Cloud is home to next generation storage and business continuity

I’ve written several times recently on the disruptive nature of cloud computing and how its omnipresent nature is removing complexity from traditional business processes and practices. Another increasing trend I am seeing is significant change in business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) options driven by cloud technologies.

Most senior business leaders have been involved in some level of ICT disaster recovery at one time or another throughout their careers, and they can be stressful times. Sensitive corporate data is thrown into the wind, private employee information can also be put at risk, and daily business operations are disrupted by something more often than not beyond your control.

The key to ensuring smooth BC in the event of an unforeseen emergency is to have backup systems in place in at least one other location to allow your organization to transfer operations and processes – and today the cloud is providing a truly viable, cost-effective and flexible alternative location.

a question of costs

The cloud did take a little while to gain the trust of business owners and leaders, particularly when it comes to the storage of sensitive and confidential company information. There was a fear factor in place for quite a long time, but as the cloud continues to become an accepted mainstream tool, that attitude is changing.

With greater acceptance, more organisations are exploring cloud storage for BC and DR purposes. A number of cloud service providers now offer Backup “as-a-Service” and organisations are considering the many benefits of this option for cloud-based BC and DR  for servers and PCs, which can be scaled up or down depending on customer need.

It is this flexible nature which, as with all things cloud, is proving popular; customers want to control their costs and a cloud-based backup solution helps them to reduce their CAPEX outlay. There is no need for unnecessary in-house infrastructure for backup and storage since it is hosted in the cloud under the as-a-service model, freeing up budget and also internal data center capacity for other purposes.

gathering momentum and trust

BC and DR “as-a-Service” offers  real opportunity, and one which is only really beginning to be fully understood by customers who have long been used to the off-site but on company premises backup approach. We are in the Big Data era, meaning that as companies continue to build up more IT assets – laptops, PCs, tablets and smartphones – they are generating more data than ever before. As such more storage than ever is needed and storage costs are escalating.

So as organisations look to manage these escalating storage costs, one of the options is to engage with a cloud provider to investigate alternative storage and backup systems.  Cloud providers who can mutualise their costs across multiple user organisations and reduce costs can offer significant savings (in some cases as much as 50%) by taking BC and DR strategy into the cloud. But as with any other disruptive technology, there is a learning curve involved – some companies still need to get out of their comfort zones to reap the benefits of the cloud. The positive side for them is that in many areas of their business they are already doing just that; most organizations already engage with numerous third-party suppliers for business-critical services and processes. So the step into BC and DR in the cloud need not be such an intimidating one.

Industry research backs up the trend. IDC predicts that over 102 exabytes of external storage capacity will be sold in 2017, up from 20 exabytes in 2012, while the next four years will see external storage space purchased by companies grow by between 30 per cent and 40 per cent.

picking the right way forward

But companies need to decide the right way forward for their needs. Having decided to place BC and DR in the cloud, should they choose public, private or hybrid? There are many different options available on the market, but organizations must be wary of merely selecting an anonymous black box – their cloud storage solution can end up being based on no relationship with the supplier, without any visibility and only interacting via a web interface.

So it is worth evaluating the hybrid cloud approach which gives you a more traditional relationship with your supplier, including SLAs, greater trust and an on-going partnership – global enterprise organizations in particular need this kind of underpinning.

be aware of the pitfalls

So while evaluating the many benefits of BC and DR in the cloud, companies do still need to be aware of the potential hazards. Since breaking onto the scene as a disruptor, the cloud has almost become something of a drug. We utilize the cloud for so much of our daily lives now, both personal and professional, that it can become second nature and somewhat taken for granted. Consider the many stories of tourists going on holiday only to return home to massive roaming charges from their mobile service provider – this second nature of the cloud can mean racking up out of sight, out of mind bills.

So once you decide to take an as a service approach to storage and backup, be aware that you are now in the massive content and data generation era. A staggering 90 per cent of all the data generated ever has been generated over the last two years, and it all needs to be stored and backed up somewhere. We are creating more and more data all the time, and show no sign of stopping any time soon. But with organizations needing to manage this on-going data explosion on a cost-effective basis, I believe that the era of cloud storage and backup based on the OPEX model has truly arrived.

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

 

Next-generation IT procurement

I’ve blogged several times recently about the impact of ‘disruptive’ technology on the world and on the IT industry, and with good reason; disruptors are the new trends and practices which re-define the ways in which we work, communicate and pretty much conduct our daily lives.

One of the latest disruptive developments in the IT world is in consumption – how we acquire and utilizeIT products and services. And as with so much else just now, it is being disrupted and driven forward by cloud computing.

a shift in procurement thinking

Traditionally IT procurement has been driven by the CAPEX model, whereby vendors agree deals with customers for products or services which see the customer pay around 70 per cent of the project cost up front. Great business for product vendors, guaranteed money up front and happy vendor CEOs. This has meant that the risk and the responsibility lie with the customer to leverage the product capabilities.

The industry is now fast headed in the direction of the OPEX consumption model – essentially pay-per-use – which puts things very much more in favour of the customer who is buying the technology, rather than the vendor.

As with all things in IT, the shift in thinking and evolution of business practices faces a number of key barriers to implementation – in this instance, cost, complexity, adoption and risk. And it is in addressing these barriers where success in next generation IT procurement lies.

changing the model

What this OPEX consumption approach does is to change the game from a vendor perspective and make services more important than product sales. The saying was always that ‘the customer is king’, but that has become ever more true today thanks to cloud computing and services empowering customers and end-users like never before.

This new subscription model, powered by the cloud, has transformed IT provision into a service versus product approach. The OPEX model reduces both customers’ costs and risk, and allows them to experiment in a more risk bounded environment. They can start small and try solutions and services out, and if they gain business benefit, then they can and will expand their usage of that technology. This is the beauty and attraction of the cloud computing and managed services approach – simplicity. In the age of the iPhone, IT mobility and personal empowerment, end-users just love simplicity.

So vendors need to change their thinking in response to this shift in procurement mentality. There are examples in the market now of vendors offering a ‘try before you buy’ approach to encourage potential customers in. Customers no longer want huge implementation costs – smartphones for example don’t come with a thick user manual – and simplicity is key. The simpler the user engagement, the more managed the service such as SaaS or IaaS, the lower the risk from the customer perspective, the more likely the increase in adoption.

the consumption gap

Much of this new procurement thinking has been driven by the consumption gap. Customers grew tired of wasting money on products and services features they simply never used, or in fact, ever really needed in the first place.

Under the CAPEX model, all the challenges and the risk were placed on the customer. They had tointegrate the solution into their operation, maintain it and so on. They were forced to buy separate layers of systems and applications for a premium price and then only used a small percentage of their capabilities, since many of its functions might not be necessary to their business. The move to the cloud-based model, or try before you buy, reduces the impact of this and gives organizations much more agility. In effect, the iPhone apps model has been duplicated within enterprise IT. So customers find that they have more choice – and they are responding to that.

The demand is undoubtedly there; IDC recently surveyed organizations in Australia and found that 86 per cent of Australian enterprises are now using cloud computing, up from 71 per cent the previous year. The global cloud market will be worth $240 billion by 2020. As IDC called it, cloud is now “business as usual.”

staying at the cutting edge

The old adoption model also meant engaging in a long procurement cycle – often several years – to specify, commission, build and integrate an IT solution into operations. The consumption model enables organizations to circumvent this. If they spot a trend they have the agility to respond to it immediately and get systems in place more quickly.

This is one of the key benefits to customers under the managed services and cloud delivery model; they can enjoy fast adoption based around mobility and rapid roll-outs. Companies can always enjoy the most up to date models and versions – for example many organizations remain locked in to out of date email applications. The cloud enables them to always be in a state of upgrading, always enjoying the benefits of the latest and greatest version.

customer simplicity, vendor complexity

So the next generation procurement model makes life easier and more predictable for the customer – but for product vendors, there are challenges to overcome. Under this service versus product approach, customers are able to keep things as simple or as complex as they choose. They can procure and use a device or technology at the top level and enjoy value from it, or delve further down into its capabilities and enjoy much greater benefits. Vendors will need to adapt to this.

Similarly, the managed services approach also gives customers simplicity in support terms; end-users don’t like complexity and prefer simplicity in IT support. Under the subscription model, their provider can use in-depth analytics and Big Data to provide them with the quality of service and support that they demand. The cloud even means that IT support has moved online, and all these new provisions are being powered by end-user demand. The consumer is making the decisions now. And cloud delivery and the subscription or pay-for-use model is how they want their IT.

Original Publication

Top Bank CEO becomes LinkedIn influencer

Mike Smith, CEO of ANZ Banking Group is leading the way for CEO’s into social media.

He is joining the elite of LinkedIn called the global influencer program which includes US President Barack Obama, British PM David Cameron,  Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Virgin founder Richard Branson.

Many now predict, that we will now see the CEO & Board member elite who have not felt the need to join a professional Social Network will now rush to not be left behind.

First Australian CEO accepted into the influencer program

CEO sees the light on social media

…………………

The Ins and Outs of Cloud and Outsourcing

The speed at which IT is developing and the general nature of modern business means that many enterprises rely on specialists to manage our systems and applications. Economic and competitive pressures have made it imperative for organisations of all sizes to focus on their core competencies and turn to third-parties to assume responsibility for key corporate functions. The most common form of outsourcing is the cloud. The cloud simplifies many aspects of IT and the business services world.

Outsourcing is by no means a new or revolutionary concept and to date, it continues to deliver consistent financial benefits. By engaging a cloud service, a small organisation can have access to leading technology without large investments, while global enterprises can ensure that business sectors are managed effectively and efficiently.

Aside from obvious financial benefits, the list of incentives continues to grow: service quality, access to innovation, the removal of non-core functions, access to leading IT skills and resources, and forecast future IT spending all contribute.

For any enterprise, the benefits of outsourcing to the cloud are only guaranteed if certain guidelines and precautions are put in place, and in order to do this, you must understand the challenges:
• Potential loss of control over certain business functions
• Rigidity and a general lack of flexibility in the services received
• Time and effort involved in managing the service provider

The key is to select a provider whose cloud portfolio is as flexible and varied as the workloads it may handle—today and into the future. For many enterprises, the cloud is no longer a curiosity, but an opportunity to transform IT. As they think beyond one or two isolated workloads, their criteria in selecting a cloud provider become more stringent. To meet business goals for efficiency, cost-reduction, and simplification of processes, enterprises must look for a cloud provider that offers a range of services that meet today’s needs and can grow with the business.

Understanding the organisation you are outsourcing to is pivotal in addressing potential security problems, so below are some basic guidelines:

Understand the current security model

It sounds obvious, but often it is taken for granted. Evaluating the security controls currently in place in your organisation and what risks they should be eliminating, is important in knowing what you need to ask for when you seek a cloud service. This process also helps identify what is working and what isn’t, and provides you with the ability to request the same security standards in your cloud service provider (CSP). If this assessment uncovers gaping holes, you have the opportunity to rectify this with your new CSP, or if your security is up to scratch, then you have a benchmark by which to measure. Ensuring that internal security measures and your new CSP security credentials matchup is critical in delivering the safest environment possible for your organisation.

The variety of cloud solutions available – from infrastructure through to network – your cloud choice may need to integrate with existing security standards. In such cases, firewalls and other traditional security measures can be adapted to integrate with new security policies. In theory, this is the case; however a full assessment and understanding of these traditional measures may uncover non-compatibility with current systems. Understanding the full scope of your business, your requirements and your current security measures will direct you to what you need from your CSP.

Keep in mind: Change can be difficult, and risky. Have a safety net in place. Your security systems are going to change in your organisation, and to make sure it is for the better means you need to understand the security bottom line.

Don’t be afraid to: Take this security investigation as an opportunity to give your security system an overhaul.

 Ask tough questions and assess the risks

Managing your outsourcers’ security levels should not be overlooked. The CSP’s internal security policies, regulations and laws (if you are looking offshore) need to be understood and evaluated. They will help develop a picture of what the security spectrum of your business will look like in an outsourced environment and most importantly identify any current gaps.

A cloud has different avenues for attack than would otherwise be available in a traditional data centre. The increased surface of a cloud increases its vulnerabilities which puts your organisation at higher risk. Things such as virtual switches, the item connecting virtual machines with virtual networks by directing communication and data packets, and software programs that allow machines to communicate with each other, are characteristics that previously your organisation may not have been exposed to, so it is critical to understand the potential impact of this new environment.

Transferring part or all of your organisations IT footprint to the cloud is a big change with sometimes unpreventable mishaps. If a problem arises based on an unexpected incident, who is to blame? The organisation or the provider? Allocating the right responsibility needs to be determined in the initial phase to avoid any confusions in the long run. Responsibility here is in relation to your organisation and the outsourcer. Be upfront when embarking on this new relationship and opening the doors between your current IT staff and your future provider to ensure that expectations and responsibilities are measured and tracked.

Keep in mind: What you expect your outsourcer to deliver may not always be clear. Define and determine responsibilities. Ensure that your CSP offers the levels of customer service you are accustomed to, with access to expert technicians (either on-staff or through a certified partner network). For additional levels of support, find a provider that offers a range of managed and professional services to help you develop a cloud strategy, migrate to the cloud, and maintain optimal cloud performance.

Don’t be afraid to: Look up specific international security standards and be informed and aggressive when dealing with your future (or current) CSP.

 Investigate the environment

Knowing what needs to be outsourced is very different from knowing what the ripple effect will be when that segment of your organisation is actually outsourced and placed on the cloud.

Your cloud provider is now the first line of defence in your external incident management process. They must be able to detect, evaluate and report any incident in a suitable timeframe and in the process already expected by your company. Consider, too, the legal and operational impacts. By outsourcing, you are in a way, joining with another organisation, so be sure of the overall compatibility.

Consider this, too: Multi tenancy. You could be one of numerous companies that the CSP is providing service to. There is no physical separation. Investigate whether you are entering into a multi-tenant environment, and what exactly this means for your organisation and its information.

The outsourcer will be retaining a lot of information about your internal organisation workings, too. If any internal incidents occur, accessibility around records must be agreed upon and understood. Identifying individuals within the outsourcing organisation will help increase transparency and reaction around any issues.

Keep in mind: Your information is now housed inside other organisations (metaphorical) walls. This is an integrated service, designed to know the ins and outs of your organisation. Don’t be afraid to: Look for evidence that shows whether each service provider has experienced serving enterprises like yours. These include sample customer lists, reputation, track record, and existing customer base. Service providers with experience in your company’s industry or have similar customers are likely to understand your business and technology needs.

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

The disruptive impact of cloud computing

There’s no doubt that cloud computing has had a huge impact on the way that many Australasian companies do business. In my experience we see a range of customers approaching cloud computing in a range of ways – with many of them taking different approaches to how they begin to cross the chasm.

We encounter companies which are prepared to be early adopters, the ones who want to embrace the benefits of new technologies quickly. On the other hand there are also companies that wait to see what happens before making the leap, who want a technology to go mainstream first before they take the plunge.

It seems to me that visionaries are coming in 3 flavors.

  1. First are companies who are using cloud as a way of managing costs, for IT augmentation and for boosting their IT strategy.
  2. Second is the IT innovation crowd
  3. And third are the IT disruption types.

I’ll elaborate on these types below.

Using cloud to augment IT

The first bracket of companies is taking the lead, the customers who are using cloud as IT augmentation.

Recent research showed that Australia is the second most cloud-ready nation in the world, after Japan. Australasia is quite a mature IT market, with experienced users and companies who accept outsourcing as a common practice. It’s also a service-driven economy, meaning that barriers to entry are low.

So we’re seeing IT managers using cloud to give more flexibility and agility for them and their customers.

Using cloud for innovation

The next layer of companies are the innovators, those who use the cloud to create new business models and move to market faster than through traditional methods.

In Australasia there have been some interesting examples of companies going down this route. One bank group rolled out an app for cloud-based banking that has increased customer loyalty and made it more attractive to people. CommBank has also introduced an inventive mobile money solution, named Kaching. This means that if a group of friends go out for dinner together then one person can pay by credit card and all the other guests can use the app to reimburse that friend.

Cloud computing and social thinking are driving these innovations. Another app which I’ve used myself is a supermarket one, which lets you scan the barcode of a product and find out the health qualities of that product. The app then makes recommendations for more healthy alternatives. This app is developed by Bupa, and it is interesting to see them taking this approach. It’s obviously in their interests to have more healthy customers, since as a health insurance company, this means a win win for the members and the business.

Cloud as a disruptor

The third layer of cloud usage in Australasia which is having a huge effect on the overall landscape is the disruptors. These are the startups and entrepreneurs who are transforming and disrupting whole industries. Their operations combine cloud, mobility, social and big data analytics to pretty devastating effect.

One obvious example is Apple, which has transformed the music industry with its cloud-based iTunes. In a similar way, Amazon has totally changed the book publishing and distribution industry – causing bricks-and-mortar rival Borders to cease trading in the Australian market completely.

This disruption to conventional ways of doing things can be seen everywhere. Amazon now sells more ebooks than traditional print books. Google has entered the automobile industry, with some places even changing legislation to allow auto-piloted cars.

impact of cloud computing: conclusion

There’s a lot of industry transformation taking place and IT is at the root of it. I think that we will see more of this, with established commercial giants continuing to be impacted.

IBM’s recent A Snapshot of Australia’s Digital Future report predicts that by 2020, 18 traditional industries will have been wiped out. These industries centre around tradition (non-digital) publishing and broadcasting, including book & magazine publishings as well as music publishing.

As a consequence, associated distribution and supply channels would be impacted. Other industries that would face challenges include traditional non-digital TV & radio broadcasting as digital forms of broadcasting overtake those media.

Of the three types of uses/approaches for cloud computing technology, which are your business using?

Original Publication