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Ensuring productivity is a must, but never at the expense of security

With technology now firmly established as an integral driver of efficiency in the business world, it's no surprise that senior IT managers are becoming increasingly accountable for driving revenue. But alongside this responsibility comes a sea of challenges around ensuring the technology in use not only increases productivity, but does so in a highly secure way, ensuring the company isn’t left vulnerable to threats ranging from data hacks to malware attacks. IT professionals are, by nature, managing a larger and more diverse web of devices, platforms, applications, and networks, and with this comes a naturally heightened security threat – particularly in today's age of rapid technological advancement.

In the face of such challenges, IT managers need to make sure their technology offers both security and functionality – not one or the other, and not solutions which sacrifice a little on one front for advanced capability elsewhere. So what are these evolving security vulnerabilities for mid-size and corporate companies? And what should IT staff be considering in order to provide the very best of both worlds – unhindered productivity with minimal security threats? A combined approach of software and cloud-based management tools, alongside versatile, business-designed hardware, can provide the backbone of a strong enterprise IT infrastructure to address this balance.

According to Gartner, global spending on IT security reached $75 billion (£50bn) in 2015, with the market set to more than double to $170 billion (£120bn) by 2020, according to SSP Blue. Such an increase only goes to demonstrate the concerns senior IT managers have around, and importance they place upon, security. Consequently, investments need to be smart, considered, and ultimately provide the perfect blend of functionality and security, as much as this is possible. This approach, supplemented with educating employees and providing effective Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools for the IT department, can help companies to bridge any potential security blackspots while maintaining maximum productivity throughout the workforce and at a scalable level.

Device as the first line of defence

The first step to this is choosing the right hardware, which should act as an initial, strong security barrier at the point of the employee. Mobility is a key function for all businesses today, and users have more choice than ever, from laptops and hybrids to smartwatches and tablets. But with those users often being the weak link in the security chain, it is important to implement devices which offer in-built security as well as effective remote management for IT teams.

In the age of big data, it is imperative that central files containing sensitive information are restricted to the appropriate job levels and functions, but beyond this, devices should also possess the software to remotely wipe data and track location should they be lost or stolen. With such features, IT managers can be confident they have a robust initial barrier in place. At an employee level, where the rise of hack-sites is often making it easy for attackers to guess passwords, educating staff is a major aspect of strategy – for example, emphasising the importance of regularly changing passwords and maintaining a level of complexity within them – rather than just the user’s date of birth.

However, compliance will rarely be at 100 per cent across the entire workforce, so technology is required for extra strength.

Remote security management

Devices must match their stout in-built security capabilities with features designed to help businesses from a productivity perspective too – meaning everything from the external build, to the internal processor and connectivity ports, are created to ensure today’s increasingly mobile employees can perform at maximum efficiency no matter where they are. Such devices possess the power to run multiple business applications concurrently, fueling the popularity of enterprise apps as an increasingly beneficial business tool.

Yet with this popularity comes potential new security threats. Demand for mobile app development services is predicted by 2018 to grow at least five times faster than internal IT departments’ capacity to deliver them, so potential misuse needs to be addressed as employees strive to find the most user-friendly app rather than the most secure one.

Employees need to know which applications are available and how best to use them, preventing staff turning to more consumer-targeted services which are less likely to prioritise security when being developed. Through MDM measures, IT staff can directly access their fleet regardless of location, ensuring updates are made even when switched off, and all devices are in full compliance with company procedure at all times – including the applications installed on the device. This means that IT managers can grant certain job functions exclusive access to approved apps essential to their role, while maintaining a controlled and secure environment.

A well-balanced approach

There is no doubt that the senior IT manager’s job today is tougher than it was even five years ago. A data breach can cause substantial financial and reputational damage for a company, which could take months or years to recover from. And with more technology in place than ever before, and more data stored and available at an employee’s fingertips, device manageability – from an end-user as well as an IT department standpoint – has become the key for senior IT managers when implementing a successful digital transformation project. With the right devices, businesses can bring everything together into one secure environment, without stifling the productivity of employees.

Adam Diggins, Solutions & Pre-sales Technology Marketing Manager, Toshiba