Technology predictions for 2014 & beyond

predicting technology futures – what’s in store for 2014?

Original publication

2013 has seen a number of technologies enjoy varying levels of success and growth, with mobile devices, cloud computing and enterprise app stores all continuing to gain momentum. As I have written about throughout the year on this blog, these technologies have all had that disruptive business model impact which makes them popular and shakes up the existing landscape.

As we approach the end of 2013, I see no reason to expect 2014’s emerging technologies and trends to be any different. So what do we have to look forward to?

wearable technology and absolute mobility

Mobile everywhere and mobile for everything. 2014 will be the year that mobile is ubiquitous, smarter, faster and our reliance on mobile connectivity becomes absolute.

2013 saw the emergence of bring your own device (BYOD) as a mainstream concept, with end-users pretty much eschewing the notion of work/life balance and taking their smartphones and tablets into the workplace as a matter of course and taking their work on the move with them, presenting companies with new security challenges. But the trend will continue and 2014 will see users expecting to be online in more places than ever, at high speeds and with more robust security levels.

This increased mobility will continue to be driven forward by the latest advances in mobile devices, with wearable technology to the fore. The announcement that Burberry’s chief executive has just jumped ship to join Apple is a good indicator of how technology and fashion will merge over the coming year.Google glasssmartwatches and other wearable devices will all connect to the internet and each other through the Cloud like never before. And speaking of the connected planet. . .

the Internet of things goes mainstream

The internet is dead, long live the internet of things. There are now more networked devices and machines on the planet than there are people and 2014 will see still more devices, appliances and vehicles come online and begin communicating with each other.

The internet as we know it has already changed the world and many aspects of our daily lives. It has benefited businesses, individuals and nations, often helping to transform the way governments deliver education, health and social services and making information more democratically available. The internet of everything addresses the next generation of networked devices, with machine-to-machine (M2M) communications powering new ways of doing everything. Right now our phones and tablets are our most common networked devices, but the internet of things will see the networking of cars, homes, appliances, televisions, meters, indeed most electrical and electronic appliances and devices. There is even a company in the Netherlands that has helped a farmer to connect his cows.

Forecasts vary, but recent research projects that by 2020 there will be 75 billion ‘things’ connected to the internet and communicating with one another. 2014 will be the year that everything being networked goes mainstream.

hybrid cloud and XaaS model

2014 will see IT architectures continue to evolve and bring greater flexibility to companies and end-users. In previous blogs I have written about the future impact of cloud computing on various IT disciplines, notably procurementstorage and business continuity and even the role of the traditional CIO.

The cloud will continue to transform throughout the coming year, and the direction it will take will be that of hybrid cloud. Companies with private cloud architectures in place should be ready to embrace personal cloud and make the shift to the hybrid model. The hybrid approach gives organizations greater operational flexibility and optimized costs without compromising security. Network performance is improved too.

The ‘as a service’ (XaaS) model will continue to grow in popularity as well, as organizations adopt its agility and flexibility benefits while also recognizing that the OPEX model carries major advantages over the traditional CAPEX, investment-up-front approach.

software-defined architecture

Software-defined architecture will also come to the fore in 2014 – a practice whereby the software or the application defines the purpose of the device itself. This can be a storage device or a server, or a personal device such as the music boxes or wristband and apps that tracks how you sleep, move and eat—then helps you use that information to feel your best. The function defines the form.

The software-defined approach can help revolutionize the way we program, use and interact with devices because it makes them completely customizable. Devices of any kind will become defined by their apps, making them directly programmable, more agile, centrally managed and configurable and giving us greater control.

share, share and share again

End-users are now, thanks to the rise and rise of social media, so used to sharing that it is second nature. There are now 1.15 billion active Facebook users and over 288 million active Twitter users, all sharing thoughts, information, news, opinions and more, all the time. There have been more than 16 billion photos shared on Instagram. And this is just the beginning.

3-D printing is one area where the sharing of ideas and designs is going to take off in a big way in 2014 and beyond. Sales of 3-D printers are forecast to grow by 75 per cent in 2014, as the technology takes hold in the mainstream. 3-D printing could have a massive impact on many industries, not least the manufacturing sector. It represents a new way of sharing, with companies no longer needing to produce things the same way. For example one company or individual can come up with a design or bright idea one day and that design can be shared and copied tomorrow. Manufacturing, product development, design and prototypes – all of these disciplines could be hugely affected. This does of course present a challenge similar to that faced by the music and movie industries; when you have moved from the physical world to the virtual, and people are so used to sharing, how do you protect intellectual property? Innovative smart machines may be the solution to that. But that’s for another blog post.

Happy 2014.

Original Publication

Six tips for mobile device management security

There has been a lot of discussion this year about the increasing influx of consumer devices being used for both professional and personal purposes. Many organisations are feeling a little overwhelmed as they try to work out appropriate security levels and device management boundaries. When you take into consideration all the platform and application updates chewing through corporate bandwidth, plus the potential for rogue applications and malware to gain illicit access to company data, there are many headaches for security managers to deal with.

Here are six tips to help get the efficient and secure management of mobile devices under control:

1. Have a strong mobile policy

This may seem like an obvious tip, but there is often a clear disconnect between employees and employers’ expectations of how consumer devices will be used in the enterprise. Research from IDC found that not only were workers using their devices at twice the rate, they also tended to think employers were far more permissive of the use of consumer devices than they actually were. It is therefore very important to have a mobile use policy clearly defined to avoid these kinds of misunderstandings.

A mobile usage policy is a framework that defines who the users are and what devices, platforms and applications they can and can’t use. Enterprises must clearly define policies around reimbursement for services and what applications users can access via personal devices, along with clear guidance on who controls the data on devices.

2. Create an inventory of assets

How can you be assured of the security of employees’ mobile devices if you don’t know how many are out there and what they are? Implementing a robust and regularly updated inventory management system is a vital part of any mobile device management system. While many businesses do have an inventory of fixed and wireless assets, the majority of them are not updated and validated on a regular basis, leading to the potential for security issues to slip through the cracks via unknown devices or inappropriate usage. Businesses with accurate inventories have much clearer insight into their telecommunication environments and as such, more reliable information on which to base policy decisions.

3. Ensure proper configuration of devices

The sheer number of different devices and platforms out there can make the configuration of devices a challenging process. Factor in entry level handsets, smartphones, tablets with different operating systems and employees working in numerous different locations and the issue becomes even more complex. However, if a device is enrolled with a mobile device management server, a configuration profile defined and managed by IT admin can be implemented, enabling the device to interact with enterprise systems. An appropriate level of encryption can also be added to any commands coming from the server to ensure that settings cannot be altered without proper authorisation.

4. Implement appropriate security

Despite the influx of consumer devices into the workplace, many organisations haven’t implemented stronger security controls in response, leaving them at risk of security breaches or loss of sensitive data. Data encryption is a powerful piece of the mobile security puzzle and yet many businesses do not use it on a regular basis. In addition to implementing data encryption, enterprises need to inform workers about the risks of failing to comply with security protocols – there is a good chance that they are unaware of the risks associated with using their personal devices for professional purposes.

5. Regulate application protocols

Taking into consideration that there are thousands upon thousands of mobile applications out there, strong protocols need to be instituted for the deployment of any new applications and the management of existing applications. Malware is steadily creeping into the app world, so even applications from the app store need to be checked before they are allowed into the enterprise. Such malicious applications can take over the mobile device and operate in the background without the user knowing, searching for sensitive information such as passwords or banking details.

6. Provide training and end-user support

A relatively small percentage of the overall functionality of the average mobile device is used on a regular basis. With devices becoming more and more sophisticated, users could end up massively under-utilising all the functions that are at their disposal. As a result, most enterprises would benefit from providing user training, including how to set up email, device customisation, application selection and usage, understanding browser capabilities, using instant messaging, and mobile data services and understanding device functions and shortcuts. Support and training can increase worker efficiency and also reduce security risks, as employees better understand how their devices work.

Managing employee mobility doesn’t need to be a nightmare. With the right systems put into place, employees and employers alike can reap the benefits of mobility.

Original Publication

Unified Communications: Leading the Cloud revolution

Original Publication

The 101 of UC

The term unified communication (UC) is a popular subject that has been floating around the workplace for some time….but is it really an essential component for businesses today? Do employees, or businesses for that matter, really understand the pros and cons?

The problem with the current workforce is that it is dependent but scattered: 78 per cent of workers are part of global teams that can be scattered across the world.

Being part of the global workforce isn’t in itself a hindrance: technology allows communication. It is estimated that the average worker carries 2.9 devices, increasing their accessibility. While having multiple devices – from email, to mobile phones, to desk phones, to videoconference and beyond – should make getting in touch with someone easier, it can actually hinder the process.

A simple example is this: calling someone on their office phone could see you leaving a message at reception, to be emailed to their inbox with the request to call you back. Ultimately, the excess in opportunity to contact someone wastes time and resources.

Unified communications (UC) is a solution that streamlines this process, uniting full time employees, managers, top level staff and part time workers to communicate in a new way, across broad geographic space and time zones.

UC integrates a variety of communication tools, from the traditional non real- time to the advancing real- time. Simplified down, a unified communications system should have five core capabilities: email, telephony, real time communications, calendars and directory services.

Originally, UC was the natural progression for a world where multiple communications channels could be accessed all at once. Now, however, it is a strategic business choice which enables easier workflows and more efficient workplace operations. According to a report by Frost and Sullivan, globally, the UC market is expected to grow from US$1144.8 million to US$2287.6 million by 2019.

The network effect

Regardless of the catalyst, as an organisation moves to UC, a platform can be adopted to integrate with existing frameworks – be it emails with a particular provider or a cloud solution. The UC platform, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), intrinsically changes processes within an organisation. As UCaaS takes hold, employees begin working more efficiently, adapting to the ease of communicating in real time via a single interface, but across multiple communication styles.

This hyper connectivity will benefit performance and capability but could also cause network performance issues. Things that need to be considered are:

– An increase in network traffic and applications and the need to address incidents
– Monitoring UC components to assess if they are working correctly across the network
– In-depth or packet level monitoring

With the growth of unified communications and additional new applications, the management of each new service is becoming far too complex for IT departments. Finding the right UCaaS provider can actually address all of these issues, by generating a customised and optimised solution strictly for your business.

If UCaaS is running optimally, the benefits to the end user and the broader business are extensive. Shorter time frames and less follow-ups results in increased productivity. The allowed interactivity can also increase decision making, reducing time lines, and increasing satisfaction and budget delivery.

Data, cloud and the security conundrum

These benefits are undeniable, which largely explains why 88% percent of enterprises have deployed or are planning UC deployment. Increasingly, UCaaS is deployed across a hybrid cloud scenario. In any business running UC, unstructured data is being created, and at a rapid pace. When UC is run either wholly or partially via the cloud, this data and the security risks alongside it increase.

The cornerstone of a successful UC implementation is having up-to-date accurate user information. This raises the question of security and privacy. Do I really want others to see my personal details?

The implementation of UC also changes business workflow and the need of a middle man to assign telephony UC. Some other core security threats include:

• Host and network-based intrusion – something that we have lived with since the dawn of computer technology.
• A VoIP-enabled form of phishing – basic phishing techniques are applied to the UC suite, meaning confidential information can be revealed over the phone by appearing to call from an official location, but actually infiltrating the organisation.
• Toll fraud – the incorrect lodging and pricing of media traffic (images, videos etc.) and voice and video calls. Toll fraud means that attackers can create a video call, but it appears as a telephone call. This misrepresentation means incorrect charging and scamming the system.

The top concern for organisations is the tapping of endpoint UC devices – laptops, smart phones etc. These breaches could infiltrate VoIP, IM or other traffic, potentially unleashing not only sensitive organisational information in the form of documents, but intercepting telephone calls, and sensitive emails. While this is the base level risk of unauthorised access, the next step is an organisation’s full network security being compromised. If a hacker infiltrates the network, there is the potential to not only access information but launch attacks and alter network settings – jeopardisinge the organisation on many levels.

These kinds of malicious attacks can come in many forms. Two common ones are denial of service attack and platform compromise. While different styles of attacks, both disrupt the communications infrastructure on different levels and in different manners.

Companies of all sizes are adopting unified communications and the collaboration capabilities it fosters to boost productivity and innovation, increase mobility and enhance flexibility. However the risks apparent in the cloud environment are also booming in.

UCaaS is the turning point for communications as we know it, and the way the cloud is utilised. At the beginning of this, the cloud revolution, we are looking to a more interactive, available yet accommodating time. To ensure that as UC takes hold of business it maintains the same robust nature and safety standards we are used to, the same considerations need to be at play. The same guidelines need to be put in place, including:

1. Develop a strong defence strategy
Assess the enterprise infrastructure and identify where vulnerabilities lie and how infiltrations could occur. Look at servers, endpoint UC devices and the actual network. Your security strategy should already address these core areas, but launching into the field of UC only enhances the demand.

2. Secure your infrastructure
As UCaaS becomes a reality, your organisation needs to build a secure infrastructure. This includes all aspects of ‘locking down’ your organisation, from data regulations, to securing PCs and tablets to the phone network and the protection, integrity and confidentiality of calls.

3. Check the legal side
The platform that you deploy UC on might be stock standard or could be strategically developed for your organisation. In any scenario, you need to ensure that the platform complies with all relevant laws and regulations of your region.

 

Mobility and the mobile workspace: the new demands on the CIO

Technology, as we knew it, is no longer relevant. Every day we are bowled over with a new app, toy or technique. We are moving to a world of smart technology at a pace that is almost impossible to keep up with.

The era of “smart technology” spans the time of smart phones, 3D printers, and beyond. A recent survey by Forrester Research anticipates that shipments of wearable computing devices will reach almost 30 million units this year. This realm is undefined and endless, and relates to anything from items tracking physical activity, to Bluetooth connected watches and the much anticipated Google glasses. 3D printers, currently fitting the bill for the art world alone, are expected to cost less than some PC’s by 2016, at under $2000.00 US dollars. The possibility is endless.

And now, with tablets expected to outsell laptops this year, this mobility aspect is become less and less a preference or request but rather a demand of employees.

The role that consumerism and trend technology plays in driving business structures and styles can no longer be ignored. Gartner expects that 80 percent of organisations will support a workforce using tablets by the end of 2013. This expectation will have a flow on effect: whether organisations are supplying the tablets, or supplying the application and platform for a personal device to be used in a corporate manner.

Regardless of the process, the outcome is the same. Business is changing, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up. The majority of organisations across the world, are not ready to house these technologies. The time has come for a new approach.

The context surrounding this change is also moving at what appears to be the speed of light. Faster broadband availability and the increasing availability of 4G networks will help enhance the way employees use mobile devices, and give further incentive to those considering investing in one.

From the perspective of the CIO, these new networks could redefine business practice and process, offering potentially game changing opportunities.

Working in parallel to these advances is the announcement of new privacy laws legislation. This herald’s big change on the horizon, changes that the CIO needs to understand and incorporate.

To throw a spanner in the works, let’s consider all of these advances in the context of the cloud.

Couple this with Gartner’s expectation that by 2014, 90 per cent of organisations will support corporate applications on personal devices, and you have a problem.

Data is now a defining factor. If the majority of employees start using devices, like tablets, to access both corporate applications and personal data and data security have the potential to spiral out of control. So pertinent questions are begging to be answered:

How safe is the cloud?
What is actually stored in the cloud?
How it is stored?

The list goes on. The combination of the growth in mobility and the continued dominance and reliance on the cloud means CIOs must start considering their organisational structure and if it can cater to this changing environment.

There is no time like the present to consider how to manage risk in the mobile cloud space – what privacy safe guards and good parameters are in place, and what needs to change.

1. Define your organisational policies in relation to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

BYOD is a phenomenon occurring in every organisation regardless of size and structure. You must assess whether or not BYOD can have a negative effect on your organisations workings – Is your bandwidth being compromised? Is it introducing large security risks to your network?

Your organisation may decide to ban BYOD and supply devices, or alternatively to create a more structured and regimented use of BYOD through the use of dedicated access points and tracking usage and activity.

Assessing current usage patterns and doing a cost analysis is a good step towards understanding employee and business requirements alike.

2. Assess network based security policies

This is especially relevant for companies who encourage the use of BYOD and don’t offer other devices. Setting these policies up can be difficult and time consuming, but it is an effective way of regulating consumer behaviours and enforcing some hard limits.

Often the issue with BYOD is that there is no limit defined, so building from the bottom up will allow you to gain an understanding of current usage, expectations, and develop a framework to cater these to the organisation’s security benefit.

3. Manage risk across multiple device platforms

Mobility trends encompass smart phones, tablets, PCs, laptops and the next generation of wearable computing devices, including items like the Jawbone UP system. This then becomes a multi-platform environment.

When your employees are reading emails on a smart phone, updating documents on a tablet, and downloading information on a laptop, there is inherent risk. For CIOs, managing risk becomes so much more difficult because each platform is different, and so each platform needs a tailored policy. Investigating and investing in a security policy that addresses all known device platforms will dramatically reduce risk and secure organisational information.

4. Controlling data on the cloud – centrally managing user accounts

Because the cloud is an essential storage device, you need to understand how to control the data you are storing. When you have multiple users in multiple locations moving in and out of your cloud, there is an increased likelihood that something could go wrong. You need to control the way your users can use the cloud, and what they can access. Your cloud service provider should allow you to manage user accounts, create shared folders to enhance collaboration, restrict access based on managerial level, and other tailored solutions to ensure a secure space when dealing with a mobile workforce.

5. Develop a policy plan and take control

The development of a security policy should be organic. After running through steps one through four – define, assess, manage and control – you should already understand what you need in your organisation’s policy.

Your policy should aim to minimise the use of rogue cloud usage by employees, ultimately reducing the likelihood of unfriendly events such as data leakage, malware outbreaks, or hacker theft. To be sure nothing slips through the cracks, develop a list of your top ten concerns, and then make sure these are addressed in your policy.

Some questions you might like to consider include: do we have an existing policy we need to adapt? Where is our data going to be stored? Does the service provider have any ownership of your data? What is the financial credibility of the provider? If things go wrong, what is our exit strategy?

Original Publication

 

Cyber security threats through the Cloud

As with most of technology, security goes through periodic changes, cycles and generations. Hardware, software, applications and methodologies all arrive, become commoditised and standardized to the point of being invisible, and then come back in a new evolved form. New platforms and new devices create new opportunities but are also subject to new evolved threats – something that remains true of security.

Cloud Computing: a brand new landscape for threats

IT security threats evolve and adapt to the new IT environment. As corporate and personal IT usage habits have changed, so too have the types of security threats present in the world. New IT practices like Cloud Computing give end-users great benefits in terms of mobility, flexibility and productivity, but they also give malicious third parties new routes to breaching security and increase risks. So while the Cloud has given users a whole new world of mobile computing, it has also created a whole new landscape for hackers and viruses to attack from.

The rise and rise of mobile usage and the Cloud have seen third party attackers change their approaches. Cloud services, social media websites and Android operating system devices have all become new targets, while traditional user data and website denial of service hacks remain popular.

Recent malicious examples in Australasia have included the damaging loss of over 20,000 customer passwords by surf wear brand Billabong and Web giant Google having its Australia office’s building control system hacked into. Similarly it was revealed recently that the Reserve Bank of Australia wascompromised by a phishing attack, while the Commonwealth Bank of Australia recently stated, in the light of hacking attacks on Australia Security Intelligence Organization, that cyber security is among its top concerns.

The risks posed by hackers and phishing attacks haven’t gone away, they’ve just evolved.

the ever-changing nature of the cyber security threat

Cyber security attacks and the ways in which they affect people and organizations are always in a state of transformation. As one IT specialist finds a solution to a particular problem or type of attack, so the creative hackers out there come up with something new and improved.

So as the Cloud has played out its role as both a disruptor and an enabler in the technology world, so too new threats have emerged from it. The leading threat to both organizations and individuals is data breaches. Companies fear sensitive corporate data falling into the hands of competitors, private citizens fear their bank details and credit card information being misappropriated and abused. This is of course not a new threat in itself, but the Cloud enables new routes to the hack, virtual machines and poorly-designed multitenant databases both offering different access points.

In addition to data breaches and data loss, there are the ever-present threats of account hijacking and denial of service, both of which can now be attempted differently thanks to the Cloud. API keys – the coding that Cloud applications use to identify each other – are another tool in the hacker’s armory, allowing malicious parties to launch denial of service attacks or accumulate fees and charges on a victim’s account.

cyber security: a critical business issue

So while the threat is still similar in nature to previously, the avenues to getting in have increased. What this means is that it is time for companies to start thinking about security as a defined strategic issue.

Data security threats and attacks are major factors in successfully achieving regulatory compliance, whatever industry a company might be in. Non-compliance through having inadequate protection of corporate and customer data is a terrifying thought for any company director, so cyber security now really needs to sit at the top of any senior executive’s ‘to do’ list.

but end-users suffer too

At an individual level, the Cloud has helped to bring phishing into the mainstream of cyber security threats. Phishing was previously quite an insidious tactic, but today it has become incredibly brazen and up front, particularly in the mobile world. Because people now use their mobile devices by second nature, often inputting their password dozens of times a day, users are simply less vigilant.

It is estimated that mobile users look at their devices for one reason or another up to 150 times per day – this means entering that precious four-digit PIN code repeatedly – and how many end-users are really certain about what site they are distractedly tapping their password into?

changing threats mean changing strategy

To address this ever-changing security threat, a change of thinking is required. For many years companies and governments acknowledged the need for IT security, were both aware of and concerned about the threats involved, but were still very reactive. So this change in thinking means no longer considering IT security as ‘just’ an IT issue. The focus must change to making cyberspace a strategic asset which requires as much security as physical borders and buildings do.

The Australian government has recently taken the proactive step of investing in cyber security, identifying the threat as a strategic one which affects not just ‘the Web’, but the country’s entire economy, infrastructure and the nation’s future prosperity. It has been estimated that during 2012, 5 million Australians were affected by cyber security issues, at a cost to the country of around $1.6 billion. So it is to the government’s credit that even in an election year it has given the problem due consideration and taken the initiative, ploughing money into cyber security. That’s how significant an issue cyber security and the new threats available through the Cloud have become.

risk management is required at all three levels

The evolution of cyber security threats to the new environment means that the threat exists at three different levels

  • the personal
  • the organizational
  • and the nation state or community level.

At each of these levels the consequences can be dramatic and risk management is required at all three levels.

Original Publication

Cloud is growing up and challenging IT and business assumptions

With the increasing implementation of cloud infrastructure-as-a-service, companies are taking advantage of new benefits, such as increased flexibility, availability and security.

In Australia, businesses have different levels of maturity in terms of cloud consumption. Some customers look for simple, immediate cost savings, whereas more mature customers value the flexibility and operational expenditure (OPEX) characteristics of cloud services which can result in more than just pure cost savings.

Fear of the cloud: data control, regulations and lack of standards

The real business benefits offered by cloud continue to be overlooked by less mature customers. Fear of the unknown continues to be the critical factor in resisting or recognising the necessity of adoption. At the top of the list of these fears are:

  1. losing IT regulation
  2. supplier shut in
  3. data control
  4. cost of migration

Organisations’ lack of knowledge of the power of tools available and an absence of agreed standardsfor control, remain the two key points that must be addressed to ensure mainstream enterprise existence. These standards will also answer questions about interoperability. Currently, the lack of comprehensive interface standards mean that interoperability between cloud platforms built by different providers presents one of the greatest barrier to entry into the cloud computing realm.

Despite fears, cloud grows fast

More and more, enterprises are focusing on the benefits of attractive OPEX models that deliver new business flexibility. They are overcoming the traditional barriers of security and compliance, as illustrated by steadily increasing adoption rates. A recent Frost & Sullivan ICT Outlook Briefing reported that the Asia Pacific cloud market is set to increase by more than 35 per cent in the 2011-16 period, with Australia leading the region with a current 43 per cent adoption rate.

The more mature customers go beyond just productive workloads in the cloud. They incorporate metrics which report on business results, not just cost of technical metrics such as computing power of bandwidth.

A standard cloud uptake model

There is a standard cloud uptake model we see happening in Australia.

  1. in the early stages of cloud adoption with less mature customers, public cloud is used in an ad hoc fashion with widespread virtualisation
  2. as businesses begin to realise the potential benefits, key processes are shifted to the cloud as the IT environment becomes more complex
  3. as businesses harness the potential for innovation and greater agility, whole industries have the ability and opportunity to be transformed

Why is it here to stay?

In the coming years, cloud will become a strategic business issue. Already we see IT becoming imbedded in the business process. The phenomenon of BYOD has become entrenched, and IT departments are being forced to grapple with BYOA. IT buying behaviours will become more complex as decision making spreads beyond the IT department. In fact, IT departments can improve their internal value communication based on business-centric metrics instead of technical metrics to measure the total cost of ownership or cloud computing consumption.

Forrester Consulting has conducted research into the metrics used to evaluate the ROI of cloud services. The research found only the most mature cloud users tie specific projects to business results, and that overwhelmingly there was an immature relationship between IT and the business.

CIO: a changing role

The role of CIOs and IT workers has already shifted from monitoring technology performance to ensuring employees and the wider business network have full access to required services.

Purchasing decisions are no longer strictly based on price and investment, but instead multifaceted consideration of current business demands, developing organisational needs and future flexibility. Big data and the evolving ability to assess business results and deliver specialist reporting is only just being harnessed by the more mature cloud customers, but offers a plethora of insight into business trends and opportunities if harnessed correctly.

Happy ending?

The recognised increase in overall business agility delivered by cloud computing is ensuring mainstream adoption. The smorgasbord that cloud is so well known for, particularly when referring to Infrastructure-as-a-Service, gives IT departments, and particularly CIO’s, the opportunity to carefully tailor and manage services across the organisations preferred domain.

This transition to coordinating IT environments gives CIO’s and other IT staff the ability to improvise and implement business services on demand, controlling and taking advantage of the cloud phenomenon. With Australia leading the transition in Asia Pacific to cloud services, CIOs are now in the perfect position to investigate and optimise business services, ensuring that the constantly changing workplace is reflected in the flexible and adaptable IT infrastructure.

Original Publication

How to secure an outsourced project

Despite our desire for simplicity, IT continues to become more complex. Decentralised applications or client-server models have become the norm. Smartphones and tablets are pushing mobile computing into a new era and changing user behaviour. Cloud has significantly altered the way we provide IT solutions and how we meet business needs with technical solutions.

Long gone are the days when a single person could master and manage an entire enterprise network. Today, many businesses lack the dedicated staff and financial resources to manage their ever expanding IT needs. Faced with this situation, a growing number of companies contract out part of their IT to external suppliers.

While many articles have explored the security issues linked with cloud services, there are still many people who fail to recognise the same arguments apply to other outsourcing services. In fact, the challenge of managing risks and security in a diverse IT environment remains the same; whether it’s cloud, outsourcing or managed services, the reality is you are handing control of your business’ devices or applications to someone else.

The security challenge

The challenge for many businesses is deciding the level of security controls and risks your company is willing to accept – you can choose a fully-dedicated environment where security levels are dictated by your organisation, or you can use a public environment in which you accept the default setup.

Today’s Chief Security Officer is assigned the task of managing security risks associated with these changes and must come up with appropriate solutions to alleviate them. For many businesses, the move to an outsourced model presents an opportunity to increase the level of network security. It could even be the trigger for a security upgrade.

 Establishing an outsourced project

Outsourcers will generally set technical, physical and organisational security controls that will be applied across all of the outsourcer’s services. This creates a baseline and spreads the cost of security across its client base. It is essential to understand your outsourcer’s baseline and request additional security if your project requires it.

Before entering into an outsourcing agreement, it is also important to consider legal matters. If the outsourcer is providing a “standard” service, it up to your company to ensure that your legal requirements are met – for example, regional data storage compliance and confidentiality legislation.

 Managing multiple outsourcers

Outsourcer management is often neglected despite the fact that many companies outsource different parts of a project to a range of suppliers. For example, one company might handle the telephony infrastructure, while another manages WAN. In this situation it is essential to ensure both outsourcers deliver the same level of security for their services. It is also crucial to establish clear communication between the various outsourcers and internal departments – especially during periods of disruption or change.

 Incident management

Incident management (both poor and effective) has significant legal, reputational and operational impacts. It is essential to establish a process that dictates when a security incident is detected by your outsourcers, it is adequately evaluated, and reported to you within a predetermined timeframe.

Before entering an outsourcing agreement, ensure that the outsourcer’s obligations are clearly stated and check to confirm the outsourcer doesn’t have any legal constraints that are incompatible with your business.

Conclusion

Whatever part of your IT or process is outsourced, it is essential to ensure all security aspects are fully considered and met, and each outsourcer delivers the same level of security for their services. Detailed consideration of these challenges will allow businesses to benefit from the cost and productivity gains offered by outsourcing, while maintaining strategic security plan of the business.

Today’s CSO must take a 360 degree view of the project in order to ensure requirements are met and managed efficiently, and incidents will be detected and dealt with correctly.

Original Publication