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Data comes in many shapes and forms. In years gone by, we used to talk about our data in terms of the number of CD’s we were storing in a CD wallet, or the files saved onto USB memory sticks back in the days where computer storage wasn’t always large enough. Whilst the rules of data have been evolving significantly, but somewhat silently over the past decade, the challenges thrown up by the pandemic have rewritten more than just our daily routines, but businesses use and application of data too.
Digital transformation is a process. One, that for many businesses, had only just begun. Multi-year development plans have fallen completely off the wayside. The only way for businesses to compete, is to adapt. To innovate. And to move quickly. This means that this year, we’ve seen cloud migrations begin to accelerate, as more businesses think ahead to ensure that its remote workforce has the capabilities to work safely and efficiently, from wherever they may be.
Migrating to the cloud doesn’t just happen overnight, however. Whilst data is critical to supporting businesses on their growth journeys, it is important that as they embrace these changes, the lessons learnt from this year sit at the centre of decisions being made. There is still a lot of uncertainty as to what the next few years will look like. But the coronavirus-induced changes are here to stay for some time. So, what can IT leaders do to prepare for this evolution of data?
Trust in data
Data driven decision making is fundamental to helping businesses develop strategies and plans that will reap rewards in a number of areas of the business. This is something that has been acknowledged, but not actioned as well as it could have been, at least for some. However, things are changing and according to new research from Druva, 79% of IT decision makers in the US and UK now see data management and protection as key to competitive advantage. What’s more, 73% say they rely more heavily on data for business decisions while 33% believe its value has permanently increased since the pandemic began.
In a short space of time, data-driven decisions have moved from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’. You must have data to improve operational decision making. You must have data to improve the customer experience. And you must have some mastery of the data in order to grow. Being able to analyse this data in real-time next year, and make data driven decisions quickly will be crucial.
Risk and reward
Like everything, this change comes with a certain level of risk. The same Druva research found that 73% of IT decision makers have become more concerned about protecting their data from ransomware. And who is to blame them? This year alone, we’ve seen a huge increase in malware, ransomware and phishing attacks. Cyber-criminals are looking to target vulnerable, overworked systems reliant on processes not prepared for this disconnected world. This isn’t something that’s going to disappear next year or the year thereafter.
As we look to the new year, we should expect to see threat actor’s laser-focused on targeting any organisation associated with the healthcare industry. Be it medical research laboratories, big pharma or biotechnology companies, they all store some kind of patient data that is highly valuable right now with the ongoing vaccination efforts.
That’s not to say that everyone else is off the hook. All organisations need to step up their cybersecurity posture in order to prepare for the next wave of attacks. Criminals will continue to search for the tiniest crack in your business’s tools, processes or people. Without data protection solutions in place, it is safe to say that there is considerable risk of attack.
Continuity and Resilience
It’s not just cyber-criminals that businesses need to be wary of. In fact, since the pandemic struck, IT leaders report a 43% rise in data outages and 40% uptick in human error when handling information. Whilst these errors are not the result of malicious activities or insider threats, the impact they have on the business – be it reputation, or financial – can and likely will still be significant.
In 2021, we expect to see the reliance on private cloud companies grow. It should not just be the IT departments responsibility for securing the organisations data, but a collaborative effort. Data security is the responsibility of each individual user. The organisation, however, does need to supply the required training, support and tools to make this possible.
There is also going to be a shift towards protecting data in the public cloud. This is because more of us are relying on the cloud in order to quickly gain access to documents for remote working. The ability to rely on the cloud for this wherever we may be will be vital to the operational efficiency of every organisation as our ways of working continue to evolve.
With vaccine distribution now well underway in the UK, the public remains hopeful that life will return to normal. That said, remote working is going to be a part of our ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future. As such, no matter what 2021 has in store for us, we can be sure that we will be relying on data. The ability to act upon this data and access it from a central location will be the difference between a successful 2021, or an increasingly difficult new year.