The 7 New Year's resolutions all enterprises should make for 2014

The New Year is a time of fresh starts, new beginnings, and resolutions. Are you going to cut down on the pasties next year, or finally quit smoking? Are you going to cycle to work, or call your parents more often? Well forget those, because we've put together a list of the essential enterprise New Year's resolutions for 2014, and advice on how you can keep them.

Get ready for the cloud

Unless you've spent 2013 with your head buried in the sand, you'll have heard that cloud is the way the whole IT industry is going. Which startups are attracting the most venture capital? Which providers are getting acquired by software giants? Which enterprises are seeing their bottom line shrink, and their IT departments get more and more agile? That's right – those who are leveraging the cloud.

From Microsoft Office 365 to Google Apps for Business and everything in between, all kinds of enterprise cloud vendors are helping IT departments around the world lessen their workload, free up their resources, and refocus their efforts on what really matters: keeping the business running efficiently, productively, and flexibly.

Most businesses are heading for hybrid deployments, which allow you to keep some apps on-premises, while shifting some into the cloud. Expect to see many variations on hybrid deployment in the years ahead catering to specific verticals and industries.

Big data analytics – sink or swim

There's a lot of data out there. Potentially too much, in fact, flowing in from social media, customer reports, focus groups, websites, mobile devices, sales departments - the list is endless. Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data and 90 per cent of all the data existing in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

The truth is: if your business isn't taking advantage of this deluge, then it will start drowning in it.

All around the world, companies are taking advantage of the big data analytics revolution to react to customer feedback better and faster, make sales decisions with immaculate accuracy, and adapt their business to the marketplace with lightning speed.

Services like Hadoop offer leading big data analytics platforms, but for the currently uninitiated, an easier approach might be a big data as a service (BDaaS) provider like Amazon Web Services' impressive Kinesis platform.

Many organisations have been stockpiling data for years, but the problem is, they don't have any idea what to do with it. Don't be one of those.

As more and more smart devices join the burgeoning Internet of things and with more users logging on to social media every day, the data deluge is only going to get worse – so 2014 is the best time to get on board and start analysing for business success.

Get your website on HTML5

With traditional desktop PC sales plummeting, and tablets, smartphones and phablets making up more and more of the constellation of user devices used to access the Internet, it's more crucial than ever for your website to support mobile device access. That beautiful website you spent time, money and resources developing won't be any good for your business if half the users visiting it can't view it properly.

Luckily, there have been fantastic strides in HTML5, which allows developers to create apps and websites that can be viewed on a whole variety of different devices with different specs and screen sizes.

Amazon has even opened a HTML5 Appstore, offering web app support, and allowing developers to submit URLs for applications and mobile sites that will be distributed to customers.

There's still a little way to go before the new language offers the full range of functionality, but in a world where you increasingly can't control which devices users are using to access your product, you can at least make sure you're covered for all eventualities.

Bring in dual factor authentication

Behind just about every embarrassing data breach and business-endangering cyber-attack, there are two simple things: a username and a password. Attackers, whether they are cyber criminals, disgruntled ex-employees or politically motivated hacktivists, know that it's much easier to follow a user on to a network rather than attack the network directly. Stolen credentials are the weakest point in any network, and if you can strengthen that point, you'll mitigate your risk of cyber-attack.

That's where dual factor authentication comes in. Using either hardware-based tokens or notifications sent to employees' phones when someone tries to sign in, dual factor can significantly reduce the risk of a data breach, and is a must-have for any business that doesn't want its sensitive corporate and personal data leaking out.

Control BYOD with network management software

Bring your own device (BYOD) is one of the major trends of recent years. Employees increasingly expect to be able to bring their personal devices to work and use them on the corporate network for work-related purposes.

VMware recently revealed that as many as 39 per cent of employees would consider quitting their jobs if they were unable to use their own mobile devices for work – so it makes sense to adapt with this overpowering movement.

However, there are a whole raft of security problems that can be introduced by a lax policy, so companies wanting to implement BYOD should invest in network management software.

There are various mobile device management (MDM) solutions out there that allow IT to manage the totality of the BYOD environment from a dashboard. Companies such as AirWatch and MobileIron are well-known for providing these services, as is Ipswitch, whose president of network management, Ennio Carboni, told ITProPortal earlier in 2013 that businesses must learn from universities and embrace the BYOD revolution.

Another popular option for BYOD management is to create separate boot profiles for a device. When an employee enters the work premises, they boot their smartphone for work, and find it equipped with all the necessary enterprise apps and network access credentials. When leaving for the day, the device can be restarted for personal use.

By 2017, estimates show that over half of the world's companies will have a concrete BYOD policy in place, even though only 24 per cent currently have a formal policy. Don't be one of those that gets left behind.

Conduct regular social engineering training

Social engineering is what powers phishing emails and informs the crooks launching malicious portals dressed up to look like safe, popular websites. Social engineers often dupe targets into trusting them using information gathered from open-source intelligence, a term for any publicly available source, such as websites, social media, and other online resources. Indeed, competitive events like the Social Engineering Capture the Flag at DEF CON have demonstrated just how easily an attacker can glean mission-critical information from a simple phone call.

Back in November, Bullguard's Alex Balan told us that social engineering is a much-neglected aspect of enterprise security.

"Companies don't do enough security training for their employees," Balan said. "There should be military-style drills. Every now and then, there should be a drill where someone tries to social engineer his way into someone's account. These exercises should be run by the security division of that company."

Get the idea? It's important to properly train your staff in how to sniff out and handle potential social engineering attacks, lest your business be compromised in any way.

Set up a corporate VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) can offer a large number of cost and efficiency benefits. Organisations have historically needed to rent network capacity such as T1 lines to achieve full, secured connectivity between their office locations. With a VPN, however, you use public network infrastructure to make these connections and tap into the virtual network through much cheaper local leased lines or even just broadband connections via a nearby Internet Service Provider (ISP).

With VPNs, the cost of maintaining servers tends to be less than other approaches because organisations can outsource the needed support from professional third-party service providers. There are also huge advantages in scalability. PureVPN, Cisco and TeamViewer all provide leading VPN services to enterprises, and there are even several good free VPN clients now available.

So there you have it - the seven New Year's resolutions we feel all enterprises and their IT departments should make for 2014. We'll just leave you with these words from Irish writer Marie Edgeworth:

"The man who will not execute his resolutions when they are fresh upon him can have no hope from them afterwards; they will be dissipated, lost and perish in the hurry and scurry of the world, or sunk in the slough of indolence."

Happy New Year!

Image: Flickr (p_a_h; sachman75; reynermedia)