Supporting CIO strategies and priorities from the cloud-Part 2

Chess2This is the second part of a two-part article entitled Supporting CIO Strategies and Priorities from the Cloud. In case you have not done so, READ PART 1.

However, to briefly recap: in support of a recent Gartner study that basically states that the function of the modern CIO is in flux and that his or her future focus must incorporate digital assets (aka cloud-based data and applications) to remain relevant, I have taken their listed priorities and illustrated how they could securely work in a cloud-centric model. In last week’s entry, I make the case that this means the CIO must evolve from overseeing physical resources and installation and refocus on becoming a  facilitator of strategic business goals through the means of digital acquisition and expansion. To this end I use cloud-based security as an example of how the technical and business priorities stated in the survey can create the new paradigm in which a CIO can succeed.

To further review here are those priorities:

gartnerlist

And to come full circle, last week I focused on the strategic advantages of combining several of those priorities within the context of a cloud-based security initiative:

Creating and  maintaining better visibility across the enterprise fuses the needs  of  analytics & business intelligence, collaboration/worklflow, better operation results with cloud computing.

And proving cost-effectiveness by using a unified security model to promote efficiencies and reduce operational costs while still enforcing policies and creating a stronger asset protection initiative.

Now, the rest…

Core competency focus (enterprise growth, legacy modernization, innovation) This is about working smarter. The reality of maintaining security across your enterprise is that the skills required to monitor, protect, update, respond, report and comply does not exist within one dedicated person, but 1/10th of 10 different people. Within a tenuous economy it is not a stretch to say IT has been the focus of a great deal of job fusion as many companies are forced to pare down staffs.

Many companies without the means to hire a large and experienced staff have found that outsourcing to an MSP (managed service provider) is a sound management decision. Taking this one step further, when you consider outsourcing features such as security-as-a-service or policy-as-a-service options, you create new benefits of security expertise (continuous tribal knowledge) without additional man hours or expense. Not only does this allow precision budgeting, but more importantly allows you to prioritize and focus on your company’s core competency.  As CIO, your job transforms from resetting passwords and patching updates to applications to finding and supporting new ways to expand your business through technology.

Improved automation:  (customer retention, Improving IT applications and infrastructure)Unified cloud based security makes it easier to manage users. Through automated provisioning and multi-level authentication, not only is it easier for your customers to do business with you, but you maintain their ongoing trust by being a proper steward of their private and sensitive information. More so are the behind-the-scenes policies and procedures enforced by a system that is looking at information) in real time) beyond log ins or passwords. By leveraging various aspects of identity and access management with that of SIEM’s intrusion detection and Log Management’s historical archiving, a unified system can automatically understand behavior patterns (adaptive risk) of users. Just because a log in has the right user name and password (which could have been stolen from a malware implant that records keystrokes) doesn’t mean it is the user. Using situational context, the system “sees” that the last 100 log ins came from an IP address in Provo, Utah…but this one is coming from overseas at 3am and is trying to access information not often viewed. The improved automated policy now sends an alert to the analyst who can put a block in place and shut down the incursion.

But automation keeps your infrastructure in good working order too. Not only does it help maintain whichever industry compliance regulation you company is required to follow, but through automatic provisioning controls what your internal users can do and see. Joe gets hired as a sales exec. As soon as he is added to Active Directory or LDAP and his role is identified, he is given a certain view of the network. And the reverse happens immediately once he leaves the company; removing the threat of sabotage or data theft or an access vulnerability left open to exploit.

Facilitating productivity (Legacy modernization, mobile tech, retaining workforce) The highest goal for any CIO is to find ways to make the enterprise more resilient, stronger and to fulfill its needs. Going back to mapping behavior patterns (as discussed above), another benefit of unified cloud based security is that it allows a CIO to see not just the negative tendencies (and vulnerabilities that keep you up at night), but the way employees work. Using technology, how can the CIO improve productivity? Tablets, phones and other personal devices? The best applications and solutions? The trick is to examine the needs and then broker the best way to facilitate the need without compromising security.

In the case of new applications, a variety of solutions can be designated across the enterprise and directed at specific users through rule and responsibility-based provisioning. This way access is controlled to only those who need to see certain features and the data is secure from unauthorized sources. In terms of BYOD, each company must make a decision on what these devices are allowed to access—from email to ERP data—and what is the policy on securing the individual devices.

Some analysts see 2013 as a tipping point in terms of technologies. This includes mobile, analytics, big data, social and cloud technologies. The CIO needs to be ready for this paradigm change.

One of the more salient points from the Gartner survey stems from the fact that only 43% of technology’s true business potential is being exploited to give companies a competitive edge. This, Gartner says, can’t continue, and if IT is to remain relevant in an increasingly digital world then there will have to be a substantial increase in this percentage.

Where this Gartner survey refers to cloud computing in general, this blog could apply to virtually any cloud-supported strategy.  It’s a big fluffy cloud out their and the 21st century needs to take full advantage of the agility and manageability the cloud provides. Move beyond the hype. Go beyond the buzzwords and the flavors of the month and see how a virtualized strategy improves your productivity, vision-to-reality proposals and your bottom line. To this,  I am saying that cloud-based security needs to be incorporated as part of this sea-change so that any sized company in any industry may realize the long term benefits of achieving the priorities noted on the Gartner lists. The features, functions, capabilities and reliability have matured to where they can easily and effectively support the vision of any forward-thinking CIO.

Kevin Nikkhoo
50 blogs and counting!
http://www.cloudaccess.com

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