By Dave Russell, Vice President of Enterprise Strategy, Veeam and Sandeep Bhambure, Vice President and Managing Director, India & SAARC, Veeam
The present pandemic has created a tectonic shift in the way millions of workers across the globe operate. From managing daily household chores to meeting professional commitments, workers had to modify their business routine and adapt to the new normal. Fast paced adoption of digital technologies has not only ensured business continuity but also enabled seamless remote collaboration to maintain high levels of work productivity. Key technologies like cloud, data management and IT security has taken centre stage to deliver real-time business functionality through stringent monitoring, identifying and prioritizing workloads to overcome any downtime that can result in data loss and mitigate any lasting negative impact on business.
Online shopping has become the norm, according to research firm RedSheer report, India’s e-commerce festive season sale this year delivered $8.3 billion worth of gross sales for brands and sellers. Subscriptions to on-demand streaming platforms are through the roof – with Netflix likely to close 2020 with 4.6 million paid subscribers in India. Social media, video communication and instant messaging platforms have extended their user bases. The outstanding beneficiary here has been Zoom – posting a 335% increase in revenues compared to 2019. Everything from the way we receive medical advice, check our bank balance and exercise are driven by a digital-first approach. So, what is the impact of IT going from being in the background to be a core part of the backbone? For the technology industry, the impact is profound. There has been a collective and widespread epiphany of IT’s value to both the economy and society. While this is music to the ears of cloud, connectivity and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers, with great power comes great responsibility.
No more downtime
If IT is to live up to this critical infrastructure status, availability must be a given. Think about the frequency with which power cuts or empty water taps actually occur. These are infrequent events which still cause surprise and generate headline news. Can we honestly say the same about the availability of IT services? Think about how often routers need rebooting and applications fail to respond to basic commands. Furthermore, cyber-breaches occur on a daily basis – with some statistics suggesting around 30,000 websites are hacked every day. For technology to be elevated to utility status, there needs to be an agreed level of service to which providers are held accountable by independent regulators. Simply put, ‘this page cannot be displayed’ and ‘computer says no’ moments have to become a thing of the past. While in principle, such a scenario may seem unattractive to technology giants, this expectation is befitting of the vital role technology plays in almost every aspect of our lives today.
Beyond the possibility of opposition from Silicon Valley, there are other challenges to consider with regulating technology. Using the examples of social media and search, enforcing a level of service for something that the consumer does not pay to use would be an almost unprecedented move. However, subscription-based SaaS models lend themselves well to such regulation. Arguably, that regulation already exists and is called a Service License Agreement (SLA). These are set by the service provider, which is legally obliged to fulfil the SLA once a contract with a customer or partner has been signed. Given the impact of downtime on businesses, we are already seeing customers demand more of their provider.
According to Veeam’s 2020 Data Protection Trends Report, 95% of global organizations suffer unexpected outages – lasting an average of almost two hours. For High Priority applications, which account for over half of a company’s applications, one hour of downtime is estimated to cost $67,651. That means for an application such as email, payments, websites and mobile apps, one outage costs an average of over $135,000. While companies can fight the case for compensation, change providers if they are dissatisfied, or demand urgent maintenance of a system that causes downtime, there is no one size fits all insurance model to protect businesses. A step towards tighter regulation of technology and telecoms could be a set of minimum service requirements, including a maximum amount of downtime allowed, time to recover data and applications, frequency of software upgrades.
Securing tech’s reputation
When we talk about downtime and other glitches which possibly threaten technology’s status as a utility, we turn to cybersecurity. The growing importance of IT in the world’s day-to-day operations is an opportunity that cyber-attackers will pull out all the stops to exploit. Anything that is connected can be hacked. So, what does that mean in a world where everything is connected? What it means is that cyber-attacks have risen again in 2020. Microsoft’s 2020 Digital Defense Report shows that Office 365 alone has blocked 1.6 billion URL-based email phishing threats in the past twelve months. Of 6 trillion messages scanned for viruses, 13 billion malicious emails were blocked. This supports Veeam’s own research, with IT leaders naming cyber threats their biggest challenge in the next 12 months – above issues such as a shortage of skills and the ability to meet customer demands.
The penalties for businesses who fail to secure their systems and data are already high. As well as the financial cost of downtime, loss of confidence from customers and reputational damage leave a distasteful legacy, and something businesses can’t always recover from. All of this once again points towards the utility-like status of technology – in this case with specific reference to cybersecurity and data protection. Perhaps the question needs to change from what security provider is a business using to what security protocols should businesses be required to implement based on the data they are processing? The proposed Data Protection Bill will go a long way in implementing a robust framework. But implementing cybersecurity measures is a choice rather than an enforced necessity. As cybersecurity becomes a utility that businesses need rather than a layer of IT they can choose, there is an opportunity to institute best practice across the board. Will cybersecurity training for office-based employees become mandatory, particularly with the rise of the remote workforce? Should all organizations publish a full disaster recovery plan, which details how they will recover data should it be lost or stolen? Going further, should personal data held by organizations be subject to a universal cybersecurity standard to ensure all citizens’ data is protected to a satisfactory level?
The pandemic has caught everyone off guard and exposed the underlying vulnerabilities in businesses, economies and societies. Amidst the challenging environment, staying agile and responding to business dynamics with digital transformation is key to building stronger resiliency and gain competitive advantage. To accelerate in the digital economy, reimagining a long-term business continuity plan coupled with a robust data management strategy will go a long way in creating value. As a prime example, digitization of services establishes a direct connect with customers and deliver different products and services they consume. Seamless protection of critical business data and applications across cloud, virtual and physical workloads against major cyber security threats is a critical enabler for economic and business turnaround. To navigate growth post the pandemic will require simple, flexible and reliable innovation to build a robust foundation for a better tomorrow.