In the economic downturn, IT budgets are shrinking even as expectations of how technology can help the business are growing. To benefit their companies, IT managers optimise operations, cut costs, anticipate and address problems before they happen, and resolve issues quickly when things go wrong. That means streamlining operations and actively managing their computing infrastructure.
But no IT department can afford to compromise on security in a downturn or any other time. Without protection, the rest of IT’s many capabilities won’t matter much. The strategies that “SonicWALL” suggests challenge the traditional network security model, to accommodate telecommuting, cloud computing, Software as a Service, Web 2.0 and managed services as many remote sites, customer sites and outsourcing partners lay outside the traditional security perimeter as do mobile and wireless devices and WiFi-equipped laptops. These all create new opportunities for security breaches. To protect all these elements, as well as the core network and data centers themselves, requires multiple layers of defense or a “defense in depth” security model. The result: Secure access to resources by users and endpoint devices beyond the perimeter plus secure data traffic crossing the perimeter. It is time to adjust how security is provided.
Numbers talk, so use them
Financial justification of all things IT becomes vitally important in a down economy.
Return on investment (ROI), reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) and quick payback periods on technology purchases become even stronger factors. Numbers count not only in acquiring new hardware and software but also in justifying ongoing IT operations. Reporting is critical, and clear, graphical presentation of the figures can impress the number-crunchers.
Use hardware appliances
Hardware appliances are dedicated devices that run a specific application. By running an application on an appliance, IT departments reduce their management burden since appliances are usually “plug and play” and include their own infrastructure stack. Appliances also can be more secure because they run on stripped-down operating systems. Software appliances are appropriate for many business applications, but not necessarily for security applications
Cut utility costs, use multi-function devices
Multi-function devices address the problem of a proliferation of hardware appliances in an enterprise. Appliances have their merits, but hosting them for multiple applications can quickly cause an overpopulation in the data center. To reduce management overhead and cut utility costs, consider the versatility of hardware such as Unified Threat Management (UTM) devices. A UTM device puts multiple security applications—such as a subset of antivirus, anti-spam, firewall, virtual private network (VPN), intrusion prevention, anti-malware, application firewall and content filtering—on a single dedicated hardware appliance.
See telecommuting as an opportunity
Companies are beginning to see telecommuting as an opportunity, not an issue. More telecommuters mean savings for the company on IT, facilities and utility overhead and can boost employee productivity. Web conferencing helps keep telecommuters in touch with the rest of the organisation and reduces the need for business travel, particularly for sales and marketing staff. Companies might also explore Voice over IP (VoIP) for teleworkers to help cap phone costs.
Automate endpoint control
With more remote users, including teleworkers, companies need a policy-driven system to handle access to resources on the corporate network. Set a policy that requires access devices have the latest versions of security, antivirus and anti-spam software to keep malware off the corporate network. Then automate enforcement of the policy with technology that insists endpoints are adequately protected before they are allowed to connect. Once the security policy is set, let the technology enforce it.
Reduce the number of IT suppliers
One source of IT complexity and cost is supporting hardware and software from different
vendors. Too often IT departments devote internal or outside resources just to make incompatible devices or applications work together. Standardise on a limited number of vendors, who are generally good about making their new gear work with their old gear, to reduce integration headaches. In consolidating vendors, especially when demand is slowing, negotiate hard and do not be afraid to switch.
When cash is tight, SaaS is the answer
Cash constraints make hosted (or service-based) offerings more compelling. Unlike traditional on-premise applications, Software as a Service (SaaS) and managed services generally do not require big upfront license fees. When cash is tight, that is an advantage.
IT should see SaaS as reducing its workload, not as a threat.
In a world that demands doing more with less, IT must empower workers with more effective productivity tools. Spiffy new applications are one way, but training for business users on existing software tools may help too. It is cheaper than writing new code, and many users utilise only a small fraction of any application’s capabilities. In other words, they already have more power and more productivity at their fingertips, so teach them to take advantage.
Explore Web 2.0 applications
Because they are consumer-focused, Web 2.0 technologies are often cheap and sometimes free. Marketing departments are increasingly using Web 2.0 applications to help retain clients and reach new customers, mission-critical activities in a downturn. IT should be ready to handle Web 2.0 applications soon, if not already.
Shift storage and processing to the cloud
Cloud computing is topical, and one aspect is that enterprises can outsource storage or heavy-duty processing to service providers in “the cloud.” The big boys—Amazon, Google, Microsoft Azure—grab most of the media hype, but they are not the only players. Many local and regional computer resellers have cloud offerings too, sometimes specialised on applications such as business continuity. With Amazon cutting prices on S3, look for increasingly competitive pricing.
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