit permissions.  

Regular software updates and patch management are important to limit vulnerability to cyber-attacks, and sensitive data should be encrypted when in transit or at rest. Network security should include a robust firewall, intrusion detection system, and intrusion prevention system, and regular updates to policies and configurations to stay ahead of emerging threats. A proactive approach to cybersecurity should include regular audits and vulnerability assessments to identify and mitigate weaknesses in security. 

Lastly, businesses need a comprehensive incident response plan that outlines the steps to take in a cyber-attack. The plan should include roles and responsibilities, communication protocols, and strategies for minimizing downtime. Cybersecurity is not a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment to safeguarding digital assets in a landscape of rapidly evolving threats. 
 

Addressing Remote Work Challenges 
Remote work has become a defining aspect of the modern workforce and though many companies have encouraged a post-Covid return to offices, a hybrid model will likely be the norm going forward. Along with its numerous benefits, remote work presents unique challenges for IT for engineering firms.  

First, collaboration is at the heart of many engineering projects, so investment in up-to-date infrastructure that includes collaborative tools and video conferencing is crucial. Regular check-ins and team meetings will help maintain community and create a virtual environment where ideas can be shared seamlessly. 

Ensuring that remote employees have secure access to software, data, and computing power is the second crucial component of the remote work puzzle. Engineering firms have increasingly implemented cloud-based solutions and the use of VPNs, as well as providing home-based workstations that can run resource-intensive applications.  

The third challenge to remote work is ensuring privacy and security. Giving remote workers access to intellectual property and sensitive client data means strict cybersecurity protocols must be in place. Training in best practices, secure password management, and avoiding phishing attempts should be mandatory for all employees. Remote work is here to stay and engineering firms that embrace it with strategic planning will be positioned for long-term success. 

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In the tech world, it’s easy to overlook the human connections that drive successful business relationships. At Nessit, we believe in the power of partnerships. We know that every client is unique and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to IT. That’s why we take the time to really get to know our customers, to learn about their current IT issues and long-term goals. We want to understand a business inside and out before we propose a solution. 

When a Portsmouth, NH engineering firm approached us in late 2022, they had 50 employees and were spending roughly $500,000 annually on their IT. They were unhappy with their current managed service provider, and the systems they had in place weren’t compatible with their organization’s workflow. It was clear to us that a deeper dive into their operations was needed, and a thorough audit confirmed that they were spending far too much on IT. We learned that their previous provider had steered them toward a full migration to the cloud, a cookie cutter approach that isn’t right for every business. Their cloud infrastructure was set up to mirror a traditional office model, which proved ineffective and inefficient. Their work required a very specific approach to IT systems, and we knew that to come up with a solution we had to ask the right questions and get creative. 

We began with an in-depth conversation to understand the challenges they were facing, from both an employee and a management standpoint. This helped us uncover several ways we could help them improve productivity while reducing their spending on tech. This client uses engineering-specific software that allows multiple employees to access and work on the same files and drawings at the same time. These massive files include “parent” files that link to hundreds of other dependencies, which we’ll call “child” files, that pertain to a specific aspect of the project (electrical systems, sprinkler systems, etc.). Their former MSP hadn’t considered file size when setting up the network, and employees were frustrated by the long download times that hampered workflow. 

We also found that some of their existing technology, like project management software, wasn’t being used at all. We recommended that the company purchase engineering grade laptops, and to better leverage their current cloud software including Microsoft 365 which they were already paying for. We worked with them to come up with a more secure, cost-effective storage solution, moving files from an on-prem cold storage server that wasn’t backed up, to SharePoint. Our team reworked the remote management model of future machines, making the onboarding process smoother and faster for new employees. 

The client was also unhappy with the level of customer service they were getting from their provider–a smaller company who had recently been bought out by a large corporation. We assured them that this would never be the case with Nessit. We value personal connections with our clients and cultivate relationships that go beyond the transactional. When our customers get in touch, they already know the person on the other end of the phone. Whether it’s about a technical glitch or a strategic decision, they have a trusted ally ready to offer personalized guidance. 

A commitment to understanding our clients’ unique needs and challenges and designing customized solutions sets Nessit apart. By thinking creatively, we were able to tailor an IT solution that aligned with this engineering firm’s specific needs and goals. As a result of our partnership, the company has been able to save $200,000 a year on technology costs, while at the same time boosting productivity. We were able to leverage, rather than replace, many of their existing tools, and successfully transition to a hybrid model that made more sense for them than the one-size-fits-all fully cloud-based infrastructure. The business has been appreciative of our reliable support, and the peace of mind in knowing we’ll always have their back. We look forward to a long-term partnership and to celebrating their ongoing success. 

For Nessit, IT management is a partnership and our clients’ success is our success. 

If you think your IT could be more cost-effective, structured more efficiently, or you’re looking for better overall support for your team and your business, let’s talk

No matter what industry you’re in, effective IT management is critical to your organization’s success. Day-to-day operations hinge on having an accessible, reliable, and secure IT infrastructure. A failure in just one area can have severe repercussions for your business in terms of productivity, profits, or reputation. Achieving peak performance from your IT systems means more than just investing in the latest technology or services. Forward-thinking companies recognize the importance of having a future-proof IT strategy in place, and both co-managed and fully managed IT services can provide an effective solution for your business.  

So what’s the difference between co-managed and fully managed IT?

Having co-managed IT services will complement your company’s existing IT department and shares responsibility for infrastructure management. An effective provider brings expertise and a wide variety of experience with situations that your in-house team may not have been exposed to. In this collaborative model, your provider shares reporting, pre-configured management and automation tools, documentation, and processes that enhance your in-house team. Co-Managed IT is ideal for organizations looking to augment their existing IT capabilities and team, for businesses seeking help with a transition, and those that require more flexible resource allocation.  

A Fully Managed IT service provider assumes all responsibility for managing, monitoring, and maintaining your company’s IT infrastructure, removing the need for an internal IT department. An advantage to Fully Managed IT is that it provides a single point of contact for your business, eliminating the responsibility of maintaining vendor lists, negotiating pricing, and evaluating technical capabilities for hardware and software purchases. With strategic, long-term planning, your service provider will make sure that your technology can scale as your business grows, and that systems are optimized to support your business goals. Ideal for smaller companies, a Fully Managed service allows you to focus on your core business, and cuts the costs associated with employee training, salaries, benefits, and office space. IT expenses are predictable and can be budgeted for with Fully Managed services, reducing costly surprises.  

Shared Benefits of Co-Managed and Fully Managed IT Services

Proactive Maintenance and Updates – Your service provider will ensure that your network and infrastructure are always up to date and that new technology is integrated seamlessly. As a strategic partner, they can offer unbiased advice about technology upgrades and investments to better support your business goals. The service will also take a proactive stance, actively monitoring and addressing potential IT issues before they escalate.  

24/7 Monitoring and Compliance – Around the clock monitoring means problems are identified and resolved promptly, reducing the chance of downtime and lost productivity. A Managed Service provider will implement robust cybersecurity measures and data recovery planning to ensure business continuity in an emergency. For clients operating in industries with data compliance requirements, a provider will make sure standards regarding privacy, reporting, and security are strictly followed.  

With technology evolving at an accelerated pace, effective and efficient IT management is more important than ever. Both Co-Managed and Fully Managed IT offer distinct advantages and the choice depends on your organization’s unique needs, goals, and existing infrastructure. Whether you opt for Co-Managed or Fully Managed IT Services, your provider will ensure that your technology is up-to-date, secure, and aligned with your organizational objectives. 

If you’re still not sure what option is best for you, let’s talk! We’ll meet your company where you are today, and help you grow.  

Architectural firms have unique IT needs, and rely on specialized software and applications, large data storage, and seamless connectivity. Employees working in-office and remotely need to be able to access, share, and collaborate on files, blueprints, schematics, and 3D models. Managing your network infrastructure can be a time-consuming and complex task, and unforeseen IT issues can have serious consequences in terms of diminished productivity, disrupted deadlines, data loss, and compromised security.  

Managed IT services can provide myriad benefits for architectural firms.  

Customized IT Solutions 

Every architecture firm is unique and IT needs may vary. In an industry that requires highly specialized software, large file storage, and CAD support, a Managed IT services provider with experience in the field of architecture and building design is invaluable, offering custom tailored solutions to meet your firm’s specific needs.  

Streamlined Operations

The architecture industry demands precision and efficiency. By outsourcing IT management, firms can streamline operations, reduce downtime, and ensure that teams have access to the resources they need. This translates into greater efficiency and allows architects to concentrate on their core competencies without getting bogged down by IT issues. 

Enhanced Cybersecurity 

Protecting sensitive client information, intellectual property and proprietary design plans is essential to your business. Managed IT services provide robust cybersecurity measures, including firewalls, antivirus software, and threat detection monitoring, ensuring that valuable data is secure. 

Proactive Maintenance and Support 

Rather than waiting for issues to arise, a Managed IT services provider takes a proactive approach to maintenance and support. Regular system updates, software patches, and preventative measures will be implemented to address potential problems before they impact daily operations. Round-the-clock monitoring means issues are addressed promptly, minimizing downtime and providing a stable and reliable IT environment. 

Cost-Effective Solutions 

Managing an IT department in-house can be financially burdensome, particularly for smaller architecture firms. Managed IT services offer a cost-effective solution, with a predictable payment schedule, your business can budget effectively, strategically allocate resources, and avoid unexpected IT expenses.  

Improved Communication and Collaboration 

Architectural design demands effective collaboration. Managed IT services ensure that your team has access to seamless communication tools, file-sharing capabilities, and real time collaboration platforms, whether working in the same office or remotely. 

Data Backup and Recovery 

It goes without saying that data loss can have devastating consequences for architectural firms. Managed IT services include comprehensive data backup and a robust recovery strategy to protect critical files and avoid disruption to operations.  

Compliance and Regulation 

Following regulations regarding client confidentiality and data privacy is essential for architecture firms, both to meet legal obligations and maintain client trust. Managed IT service providers understand industry-specific compliance standards and will ensure that your business adheres to them. 

An efficient, secure, and accessible IT system is critical to your company’s success and effective management and monitoring is an often-complex task. Among the many IT challenges architectural firms face is integrating the latest technology into existing infrastructure, performing proactive maintenance, and ensuring security, compliance, 24/7 monitoring, and ongoing management. This is where Managed IT services can help, by providing customized, comprehensive IT solutions that allow you to focus on what you do best and position your business for success.