Industry experts discuss modern IT challenges and solutions

Industry experts discuss modern IT challenges and solutions

1969 saw the first man on the moon, the first ever communications sent through the ARPANET, and Xerox invent the laser printer. It was also a big year for music, with the world famous WOODSTOCK festival, the first Isle of Wight festival and seminal tracks released by legends like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. Specifically, September 1969 saw the last ever recorded and much loved album from The Beatles – Abbey Road.

Inspired by 1969 and by The Beatles, Intelligent CIO decided to take a stroll down the band’s back catalogue and – With A Little Help From Our Friends – discuss modern IT challenges and find out how We Can Work It Out.  

I should have known better – Making sure data has a Ticket To Ride to avoid mistakes

Jan van Vliet, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Digital Guardian, said: “How many IT security teams have cried over the spilt milk of a cyberbreach, admitting to themselves, their executive team and often times, the regulators, that they should have known better? Organisations large and small all over the world have fallen victim to data privacy breaches and data loss – the impact of which could have been minimised, or prevented from happening in the first place. Cybersecurity programs should ensure that emphasis is placed on the security of the data itself – and not just on networks, servers and applications. Shifting the focus towards identifying, controlling and securing sensitive data assets may not prevent a cyberbreach, but it will minimise data loss – and hopefully the need to admit you should have known better.”

“It’s widely known that data is quickly becoming the fuel of today’s economy,” said Michael Scheffler, AVP EMEA at Bitglass. “As a result, with cyberattacks now front and centre in the news headlines, organisations have a duty of care to ensure that cybercriminals don’t have a ticket to ride with this valuable resource. With enterprises becoming effectively perimeter-less and cloud adoption continuing to rise, organisations need to revise their approach to data protection. Only by understanding modern threats and deploying appropriate security solutions can the risk of data breaches and data loss be mitigated and even eliminated.”

Help! I need somebody!

The role of the IT professional can feel like being a part of a Lonely Hearts Club Band. Whether you need to free up your workload, or you’re struggling with unplanned outages and downtime, there are technology developments available to provide that helping hand to hold.

Indeed Brett Cheloff, VP of ConnectWise Automate, said: “Everyone needs a helping hand at some point and in the workplace, it’s often the IT team that does a lot of the ‘hand-holding’. To handle the deluge of daily tasks, IT teams need to run like a well-oiled machine. From managing security and ticket flow to conducting routine maintenance and proactive monitoring, they require expert efficiency to stay at the top of their game. Automation is an easy way to develop the increased accountability, visibility and centralised processes required to serve users. Technology that helps manage workflows, automate redundant tasks and provide a consistent experience will help IT metaphorically hold the hands of all its users, whatever their IT challenge might be.”

Jason Wells, VP and GM EMEA at Cradlepoint, commented: “‘Help! I need somebody’ will be a familiar phrase for the IT and networking managers tasked with maintaining branch IT networks.” He continued: “And that’s not just because it’s a catchy hook from an iconic song – network downtime is a reality faced by many businesses. Indeed, in a recent survey of retail professionals, 75% stated they are still struggling with unplanned network downtime and outages impacting business during peak hours.

“The key issue is that no wired connection can deliver 100% uptime – it’s not a question of if your business will lose connectivity, but when. This is where 4G LTE failover comes into play. A wireless wide area network (WAN) failover is a cost-effective and reliable solution that provides critical backup connectivity when a wired connection fails. Introducing a wireless WAN link can also go far beyond simply providing the ‘help’ in a tough situation. As we move further down the pathway to 5G, failover is helping many organisations lay the foundation for a wireless future.”

Alternatively, advice can be sought in a channel partner down Penny Lane. Johan Pellicaan, Managing Director EMEA at Scale Computing, said: “For many businesses, Digital Transformation can be daunting and especially to SMEs in industries like retail and manufacturing that often have limited budgets. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. Vendors and particularly channel partners can help educate these businesses on the efficiency and performance benefits they can reap by deploying modern technology, while also advising on solutions specifically within budget. Channel partners offering a true ‘trusted adviser’ consultancy can help organisations realise their vision by developing an infrastructure designed for today’s Digital Transformation – and economic – needs. After all, it is always important to get your pennies worth and where better to find it than down Penny Lane?”

Sometimes all you need to work it out is a little help from a friend

Left, right and centre, there seems to be a cyberattack and it can feel like there are no friendly faces in the cyber world. However, Stephen Gailey, Head of Solutions Architecture at Exabeam, believes We Can Work It Out. He said: “Almost all of the huge breaches we read about in the news involve attackers leveraging stolen user credentials to gain access to sensitive corporate data. This presents a significant problem for security teams. After all, an attacker with valid credentials looks just like a regular user. Identifying changes in the behaviour of these credentials is the key to successfully uncovering an attack. But in an age of alert overload, security teams are often overwhelmed and can struggle to make sense of the data in front of them. There’s no time for fussing and fighting…

“With User and Entity Behaviour Analytics (UEBA), we can work it out! Applying UEBA to the data already collected within most organisations can help security teams connect the dots and provide a useful profile of network user activity.

“By connecting the dots and creating a map of a user’s activities, even when the identity components are not explicitly linked, security teams can create baselines of normal behaviour for every user on the network. This makes it easier to identify when a user’s activity requires further investigation. It may not stop you being breached, but it will tell you about it before the damage is done.”

Bryan Becker, DAST Product Manager at WhiteHat Security, echoed the importance of analysing data trends. He said: “As organisations grow, analytics become key to being able to evaluate your overall risk. Security suffers from a firehose of information, so anything that helps consolidate that flow into more manageable chunks becomes indispensable – all you need is ‘a little help’. Trend-reporting is key in gauging how your teams are improving over time, which is arguably more valuable than viewing point-in-time snapshots of open vulnerabilities. The most mature organisations I have seen regularly look at teams that show the highest improvement over time and try to learn what they are doing right so that they can share it with the other teams.

“Some trends that I believe are most valuable to measure are: average time to remediation, average severity or score of open findings and frequency of testing (you have to regularly test to ensure that the other data is accurate). These metrics when viewed over time can give you a start at a good snapshot of the overall risk of the application, as well identify trends in individual teams.”

However, when things do go wrong, there is always the opportunity to Get Back. Grahame Morrison, Director of Product Development at Nexsan, a StorCentric company, talked to us about disaster recovery. He said: “When people think of disaster recovery (DR), they probably think of ransomware, cyberattacks or user errors. However, there are many more circumstances to consider when it comes to DR. Data is collected nonstop in almost every corner of the world and in some of the more remote areas, it’s not always possible to have ideal data centre conditions. Instead, conditions can be unpredictable with the potential to lose power at any time.

“For businesses to get back up and running quickly and smoothly, there are three key factors to consider in their recovery plans: make sure it has data redundancy and replication components built in to ensure there is no single point of failure; implement a system that is scalable and can store hundreds (or thousands) of TBs of data without much physical space; and perhaps most importantly, ensure the system has the ability to restart at the exact point the power dropped. IT teams want to get back their data access as soon as possible, so if – and probably when – your data centre goes down, you’ve got a plan in place that will handle whatever is thrown its way.”

64 is the new 34 – keep employees trained and motivated

Liam Butler, AVP at SumTotal, asked ‘will you still need me When I’m 64?’. He said: “With Britain’s state pension age on track to increase to 68 by 2046, this is a question many of us might be asking our employer. With the fourth industrial revolution, AI and robotics poised to fundamentally change our view of workplace skills over the coming years, companies will need to re-evaluate how they approach training.

“If employees will be working for far longer than ever before, we need to put more focus on lifelong training and skills development. Career paths are not as fixed as they once were and highlighting what new skills the business needs can be a good motivator for employees to engage with training programmes and the idea of a new career direction later in life. Let’s not forget that most powerful computer on the planet is still the human brain!”

Avoiding a Hard Day’s Night by enabling employees to stay productive

Richard Hamaker, HR Business Partner at Leaseweb Global, said: “One of Leaseweb’s core values is to ‘get things done’ – so nobody has to spend ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ in the office. We strive to achieve this using the principles of the Eisenhower Matrix, created decades ago by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, when as a General fighting in World War II, he didn’t react to small setbacks, choosing instead to prioritise by urgency and importance. There is certainly something to be said for applying lessons learned in times of extreme crisis to the everyday. The important things must be done first because it’s these that count in the long-term. Equally as productive is sorting out the less urgent and important tasks, which should either be delegated, or not undertaken at all. Sometimes it is really beneficial to stop and think about doing what is important and impactful, both for ourselves and our customers.”

Christophe Clerc-Renaud, Senior Sales Director, EMEA at Ergotron, agreed. He said: “Everything always feels better when the sun shines, probably because of the positive association with brightness and light. In the workplace, where too often we find ourselves slumped stressfully over our desks, incorporating some simple principles from the sun may do wonders for our well-being and productivity. Aiming to boost productivity in the workplace doesn’t need to be complicated. Simply ensuring employees have a regular allocation of breaks and the opportunity to work in a fresh, bright and airy working space where office solutions can be tailored to their needs can make a huge difference. We are not designed to remain static for the entirety of our working day. Standing up and moving regularly gives us the chance to stretch our legs and have a change of scene, which impacts positively on our physical health and mood. In the words of the famous Beatles song ‘Here Comes The Sun, and I say it’s all right’, a workforce that thrives in a positive, healthy environment will add greater value from a productivity point of view.”

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