How can businesses give their staff what they want, while making sure their network is safe and secure?
The lines between business and personal life are becoming increasingly blurred as smartphones and tablets are routinely used for business purposes. Employers are using the likes of social media not only to engage with staff but customers, and the number of people working flexibly continues to rise.
What’s more, with the business use of cloud-based and consumer apps hotting up, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are faced with a challenge: how do they give their staff what they want, while making sure their network is safe and secure?
CIOs are fast becoming the enablers for their businesses, and many are already looking at how they can give the right people the right tech tools to perform their jobs better. It’s a crucial role since many organisations are seeing the direct benefits of innovative CIO-led schemes such as bring your own device (BYOD), or the adoption of mobile and flexible working policies.
However, while many CIOs would love to accommodate every employee who asks for their latest shiny gadget to be plugged into the network, many are having to make sure that the consumerisation of their IT doesn’t lead to a more vulnerable network. Is there a middle ground?
Thankfully, as consumer technology seeps into the business place and innovative ways of working are implemented, security tools are becoming more intelligent. Ancient firewalls, with their rigid, company-wide rules about what can and can’t be done, are being given the cold shoulder by forward thinking CIOs. After all, if what they’re trying to do is all about innovation, it stands to reason that CIOs need to protect their networks in innovative ways too.
Many businesses are looking at the new, smart, unified threat management (UTM) firewalls as a way to get the best of both worlds. These are secure but flexible enough to allow staff to work in a style that suits them, whether that’s at home or on the move with a mobile device.
Where traditional firewalls characteristically have an all or nothing approach, smart firewalls are putting CIOs back in the driving seat. They can pick and choose the apps and social media sites needed and keep any that pose a threat out of reach. New apps and websites will undoubtedly come on to the scene and gain favour over others, but when this happens, the CIO can adjust the smart firewall settings accordingly – and hey presto, the new technology is allowed in and the CIO can continue to innovate the business.
But allowing the right technology is just one challenge solved; giving the right people access is a whole other ballpark. Again, CIOs are looking for intelligent security products that give them the opportunity to control who uses what application. If a sales team needs LinkedIn, then they’re given access – and it’s the same for a customer service team using Twitter.
CIOs are now getting a 360-degree view of their organisations and are able to decide what technology suits which member of staff and allow access at the touch of the button. Importantly though, the company’s exposure to security threats is limited by restricting access for all other members of staff.
Clearly, the next generation of firewalls will have to be smarter to handle the challenges of data security; that’s just the evolution of a product. What’s really encouraging is that CIOs are not put off by traditional challenges – they want to innovate and nothing will stop them, so suppliers and the wider IT industry must respond by evolving their products and services to meet the new CIOs’ demands. That can only be a good thing for businesses.