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As the world goes digital, organizations will follow. Cloud computing will intensify that journey — but it must be secure.
The digital revolution can be brutal, and companies that fail to keep pace with it will quickly find themselves replaced by one of their more technology-savvy competitors. That means companies need to step up their IT activities to avoid a competitive disadvantage — and they need to find the right technologies and ensure they remain secure along the way.
Using the right technology is half the battle
In times like this, it’s increasingly important to provide reliable IT infrastructure. As a result, in their search for reduced costs and increased agility, many companies are looking — cautiously — to shift their entire IT environment into the cloud.
“CEOs are broadly positive about the opportunities of digital transformation but have legitimate concerns that existing IT infrastructure is too inflexible to support a digital business,” tells me Bas Burger, CEO, Global Services at British Telecommunications, in an interview.
According to BT’s “Leading from the front” study, the most important characteristics of IT infrastructure in terms of digital transformation are “security, reliability, integration and cost effectiveness”. Of the 400 executives polled, 39 percent cite security issues as a main barrier to providing the right infrastructure for digital transformation. Moreover, most CEOs (64 percent) refer to security when asked which characteristics they would rate as ‘very important’ in “helping their organizations to achieve its digital transformation objective”.
Burger outlines a two-way approach to overcome this challenge. Besides building “a more flexible network, introducing hybrid networking and virtual functions to increase agility and responsiveness”, he recommends that organizations “adopt the same agile infrastructure model as digital entrepreneurs — that is, make use of proven and secure cloud-based services to develop and deliver new digital services for customers, employees and business partners.”
Cloud computing is not only for large businesses
That cloud computing is exclusively for businesses of specific sizes or sectors is a prevalent misconception that must be addressed throughout this discussion. Fortunately, as more diverse companies start their cloud journey, this misconception becomes more and more obsolete. Yet, there’s still a lot confusion about what kind of businesses can benefit from cloud computing.
“For any business racing to catch up with digital newcomers, cloud computing must be a large part of the IT roadmap,” Burger explains. “No one wants to be the first — or the last — to try anything new. Cloud services, with integral security measures and available on a pay-as-you-go commercial model, let each business innovate at its own speed. Increasingly, CIOs will introduce a hybrid cloud strategy that mixes private and public cloud services in a ‘cloud of clouds’. This approach gives CIOs all the flexibility and control they need as they seek to meet user demand for new digital services without compromising existing corporate systems.”
Security concerns no longer a barrier
Given that digital transformation is inevitable in the long term, and that cloud computing will facilitate that process, organizations must overcome obstacles that hinder them from making the move into the cloud. In the past, organizations often hesitated to implement cloud computing due to security concerns. However, the reverse is now true: more companies are embracing cloud solutions for security reasons. They’re adopting them because they see the cloud as safe, secure and a way to enhance their cyber-resilience.
“Our experience is that businesses are no longer reluctant to move to the cloud because of security issues. On the contrary, they want to move to the cloud precisely to benefit from better, inherent security. Cloud services have security built in — and secure by design is a core principle for the digital age. When your cloud services are secure, your digital services will be secure,” says Burger.
The biggest risk of an outage is unpreparedness
A service interruption is a CEO’s worst nightmare, especially now that even a teenage hacker in a basement can launch a cyber-attack. In fact, these kinds of attacks are offered on the Darknet at an affordable price, making it possible for people without any IT knowledge to cripple the websites of even large companies. These unplanned outages can cost an organization up to $17,244 per minute, according to the Ponemon Institute’s “Cost of Data Center Outages Report”. Besides obvious implications such as lost sales revenue or IT recovery costs, a service interruption also puts a company´s reputation at risk, resulting in potentially major brand damage. Therefore, organizations should strive to achieve a maximum level of preparedness. Every decision-maker must know their role and exactly how to act in the worst case, and the right solutions must be implemented so the worst case doesn’t occur in the first place.
“The biggest risk is to be unprepared,” states Burger. “Of course, digital transformation will create new risks, but they can and should be addressed through robust corporate risk management strategies. It’s essential to think through different ‘what if’ scenarios.” Paying the attacker should never be an option, as this signals that the organization is vulnerable, and usually results in recurrent attacks. The right preparation consists of backed-up data and a reliable security solution capable of dealing with all kinds of cyber-attacks.
Burger stresses that business leaders “need to understand that cyber-security is a business problem, not a technology problem.” Being aware of the scope and the nature of the risks posed by digital transformation is vital to proactively addressing cyber-crime. Therefore, Burger explains, “Good governance and informed oversight is essential if the organization is to make the right decisions and choose the right partners to support its digital transformation plans.”
Cloud-based security is key to winning digital transformation
It takes ages to build a brand, but it can take less than a night to destroy it. As more and more businesses prepare to rely on cloud services in the future, they should arm themselves with cloud-based security solutions capable of weathering a cyber-threat. One consequence of digital transformation is that customers expect services to always be available, which is why safeguarding the cloud — and thus, the business — is pivotal. Trust is the basis of customer relationships — and risking it threatens the foundation of the whole business. Therefore, it’s vital for companies to choose the right partners to secure their IT infrastructure. Ideally, the implemented solution will be cloud-based and rely on artificial intelligence, as hackers are becoming smarter and always find new ways to harm organizations.
Ultimately, the goal is to proactively plan and safeguard the cloud journey by adopting a reliable and capable security solution. Organizations must be prepared for worst-case scenarios while pursuing their digital transformation objectives. Cloud technologies offer a golden opportunity for any business that aims to fuel its digital transformation process — as long as they protect those technologies against cyber-crime along the way.
This article was first published in CIO