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Major shifts in retail technology signal the latest tech evolution

The modern retail environment relies heavily on reliable and secure networks. SD-WAN effectively supports critical retail technologies from point-of-sale systems and handheld devices that staff and shoppers use, to portable computers, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, recording devices, and even sensors and electronic scanners.

These systems are both diverse and essential for efficiently running the day-to-day retail operations—managing employees and stock-to-consumer marketing initiatives, monitoring security cameras, and tracking customers’ movement and time spent in the store. Retail technology has advanced as strides have been made to the underlying networks. But those improvements have come with an expanded attack surface. Every device can be a latent risk.

Here, I examine the latest changes in retail technology and our top takeaways—specifically casting a light on the need for dependable and secure network connectivity to drive today’s brick-and-mortar retailers into the modern era.

Storefronts are reliant on safe, dependable networks

 “Smart stores” have integrated networks that include self-service checkout, POS systems, intelligent schematics for retail merchandising, security, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. This tech stack dictates all of the store’s future technology decisions.

Thankfully, the slow-moving and pricier network routing system known as multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) has become outdated and replaced by the virtually-configured SD-WAN. SD-WAN distributes network traffic with faster network speeds and increased dependability. For a brick-and-mortar store, various types of broadband networks and 5G ensure systems are reliable and operating at high speeds.

Managing networks has become much more streamlined for retail professionals. Nevertheless, retailers are as dependent on optimal networking as ever before and must prioritize security measures. Cybercriminals only need to find a single weakness in an otherwise secure network to make a successful attack. When systems go down, retailers hemorrhage dollars and risk the exposure of sensitive customer data.

Retailers also need to consider how opening new locations and closing existing locations can impact network performance, speed, dependability, and security.

Read more about network security here: Vulnerability assessment vs. pen testing: Understanding the differences

Networking essentials for retail professionals

When choosing an approach to retail technology, savvy vendors consider networking products and services that align with an array of client budgets. Moreover, networks must operate 24x7x365 with the same dependability of a transformable commodity like electricity. The goal is zero downtime.

Retailers should strive for a hat trick in their next iteration of technology. To get there, retailers must define their goals, build a strong team with the right people, and identify the right process to position the business to progress. These success metrics can then be used to draft a technology implementation plan.

Retailers envisioning success also give thought to technology refreshments. No tech investment will endure for a decade. Instead, a strategy where CapEx is allotted for system upgrades in some years and operational improvements in others prepares for the future. But keep in mind that technicians are vital to improving in-store hardware such as servers, self-checkout kiosks, and mobile devices.

The role of SASE and SD-WAN in successful retail operations

Clunky MPLS systems are no longer the order of the day in modern retail technology. This obsolete mode of connectivity joined primitive operations and devices, routing traffic through the retailer’s head office and security barriers.

Today, bandwidth must accommodate the complexities of self-checkout, interactive wayfinding maps, intelligent planograms, IoT sensors like RFID tags, and store windows that incorporate AR. SD-WAN increases bandwidth and makes these systems more dependable. But strong security measures are still vital. SASE is at the forefront of retail network security, marrying SD-WAN networks and the cloud-based network security services of secure service edge (SSE). Cloud firewalls are just one benefit of SASE.

How LAN infrastructure can drive retail expansion

Security is an inherent component of local area networks in retail technology, as well as wide area networks. Mobile devices are not usually password-protected and constantly rotate users due to high turnover rates and alternating shifts. Here are four suggestions to keep retail devices secure:

  • Zero-trust security
  • Network segmentation
  • One-time login
  • Identity access management      

IoT devices like sensors should also be a security priority with attention to low lag times and expanded coverage areas. Mobile devices are often connected by 5G and private 5G citizen band radio services. Local area networks within a single retail location can develop small data facilities to manage transaction processing by leveraging privatized 5G and low lag times. Here the edge compute stack becomes a cornerstone of current and future retail technology.

Patch deployment

Physical retail locations enjoy more connectivity than ever, meaning patch management is necessary to secure potential weaknesses and restricted data such as credit card details. Disregarding patches creates more risk for retailers.

Patch management as a service takes some of the pressure off retail IT teams that are focused on mission-critical tasks that directly drive net income. Service level contracts at OnX deliver a 95% performance rate—more than double the retail sector’s average patch success rate of 40-50%. It is a significant upshot for the business overall, and IT teams can become more vested in products and services that directly deliver profitability.

Safeguarding tomorrow’s retail technology

The modern-day retailer can only adapt to changing market dynamics with cutting-edge technology. However, implementing tech changes can interrupt daily store operations. Therefore, it is vital to develop a network infrastructure where tracking and calibrating issues can be done remotely, allowing the store to continue day-to-day operations.

Anticipating changes in technology ensures that retail locations are consistently operational and creating cash flow. It is essential to partner with a third-party provider that offers state-of-the-art technology services and understands the importance of continued operations during the transition.

OnX Canada has extensive experience partnering with a variety of retailers, enabling us to tackle your specific networking needs and challenges. Contact us for more information on protecting the network at your retail locations.