After my last blog post was published, Five Technologies that Every IT Employee Should Know About, one reader commented, “There has got to be more than five.” Yes, there are at least five additional compelling technology topics to know. Here are my choices to complete a “Top 10” list.
Universal security is at the top of every CIO’s must implement now checklist. Who isn’t worried about getting hacked? Every day brings new and more malicious threats that are constantly evolving and real. The network, mobile, cloud, and on-premises platforms are all fair game to hackers. To learn more about the various threats, read this informative report from Cisco.
Luckily there are a lot of incredibly smart people out there working to mitigate these threats and prevent attacks from occurring. You can implement a comprehensive variety of products to enforce your IT defenses and moderate risk. My employer produces several products that can help your company defend against malware, email menaces, and network threats, as well as to improve access control, and identify day-zero threats through data analytics
Security doesn’t end at just installing the products. Strong security policies must be in place and they must be monitored and enforced. Policies such as enforcing strong credentials for access to confidential company information are top things to focus on. Find out where your company is most vulnerable and start to protect your systems as soon as possible before the bad guys get there first.
Beyond that, Cisco has found it’s not enough to protect the perimeter—and not just because the perimeter has gotten a lot bigger with teleworking, mobility, and BYOD. As advanced malware gets more sophisticated, security goals have expanded from “Protect the infrastructure” to “Protect the infrastructure AND detect and mitigate any malware that has gotten through anyway.” The news is filled with stories of seemingly secured companies that have been successfully attacked and only found out about it months later, after the damage was done.
More advanced security technology inside the enterprise continually gathers traffic information to identify a day-zero malware attack within a few hours, then isolate it, block it from spreading, and remove it. This identification often requires being able to do big data analysis of network information collected from an integrated security architecture, which is the next level in maintaining cybersecurity in the enterprise.
- Team Messaging Applications
Messaging applications provide unique collaboration capabilities to groups across the corporate environment. An employee may utilize team messaging across multiple devices such as a laptop, mobile phone, or tablet. This flexibility helps employees stay productive, follow updates in real time, and allow for more up-to-date, real-time, and persistent communication that some feel will eliminate email in the distant future.
The messaging applications currently in the market have a broad range of capabilities. Features may include unified communications (UC) integration (e.g., telephony and online meetings), project management, security keys, voice messaging, single sign-on (SSO), and file sharing and collaboration.
The architecture and design team that I work for at Cisco is heavily involved in the deployment of the Cisco Spark™ messaging application across the company. A cloud platform, Spark is a feature-rich leader in the industry and it allows for continuous delivery of new features to our Cisco IT user base. I look forward to product updates and the fast pace that new Spark features arrive so they will add more to my productivity and improve my user experience.
My team has been utilizing Spark to communicate and share information. With team members in Australia, Europe, and the U.S, we can easily and quickly share information as well as comment on ideas or presentations. Spark also serves as a nice bridge to communicate with other Cisco IT groups (e.g., program management, implementations and operations, etc.) that support our unified communications and video (UCV) platform. Customized teams can be created within Spark to facilitate information and share ideas among project groups.
- Shadow IT
What is Shadow IT? Typically it is software programs and platforms used by employees, yet not approved by the corporate IT department. If you think Shadow IT doesn’t exist at your place of employment then you probably haven’t been paying attention.
For several years now external file share systems, virtual computing environments, database platforms, and messaging apps have been cheap to procure with just a company credit card. Typically, there is no malicious intent behind their use by employees; it’s more about convenience and a faster way to get work done.
However, the short-term speed advantage is often balanced by greater long-term business costs. Multiple groups buying the same service often fail to get group discount rates that the company as a whole could have received (and maybe already has). In our experience, if a shadow IT solution really works for a group, and they end up managing and maintaining their own solution, after a while they find themselves wanting to hand it over to IT to manage. The time, effort, and cost of maintaining a shadow IT solution usually isn’t thought about until it’s too late. And handing off a non-standard solution design to IT usually requires a good deal of rework to make it fit something that IT will support.
Last, be forewarned, if these shadow IT platforms have not been vetted by your corporation, you could be putting yourself and your company in danger of a major security breach. What user or corporation wants to expose their technological or financial secrets through a hole that a hacker can easily exploit to obtain any information they want? Any group using shadow IT tools should speak with their IT department about vetting these options. It also may be necessary to take corrective action to plug any security holes in those tools or find out what is the preferred software platform in use today.
- Hybrid Services
Hybrid services are now becoming a way of life for many corporations. They can be defined as a mix of on-premises and cloud platforms that serve your user base. Contrary to popular belief, not all applications run in the cloud today. Understanding how on-premises and cloud systems interact is vital to a healthy IT environment.
For example, our Cisco IT UCV teams have been supporting a hybrid service environment for quite some time. We have a mix of on-premises gear running our voice, video, and contact center platforms. Our cloud platforms include conferencing, messaging, and streaming video. In addition, some of these platforms integrate a hybrid mix of cloud and on-premises solutions under their specific technology area.
Understanding your own hybrid service footprint is critical for developing a complete technology roadmap. Defining how the various components interact will be crucial to your success in keeping platforms optimal for users.
- Advanced Analytics
Advanced analytics for IT departments are the new kid on the block. Companies are racing to deploy products that can decipher all the insightful data that your platforms have been collecting. These results will provide useful business intelligence information to greatly improve operating practices and drive increased productivity and corrective actions. Big data analytics tools are very useful in finding new ways to make customer service easier or in discovering new business opportunities.
From an IT point of view, analytics provided by solutions such as Cisco Stealthwatch are one part of the newest set of security tools. Network data analytics are also becoming part of a much larger set of IT tools that support performance monitoring and management for applications and network flows.
For example, Cisco launched a new, groundbreaking platform called Cisco Tetration Analytics. To quote from the Cisco website, “Tetration Analytics will provide visibility across everything in your data center in real time. It uses hardware and software sensors to give you behavior-based application insight with deep forensics. Get a highly secure and reliable zero-trust model. Dramatically simplify your operations. Migrate applications faster. Make changes intelligently.”
What company wouldn’t want these capabilities in their arsenal of products to keep an eye on their data centers in order to keep platforms stable, secure, and producing a healthy history of data?
In closing, I hope these topics provide you with tip-of-the-iceberg information that will pique your curiosity and need for more research. What relevant IT Top 10 technologies would you include on your list? What are the future technologies that you will be keeping an eye on as you build up your knowledge and pursue your thirst for more information?