Information technology security and business

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Technology has had an undeniably colossal affect on how we do business. We can now communicate with people around the world in real time, pay for goods with the swipe of a card or click of a mouse and download files from the cloud with the push of a button.

Like with most things in life though, technology does have its downsides. Historically, technological problems have centred around speed and reliability. Thanks to advances in programming, processing power and cabling, technology is now faster and more reliable than it has ever been. This is also in part thanks to more people becoming ‘tech savvy’. People expect more of technology, and more people are working to improve it. As such, the age old issues of speed and reliability which have plagued almost all forms of technology, are no longer under the spotlight. I would argue that security is now a bigger issue.

A padlock on an ethernet cableThe growth of the global tech savvy population means that more people understand how technology works, which is great in some respects, but from a security perspective, it can be concerning. If your employees know how to access confidential files you store on your server, or your customers are able to apply 99% discounts to products in your online shop then you have a problem.

In 2014 eBay was one of the most high profile victims. Vulnerabilities in Javascript and Flash code on some listing pages enabled hackers to steal users information, post fake listings and redirect visitors to fake payment pages. In 2013 Sony was fined a quarter of a million pounds by the ICO in the UK for compromising customer details in a 2011 data breach.

In it’s recently released business security e-book, Dell state that they believe many of the security problems we face today are because businesses use fragmented systems and they use a different security solution to protect each one. Whilst your payment system might be completely watertight, if it’s linked to your website, which happens to contain some vulnerable Java technology, then hackers may be able to crawl into your systems. To quote Dell’s Director of Product Marketing, Bill Evans “Patchwork solutions that combine products from multiple vendors inevitably lead to the blame game“. He goes on to say that when using fragmented systems, each vendor “is responsible for only part of the problem” making it very difficult to properly secure your systems.

There are many different solutions for companies out there. As a business you could ground yourself firmly in the first half of the 20th century and refuse to adopt technology of any kind. After all, if all the details on your client, Mrs Jones, are kept in a file in filing cabinet 35B on the sixth floor of the of your customer information storage centre, a hacker cannot squirrel their way into your network and then publish Mrs Jones’ details on the Internet. That does however mean that when Mrs Jones pops in to see you, you have to keep her waiting for 20 minutes whilst you go to find her file – as opposed to typing her name in and pulling up her details on your tablet.

There are often benefits of using software and technologies from different vendors, and it would be foolish to dismiss a good business system just because it has a few minor potential security floors. The challenge then is to find a security system than can protect your new technologies.

A security key on a keyboardUsing a single, comprehensive security system, such as Dell Endpoint Security to protect all your information technologies would help top alleviate many of the problems that arise when using a patchwork network of security systems. Using one system would instantly eliminate conflicts between security software. It can also be much easier to manage one unified system than trying to juggle several separate schemes.

Naturally each individual security system may have some specific advantages that one universal security system may not, but the fact that a universal system is just that, universal to all your businesses technology, is a huge advantage.

Dell believes that all good universal security systems should: protect the entire business both internally and externally; comply with all internal policies and indeed national laws; and enable employees to adopt technologies with confidence and ease, promoting efficiency and innovation.

What are your views on business technology security? Let us know in the comments below.

File Sharing: Is Your Business Getting the Most Out of It?

Has your business ever reached a point where it’s run out of spare capacity for important files on its hard drives? If so, you might wonder what you could do to make sure it never happens again. The same might go for moving large files around, which can be fiddly at the best of times when email accounts cannot cope.

More room

A business can never have enough spare capacity for files. A growing number of businesses throughout the world have turned to cloud computing to help do both for a variety of reasons, which include:
Data servers

  • Being able to store files online in a ‘cloud’, an online space where they can be accessed securely.
  • Being able to share files from the cloud with clients and colleagues – collaboration is also possible.
  • Providing a viable alternative to a traditional server which is far more cost-effective.

While all this is help to make using the cloud palatable, there may be a possibility that businesses aren’t getting what they expect from some cloud storage providers, and that’s where enterprise cloud computing services like Egnyte come in.

Value for money

As with everything else they buy, businesses should make sure they get the most from their cloud storage and online file sharing package. There are a number of pitfalls facing companies who turn to the cloud for some of their IT solutions which they would do well to avoid.

The main one is the limits placed on the amount of file space you have to work with and the size of files which you can share. Many providers have limits in place, so it’s important to get as much space for as little money as possible. Also, consider what your business needs – how big are the files which you share and how much space do your files take up?

As this article states, the way in which your file sharing vendor affects your internet connection is also important. If you have several file sharing accounts, they could slow your internet speed down, so take that into consideration before choosing the right service provider.

Safety first

Another factor that should influence choice of a cloud file sharing provider is the security of their services. Most providers have security software which limits opportunities for accounts to get hacked, while a few have taken extra steps to make users’ accounts practically impervious to even the most sophisticated malware.

Is remote working the future for business?

In previous articles I have talked about how technology and business interact, and what the future of technology might hold for the world of business. In this article I am going to explore the idea that in the future, almost all business will be conducted remotely.

The number of people who permanently work at home in the UK, (known as teleworking) was estimated to be 1.3 million in 2010. The working population of the UK at the same time is believed to be around 30 million, therefore around 4.5% of the UK’s population (in 2010) were teleworkers. That said, is is estimated at the same time that 3.7 million UK workers sometimes worked from home, and sometimes went into their place of work. That means that of the working population, around 12.5% were, at some point, working remotely.

The figures are similar for the USA, and other developed nations. More and more firms around the world, are offering their employees the opportunity of working from home, but why?

Cost Advantages

Many people do not realise it, but it is often much cheaper to give employees access to the technology they need to work at home, than it is is to provide them with a workstation in an office unit. Yes that might mean you need to buy every employee a laptop, printer and make sure they have an internet connection, however that is often much cheaper than maintaining a workstation, in a fixed location.

If employees work in an office, then the firm either has to purchase or rent the premises – this can be very costly. Furthermore, an (often very expensive) IT mainframe system needs to be in place, to ensure that the entire building is connected internally, and with the outside world – including offices in other locations. Most employees will need a computer to work at, so why not buy them a laptop, give them their own printer, make sure they are internet connected, and tell them to work from home? It is often much cheaper.

Technological Advancements

Improvements in technology mean that working from home is more viable than ever before. Thanks to online storage systems, which allow simple, easy and effective file sharing among workers, employees are able to connect with each other, and share data from almost anywhere in the world. Outsourcing such tasks is often a much cheaper option for firms, than maintaining their own expensive IT infrastructure.

Advancements in communication technologies have also improved the viability of teleworking. I have previously wrote about QB Robots, robots which are effectively your eyes and ears in the office, which you can remotely control, whilst you are not in the office. These sort of devices mean that you can still connect with other workers, almost as if you were there in the room with them.

Anybots QB Robot

The head of one of Anybots QB robots – notice the webcam eyes and screen inbuilt into the head – such robots can improve the potential for remote working

You don’t necessarily need a QB robot to stay in communication with others though. Technologies like webcams, and VoIP mean that it is really easy to stay in contact, and in the loop, so you are just as up to date, as you would be, were you in the office.

Service Improvement Through Better Access

Technology has made it easier to work remotely, and it is often cheaper, but another advantage of teleworking, and a reason which I believe will be one which causes further growth in the industry, is the improvements in accessibility that teleworking offers.

In his recent article ‘Five changes in video conferencing for the next decade‘ Rashed wrote about how improvements in connectivity could improve the prospects for services like telemedicine. Being able to connect to people remotely, means that those who live/work in more remote areas, are more likely to be able to become connected.

Improvements in Productivity

Many studies have shown that working from home can actually boost productivity and reduce the time employees take off ill.

British Telecom claims that its teleworkers save it an average of £6,000 per year (per worker) due to the reduction in the costs of having to provide a workstation, the reduction in commuting costs, and through the increases in productivity. BT claims that its teleworkers are 20% more productive and take fewer sick days. This is probably due to the reduced stress associated with working at home, due to employees not needing to deal with the hassles of commuting, and the occasional hassles presented by co-workers, arguments and misunderstandings can cause stress!

In addition to this, the less time employees spend commuting, the more time they have to themselves, and the more time they can spend working. Say an employee spends an hour and a half commuting each day (two 45 minute journeys) then they could spend an  get an extra 45 minutes working, and get an extra 45 minutes to themselves.

In Summary

To conclude, working remotely is often a much cheaper option for both firms and employees, it has been made more viable thanks to technological improvements, it can improve the services that a firm can offer, and also improve the productivity of the workforce. These are some of the reasons, why I believe teleworking will become much more common in the future.

ITIL improves the relationship between the business and IT

The most successful business can usually demonstrate a healthy relationship with its IT department. This is because over time IT has learnt what it is that the business require from technology and as a result have been able to design and deliver IT services that meet the needs of the business. This in turn can be seen as an enabler of the success of the business as a whole.

A very simple conclusion can be drawn from this and that is that if an IT department delivers to the business the IT that it wants and needs, then the business will be more inclined to listen to the advice of IT on technical matters in the future. There is also an increased likelihood that they will provide sufficient investment to meet future requirements. In other words business and IT will get on well with each other – a happy marriage!

Handshake through a laptop screen

Business and IT need to get on well

However, we’ve all probably been in the situation whereby the business is extremely demanding of IT. Where the business itself identifies technical solutions, before even identifying its needs. Where budgets are cut whilst demands continue to increase. Certainly in such circumstances, the IT professionals strive to perform as best they can, but frequently fall short of meeting the lofty expectations of the over demanding business community. This often results in more cuts and/or poorly managed outsourcing activities. The end result here is typically increased dissatisfaction, which in turn can easily lead to reduced business productivity and ultimately increased costs overall. Most definitely not a happy marriage!

The ITIL best practice framework is designed to improve the relationship between IT and the business. By building bridges between the two, the improved communication will help to ensure increased alignment between the IT delivered and the specific needs of the business. This in turn cannot help but improve productivity, both for the business community and IT itself.

An IT department should not be run from its own remote silo. Rather it should be considered part of the business as a whole and indeed central to the success of that business. ITIL facilitates a good working relationship between the business and IT, which can only be beneficial to both parties.

As the saying goes…. It’s good to talk!