Seven IT experts present their working predictions for business.
Organisations have adapted to the current pandemic and are now largely working in the ‘new normal’ day-to-day life. Now, with the recent announcement from the UK government that an ‘exit strategy’ is being pulled together for the country in response to the ongoing pandemic,
businesses are now beginning to think of what the future will look like once the UK has reached the other side of the all-important curve.
It goes without saying that the ‘normal’ as we once knew it has changed forever. But it’s looking at how businesses and organisations can adapt to this changing world that’s now the next vital step.
With this in mind, seven IT experts have shared their advice for businesses as to what they believe will be the biggest priorities for an organisation in the coming year, and the technologies they should be looking at implementing in order to not only survive, but thrive.
Plan for the long-term
In the initial stages of the virus and lockdown, there was furious activity to transform the workplace, enabling people to work from home, changing business processes, and mobilising apps and data to work as well at the edge as in the office.
But, as Jeremy Atkins, UKI sales director — Enterprise & Public Sector at Commvault, comments, “Right now, IT leaders should be thinking about how to deliver the right service, securely and efficiently, as long as the lockdown endures. Not only this, but they should be thinking about how this situation has affected their long-term IT strategy,
and how much they need to change it so it best aligns with the new normal.
“There are key questions the senior IT executive must ask themself. Do endpoints have adequate protection? Are you protecting the data in the cloud? Have you reviewed and updated your operational processes? Have you reviewed and updated your contingency plans?
“It is vitally important at this time for businesses to think about what they currently have on their IT agenda, and assess whether some projects can be put on hold. Now is the time to focus on what needs to be done in order to secure and enable the business, then build the new programme that will make life easier and more flexible in the future.
“Whilst the current situation may be temporary, it still leaves plenty of opportunity for disaster and attack both from external and internal sources. Along with the speed and scale of this change, we cannot exactly pinpoint where we will be in six, 12, 24 months, so it is best to be prepared for whatever the future may hold.”
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Utilise data analytics
Chief data scientist and co-founder of Mango Solutions, Rich Pugh, explains how data analytics will actually be a vital part of a business’s scenario planning: “Data analytics will underpin this planning process, particularly as organisations will look for ways to operate with increased agility and velocity moving forwards.
“Planning for uncertain times raises the need to simulate all the different likely outcomes, and then work out what is required for success. If different departments have embedded analysis teams, supported by off-the-shelf or customised tools, they can model the outcome of multiple situations at different points on the development and supply chains, organisations will be better equipped to address potential risk and make informed plans to handle all likely outcomes. Better still, insights generated by data analytics teams can be shared across departments and with the company as a whole to ensure everyone knows the warning signs to look for, and the best courses of action to help the company succeed.”
Analytics can also be used to help plan for security issues.
Richard Cassidy, senior director security strategy at Exabeam, explains that: “We need to rethink security operations centre (SOC) practices — the attack surface is far greater now and IoT security is a bigger risk vector than ever before. Organisations need to cast their net of inspection far wider now. The home office is the new corporate cubicle, and security teams will need to detect anomalies from home networks, users and devices — sources that are far easier to compromise, because they inherently lack security capabilities.
“Key to this is a foundation of behavioural analytics that can help detect attacks and automate incident response. This frees up security teams enormously by using existing datasets to detect anomalies across the entire estate and monitor critical assets to find early signs of suspicious activity. When presented with the most critical information and with all of the necessary context, security teams can better respond, mitigate, and remediate the many threats they are faced with.”
Keep security a front and centre priority
Building on Cassidy’s point, as organisations begin to plan for the changed ‘new normal’, it’s important to remember that security issues have now also changed as a result.
Steve Blow, UK systems engineering manager at Zerto, points out that: “Google reported that it had blocked more than 18 million COVID-19 related phishing emails every day during the first week of April. It is not surprising that cybercriminals are taking advantage by executing ransomware attacks amidst this pandemic, as many organisations, especially those in healthcare or public sector, face enormous pressures to keep systems up and running.”
Blow goes on to explain that: “Cybercriminals often exploit vulnerabilities in employee emails, so it is crucial to have the right cyber-defences in place to avoid a disaster where critical data could be at risk – especially when it comes to government or healthcare organisations. Having appropriate role based access control and an extensive tiered security model will help minimise risk. But, the attack itself is only half of the problem because, without sufficient recovery tools, the resulting outage will cause loss of data and money, as well as reputational harm.
“Over the coming months it is important that we see more organisations utilising tools that allow them to roll back and recover all of their systems to a point in time just before an attack. This level of IT resilience will prove to be paramount, as emails continue to exist at the core of most organisations, they remain a standing target for ever-sophisticated cyber criminals, whether in the middle of a pandemic, or not.”
Conboy comments: “While in the midst of the chaos it may seem irrelevant, or even a waste of time, to think longer term about business continuity. However, the potential for many organisations to keep a vast majority of their workforce working remotely, even as we begin to come out of the other side of COVID-19, in order to save on the cost of an office space, means it would be wise for organisations to consider investing in solutions and processes that are simple to implement, manage, and maintain remotely. Solutions that have built-in backup and DR, allow users to work remotely, safely, and securely, and provide protection from ransomware are becoming increasingly important in the new and uncertain times we are living through.”
Business continuity and DR is also paramount for online retailers, as Bob Potter, CEO at SentryOne suggests: “It is crucial that businesses such as retailers prioritise their database management to ensure that they don’t suffer from downtime. Impatient customers shopping online will happily choose a different site if their first choice isn’t loading, and with physical stores bringing in very little, if any, profits during this time, when the pandemic starts to recede it will be those with the most efficient online service which come out on top.”
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Continue to show employees you care
Although it likely wasn’t a smooth transition for every organisation, the move to remote working has been the biggest business change to come out of the pandemic. But, as Jay Ryerse, CISSP, VP of Cybersecurity Initiatives at ConnectWise, points out: “It’s important to consider that not all employees will want to come back to the office full time. Also, with the requirements of social distancing likely to be long-lasting, many organisations will have to implement designated work-from-home and in-office days for different teams.”
The impact of this will be around how organisations purchase IT infrastructure going forward, for example, buying more laptops instead of desktops. Ryerse comments: “That also means [organisations] will need to train employees on using a VPN connection to ensure the business can control whether the data flow is secure without putting the organisation at further risk from using BYOD.
“For those organisations that put infrastructure in place to allow their employees to work from home, they’ve most likely realised that the team can perform admirably in a remote workforce environment. This means organisations will need to strengthen their security as the majority or part of their organisation will want to continue working remote, and protecting their own company and customer data from cyber attacks and even hardware failure will be critical.”
These IT experts have shared their new working predictions for business. But, it is impossible to entirely predict what is going to happen ‘post-pandemic’. We’re still right at the epicentre of the issue, and so the importance of taking precautionary measures in order to grow, adapt and survive is paramount. Even with the restrictions in the UK seemingly beginning to relax, the danger is still very real, and organisations need to ensure that not only their future, but their employees’ well being is always taken into consideration.