Data collection and analysis have become crucial for reaching business goals across industries. As the role of data has transformed, so has the way in which it is stored, protected, and managed. Growing use of the cloud, both private and public­, has led to a marriage of hardware and software that provides cost-effective, simplified solutions.

With no signs of slowing down, industry leaders and startups are spearheading innovation in the cloud data management space. Here are the top trends to watch for in 2017:

1. The Democratization of Data

The amount of data that companies collect has never been higher, and cloud computing makes it more readily available to employees. Data that was once reserved for top directors is now imperative for lower-­level workers to make smart business decisions. Democratization of data describes exactly this—­­providing employees access to relevant data.

However, there are challenges to this newfound openness. In order for data to be delivered securely and efficiently, IT departments must be able to easily control who can and cannot access specific data sets. Another challenge is that as data usage increases, so does the amount of data in the environment due to actions such as dataset cloning. To simplify cloud data democracy in a scalable way, expect to see solutions that deliver visualization and quick, easy access ­control.

2. Machine Learning for Big Data

The migration to the cloud opens up new possibilities for interacting with company data. Although AI isn’t a novel technology, its mainstream application to data management has just recently gained momentum.

One way that machine learning is being fused into this space is via intelligent storage. Software Defined Storage (­SDS) is more cost­ effective and has faster response times than the storage hardware it replaces. By mimicking functions of the human brain, intelligent SDS delivers better methods of collecting and combining data. Accuracy is also a huge benefit of this system, as the search function automatically extracts the most relevant outputs.

3. Cloud Security Tools

One of the biggest hesitations with hybrid environments remains security concerns. But experts argue that the cloud isn’t any less secure than on­site centers, it just requires different solutions.

And businesses are looking for solutions. A Forbes survey shows that CIOs are prioritizing cloud computing and security in their upcoming budgets; 82 percent name security as the main source of IT spending, and 62 percent name cloud computing. A recent Crowd Research Partners report reveals that 84 percent of participants find current security tools inadequate for the cloud. These numbers show that using cloud­-centric tools is a primary goal for businesses.

This widespread anxiety has propelled investment in cloud security startups seeking to reduce pain points in areas such as threat detection. As companies respond to IT concerns, an expected area of focus is on building software that simplifies policy compliance, data protection, and visibility.

While migrating to the cloud provides opportunity to efficiently manage and store data, it is critical that businesses use the right tools to make this shift. So for many firms, finding solutions to simplify cloud data management will have to be a top priority.