The new year that people were yearning for in the depths of the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns is finally here. Now the challenge is figuring out exactly what it holds for Australian businesses.
With large numbers of staff still working from home, it’s clear there is much still to do to ensure organisations can operate efficiently and meet the demands of their clients. In many cases, steps taken in haste last year now need to be reviewed and refined.
The ‘new normal’ for IT
The challenges of this new operating environment are particularly acute for IT departments. Having had to quickly configure devices and systems to allow large-scale remote working, they must now fine-tune technology infrastructures so they can continue to deliver long-term support for staff.
Secure, reliable access to centralised and cloud-based data stores and applications needs to be available at all times. Staff also require efficient mechanisms for communicating between themselves as well as with clients, suppliers, and partners.
In this ‘new normal’ environment for IT, there will be some key trends to watch during the coming year. These trends include:
- Your datacentre will be the cloud:
Although there has been a massive increase in usage of cloud-based storage and applications in recent years, most organisations still retain some IT resources in-house. As a result, they find themselves needing to manage a hybrid IT environment. Having a mix of local resources and cloud offerings from a variety of vendors has become normal.
Until now, corporate datacentres have remained in the middle of this architecture, connected to cloud resources as required. But, unfortunately, datacentres are not easy to scale. This requires more hardware, bigger budgets, and higher maintenance fees.
Increasingly, organisations are realising that the public cloud is far more flexible, and it is logical to make it the architectural hub – so this is the strategy they will follow. In some cases, the cloud will also replace backbone networks and become the common ground that connects everything together.
- Zero Trust will achieve critical mass:
During 2021, VLANs will continue to decline in favouritism as organisations seek more scalable ways to securely connect large numbers of remote workers. When staff are relying on home internet connections to access corporate resources, a far more effective strategy is to embrace the concept of zero trust.
This year, Australian businesses will adopt a zero-trust strategy in far greater numbers. This ties security to individuals and edge devices rather than relying on a centralised resource in a datacentre. The security control pane then shifts to the cloud where it is always accessible.
Zero trust makes it possible to restrict access at the application level instead of opening the entire corporate network. It’s a big step in ensuring common levels of security, whether staff are at home or in the office.
- Home network security will remain a challenge:
Despite the best efforts of IT teams when it comes to implementing zero trust strategies, most at-home devices will still be connecting to potentially insecure networks. Often, the gateway device is an ISP-provided modem that lacks any sort of real security and Wi-Fi networks can be simple to infiltrate.
The other devices on the network are also potentially insecure including mobile phones, tablets and even gaming consoles that could be vulnerable to attacks by malware.
IT teams will need to take steps to ensure that work-related devices can connect to the internet but not other devices on the home network, and this could take some time to achieve.
- Ransomware and phishing attacks will continue to be an issue:
The same attacks that target staff when in the office will continue while they operate from a home environment. Encouraged by perceptions that security is reduced when remote work is involved, cybercriminals will increase their efforts to achieve successful conquests.
Remote workers need to be on the lookout for phishing attempts that may appear to have come from a legitimate source. At the same time, they need to be aware of the possibility of ransomware attacks that could have an impact both on client devices as well as centralised corporate resources.
These trends will help to shape the year ahead for business IT teams as they continue to tackle the challenges of remote working, disrupted supply chains, and uncertain market conditions. Many just hope this year will be better than the last. Here’s hoping.