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Data compliance has become everyone’s business

August 27, 2013 • Opinion

 

Michael Church, Enterprise Manager, Citrix South Africa. (Image source: Citrix South Africa)

Michael Church, Enterprise Manager, Citrix South Africa. (Image source: Citrix South Africa)

Up until a couple of years ago, data compliance was the concern of only a few select industries such as financial services and healthcare.  However, with an increase in the volume, and value, of data which both the public and private sectors are dealing with, there has been a corresponding growth in the amount of legislative oversight businesses face.

As such, data compliance has risen up the list of priorities for any CEO looking to avoid heavy fines, ensure customer satisfaction and maintain brand reputation. In turn, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have to pay close attention to how data security can be ‘breached’ by employees.

CIOs from different industries may have very distinct objectives and challenges, but a concern affecting them all is the risk of business data being shared through third party consumer cloud storage applications, and the subsequent threat to their compliance obligations. This danger has grown as many companies now allow employees to bring their own laptops and tablets to the workplace (Bring your own device or BYOD), that often have personal applications already installed.

Often these include cloud storage applications used to send photos and music to friends and family. Inevitably, however, this use spills directly into the workplace with employees sending important documents and large work files between one another over potentially insecure channels. While this is perfectly acceptable at home and is a great tool, in the workplace it becomes a serious compliance issue that has to be tackled.

Research carried out by Vanson Bourne last year found that 97% of the BRIC country IT decision makers are using their own apps, such as Evernote and Google Drive, for business use on their own devices. Yet at the same time 63% were concerned with how this affected their data privacy mandates. This growing trend for ‘Bring your own apps’ (BYOA) means businesses must reconcile allowing employees access to applications, while still protecting valuable corporate data on employee devices.

The ‘enterprise mobility cloud’ report launched recently by Citrix further highlights this issue with its customers listing cloud storage applications as one of the top apps organisations are having to black list from employee work devices. It is simply too risky for corporate data to be stored on these applications as they could somehow become compromised and fall into the public domain. Every single document stored remotely is at risk of being shared out to an endless tapestry of cloud-connected endpoints.

Think about the types of data you regularly send to colleagues; presentations on sales targets, important review documents – even documents on competitors. It would be highly embarrassing for a business if these items were to be disclosed. As a result, businesses are increasingly placing a value on this data and recognising it has an inherent worth to the bottom line. Data should be treated like any other asset, protected and managed as carefully as possible.  Leaving the security of large quantities of data to a third party consumer service is not necessarily the best approach.

Yet consumer cloud storage solutions are tremendously useful, and the demands for such solutions remain strong among employees. Consumer advances in technology are increasingly crossing over into business and it is up to the IT department and technology providers to help manage this. The aim is not to constrain employees and restrict them from doing their jobs – if a tool is useful to employees then it should be securely integrated into the network. The goal is to liberate employees while ensuring the data is restricted and controlled so compliance hurdles are overcome.

The answer can be found in ‘follow me data’ solutions that mirror consumer storage solutions in providing access to fully traceable enterprise data wherever you are, through any device. This means employees can transfer important and valuable documents between individuals safe in the knowledge the data is fully traceable and secure with limited risk of being lost or compromised. It also takes into account the fact that employees now work across multiple devices, whether it is a tablet, smart phone or laptop, as the data can be synced across them.

However, the key feature about corporate cloud storage solutions is that they replicate the best features of the consumer offerings but in a corporate environment – they are functional, easy to use and liberate users to work how they see fit, rather than forcing them to go around established protocols. Businesses want productive employees that conform to compliance obligations and the only way to ensure this is to reflect the demands seen in consumer technology, making it fit for purpose in the corporate environment.

Michael Church, Enterprise Manager, Citrix South Africa

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