5 Urgent Considerations for Secure Cloud Collaboration & Brand Survival Beyond COVID-19
As the cloud collaboration has overnight reached the mainstream status in the day to day business operations, best practices in the underlying IT governance, are yet to catch up. Under enormous pressure to maintain a sense of normality in the team environment, many businesses are opening their networks to any cloud collaboration tools they can. There seems to be no time allowed for due consideration of data, privacy and even the future continuity of business.
This article is not designed to be a thought leadership masterpiece. Rather, it is a strictly professional overview of the current red-hot cloud collaboration and workforce collaboration environment, and our recommendation for the five things leaders need to address to ensure IT security and business continuity during and beyond COVID-19 crisis.
Over the last five to eight years, as the Millennials started moulding the work environment to their unique psyche, concepts such as mobile workforce, workforce mobility, online collaboration and virtual office have become a hot topic across all levels of organisations and a subject of many dedicated conferences.
Yet, the COVID-19 environment has exposed a range of new business challenges when it comes to leveraging a remote workforce. I would even suggest that it has caught businesses as unprepared for the demands of remote cloud collaboration as it has in respect to managing the health crisis of the pandemic.
Social distancing rules have been enforced on us all for good reasons. Now, more than ever, collaboration is a critical part of business and is required to keep the wheels turning so we can recover faster when the health crisis is all over. Therefore, employees in many industries, who can work, need to continue working remotely, using available technology.
And, that is the precise reason why every business must adopt tools that are fit-for-purpose – beyond their primary functionality.
Here are the four things Leaders need to know and urgently address to ensure technology they use will get their business and workforce safely across the current crisis.
The Good: The Imperative of Cloud Collaboration
Cloud collaboration including video conferencing has become an essential daily routine in digital and paperless era. There is an abundance of video conferencing statistics supporting the use of these technologies, the primary reason being business KPIs: cost and efficiency.
- 94% of businesses say video conferencing increases productivity.
- 90% of respondents say video makes it easier to get their point across.
- 89% of respondents agree that video conferencing reduces time to complete projects or tasks.
However, there are more reasons to adopt and utilise cloud collaboration tools and video conferencing than just getting things done and protecting people’s physical health. The isolation imperative of COVID-19 has introduced another, equally compelling reason to turn to video conferencing. The mental health of the workforce.
The psychological need to make employees feel connected is confirmed by 89% of users.
Social distancing must NOT be confused with social isolation!
Yet, the massive popularity of video conferencing has created new issues.
The Bad: The Field of Apps or a Mine Field
One word: Security.
This rapid uptake of online collaboration tools brings security risks to businesses, individuals and governments, that are as hard to grasp holistically as are the health implications of the pandemic.
The irresistible lure of “free” cloud collaboration applications has blindsided many leaders into acting without fully understanding the implications of those actions.
Just because it is easy to use or everyone else is using it, is never a good excuse for NOT taking a step back and considering at least some of the possible implications.
It’s called due diligence. And, that’s probably the small print in your business insurance policy.
Security becomes a significant issue for a business when the workforce is not all in the same office or building or connected to the secured business network. Couple this with ALL your workforce suddenly working remotely, and “free apps” that seem to provide a solution and the results can be disastrous.
Ask yourself, would you be OK with someone listening in on your telephone conversation with a customer, colleague, supplier or anyone else for that matter ?
There are many posts on the bugs that have been found with some popular collaboration tools whose usage has exploded because of the current environment. These, otherwise brilliant apps for normal times, have been caught out as an easy target for hackers and misleading brand claims that don’t stand up to the crisis situation.
In an article published this week, Everybody Seems To Be Using Zoom, Washington Post reported that in the dramatic growth in demand for a popular product, Zoom, the platform started showing cracks in it programming, potentially leaving people’s computers exposed to breaches and its data-and video sharing arrangements that could compromise personal, business and even government privacy as people engage in sensitive discussions from home.
And, closer to home, SMH reported the same concerns. Just how easily a brand’s reputation can be destroyed by the lack of online security for a business and its customers is demonstrated in the backlash of the British government using Zoom for a cabinet meeting, and the Australian Defence Force banning its members from using the platform. And this includes not just employees, but also thousands of supplier businesses.
Takeaway: At best, you could simply be giving away your personal information. At worst, you might be giving away your passwords, access to your computer and all business data.
And, that leads us to the really ugly side to consider when choosing your video and other cloud collaboration tools.
The Ugly: Business Security Disaster
It’s as simple as that. And, as ugly as that: wrong cloud technology can cause an unmitigated security disaster with potentially irreparable consequences for an organisation.
It can be a significant business interruption, leading to the loss of your business data, or worse, the loss of customer data. This, particularly in Financial and Health services inadvertently results in the Brand being compromised and loss of market trust.
Or, it could mean the end of the road for a business.
Statistics show that of the companies that had a major loss of business data, 43% never reopen and 29% close within two years.
Are you 100% confident in the security of your collaboration technologies and the system?
If the answer is NO, keep reading.
Brand Reputation: The Leader’s Choice of Technology
Fortunately, there are solutions out there that are “Business Grade” and “Fit for Purpose”. We consider an application that has security and compliance governance built-in to be fit for purpose in a business environment. Anything less does not cut it and is not worth the risk.
So, while there are many collaboration applications that are fit for purpose, we recommend you seriously consider Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx. Both brands have been around for a long time, are well known and trusted.
As a professional IT services company, we haven’t heard of most of them in our expert capacity. I doubt we would ever recommend them to a professional small business.
Why? Because our brand reputation depends on our choice of technologies. And, so does yours.
The report also mentions the Microsoft Teams application and provides a strong reason for consideration:
The best news is that currently, both Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx are offering their platforms for FREE for a limited time and in a limited capacity. Of course, you can scale up from there as things normalise or as you require additional features.
Last, but certainly not least: we all know that technology is never just about technology. Let’s look beyond the COVID-19-filtered scenario.
Taking Back the Leadership: Respond vs React
One word: Governance.
IT governance should never be a nice-to-have thing for any business. It is always required to ensure compliance with any security policy your organisation may have. Boundaries and rules are essential to keep your data secure.
So, regardless of the size of your organisation, if you do not have a security policy, now is the time to adopt one.
While it’s extremely easy to acquire and deploy those friendly apps as they are inadvertently designed for non-technical people, ensuring your Business security and Brand trust cannot be guaranteed by those solutions.
Even if you have a technically switched on employee who can fly with any technology – after all you can Google anything. And, even if you have a dedicated one-person IT department, can they really take responsibility for your business security and continuity, in and beyond the current crisis?
As a leader, you realise that it requires professional know-how. Therefore, need to seek advice from a reputable, specialist IT services provider, who will be able to assist you with developing a security policy if you required one.
IT Policy Resources You May Need
- Free IT policy template from the Victorian Government website. It covers IT security and other IT governance related templates your business will benefit from adopting.
- CPA Australia IT Checklist for Small Business. These checklists cover IT security and governance. It also addresses the issues I mentioned above in more detail and provides clear advice on what you should aim to implement, especially now.
- Or, try How to create a cyber security policy. This specifically covers cyber security, a business aspect every small business should at least understand and consider.
You need these resources, i.e. IT security governance policies, but we understand it is quite a specialist task to accomplish. Business leaders need to work in conjunction with their IT experts to get it right.
The current business environment is extremely difficult or, as I keep hearing, “unprecedented”. What is well precedented though, is data security best practices.
Because, COVID-19 epidemic will end. I trust we will conquer it. Lost business trust and reputation may be the difference to your business success when we reach the other side.
Ask yourself. Do we have an experienced resource dedicated to looking after our IT security and systems? Are they on top of it or could we potentially be at risk of creating more problems than the current environment has already bestowed on us all?
Life constantly teaches us, currently more than ever, that prevention is better than cure.
So, let me be blunt. You will need help. It may not be IT Networks, but you need to get someone reliable and trustworthy to check your IT health now to prevent inevitable problems.