Focusing on Transformation

Focusing on Transformation

In January of 2007, Network World published an article stating that “user satisfaction with software as a service (SaaS) is starting to slip, but customer interest in this method of outsourcing IT functions is continuing to grow“, and says that recent survey results clearly demonstrate SaaS being “a dominant force going forward”.  That was 10 years ago, yet the same message is being played out today as managed services and hosting continues to grow in popularity. IT outsourcing makes sense for thousands of businesses, whether the software is part of the package or not. Today, outsourcing IT is almost an imperative if the business is to keep up a competitive pace.

Users need and demand mobility and will get their anytime/anywhere access to applications and data however they can get it. Businesses require agility in their technology, which is difficult when significant investments in hardware and infrastructure must be earned out prior to any new investment. Making systems accessible from outside the firewall, securing them in a reasonable manner and keeping them up and running all the time so users can access at any time is not a job for part-time IT.  Keeping the systems on and available at all hours requires full-time IT management, and this is in part what fuels the popularity of outsourcing it all.

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) goes a long way toward helping businesses manage their IT costs in that the systems are part of the service.  The hardware running the application, the storage of the data and the support accompanying the solution are all part of the package.  Unfortunately, the SaaS solutions is not generally the only thing in use by the business, so continued reliance upon PCs, desktop software and locally stored data causes IT management costs to persist.  One size does not fit all, even with online application services.  Although customizations and add-ons can help a single app become a broader solution framework, there is usually something left behind that ends up anchoring a process or function to the desktop, device or local network, and requiring IT management and administration to go along with.

Application hosting services compete somewhat with SaaS in that the systems and management of them is included in the hosting service subscription fee.  While the business user retains licensing of applications and the flexibility of using the software already embedded in the operation, the organization is enabled to focus on operational improvements and not on the underlying systems supporting them.  By reducing or eliminating the requirement to directly manage and maintain servers, complex networks and user working environments, businesses are able to focus their in-house technical energies towards innovation and improvement. The centralized nature of the system facilitates new collaborative capabilities while allowing the business to build on the knowledge and base of information already invested software and processes.

Outsourcing IT service provisioning and management is just a baby step towards improving the business agility and positioning the organization for growth. Real digital business transformation begins with a change in the business mindset: not simply a focus on operational processes and improvements, a new strategy should evolve where the enterprise is situated to interact with its market seamlessly, at any time and all the time.  Businesses that wish to compete at this level must consider whether or not purchasing and maintaining their IT infrastructure is where they wish to focus their energies or if they’d rather invest their technical talent towards market building and transformational objectives.

Make Sense?

J

Centralize and Secure Business Applications and Data

laptop drawingThe portable computer is an essential business tool for day’s mobile workforce, having the power and portability to meet the demands of executives and professionals working away from the office.  While executives and mobile professionals get the applications and data they need to keep productivity high, carrying business data on devices outside the network introduces significant business risk.

There are studies which estimate that as much as 80% of the data a small business owns (data like customer files, contracts, product information and financial data) is copied to or stored on portable computers.  When valuable business data is lost or stolen, the business can be exposed to a variety of problems – loss of revenue being just one. Losing track of business data can create legal issues, too. Customer privacy may be compromised, sensitive information could be exposed, or confidential plans might be made public if a business doesn’t take the right steps to secure its data.

It isn’t just the possibility of loss or theft which increases risk when data is copied to portable computers – the increased vulnerability of the information sits with the likelihood that the user will access unsecured networks, launch non-corporate applications, access private email accounts and perform other non-business related tasks with the computer because they have more access than with a fully secured corporate in-office desktop.  User behavior is often what puts corporate data and assets at risk, regardless of the policies that might define correct and acceptable procedures. It is very easy for workers to unknowingly lose and leak data, and when the data is present on the portable computer it gets even easier.

A 2014 study commissioned by Cisco Systems found that employees around the world continue to engage in “risky” behaviors that put business and personal information at risk:

  • The majority (70%) of surveyed IT pros believe that as many as half of their data loss incidents are due to authorized program installations
  • 44% of employees share work devices with others without supervision
  • 39% of IT professionals have dealt with employees trying to access unauthorized parts of the company’s network
  • Almost half of the employees admitted to copying data between work and personal computers when working from home
  • 18% (up to 25% in some regions) of employees shared passwords with their co-workers

Companies must not only protect their data for their financial well-being, but must recognize their legal obligation to protect much of the information, as well.  The risk extends beyond the walls of the enterprise, to vendors and customers and consumers whose information may be stored in the company data. Additionally, portable computers exposed to malware and virus attacks are likely to pass the bad code to other systems they come in contact with, introducing not just risk for the recipient but liability for the infected laptop owner.

Where mobile computing brings huge advantages to today’s business, owners would do well to consider the benefits of enabling mobility through the use of server-based and hosted computing models. Rather than installing software and copying data to PCs and mobile devices, workers should be able to access a central system where the applications actually run. IT management is more efficient and security is easier to enforce when applications and resources are contained exclusively within the corporate boundary, even if they are accessible from without.

Virtual desktop and remote application solutions offer features that address a variety of potential risk factors as well as enabling improved management and security of IT assets.  Centralizing and securing applications and data resources at the server allows businesses to deliver the mobility and functionality users need while enabling the information security and management the business demands. This is a foundation upon which remote desktop and remote application technologies were built, allowing users to have the real-time access to applications and data with full functionality and desktop modality, but without the requirement to install, manage and secure applications and data on the individual devices.

Make Sense?

J