Digital transformation, in a tangible sense that’s effective for businesses, seems to be becoming ever more nebulous, with strategies implemented with the best intentions often causing more harm than good when factors such as cost and the deployment of resources are not kept in check.
For Marc Beder, VP of Solutions Architecture at Cloud provider iland, effective digital transformation strategy can be simplified to improving the mechanics and working parts of your enterprise, though he concedes that this isn’t as simple as it sounds.
“People don’t know where to start,” says Beder.
“They often don’t understand the context of the statement (digital transformation) or how it applies to their organisation. It’s too broad.”
For Beder, it’s all about gaining an understanding of how an organisation operates, delivers its customers, then applying digitisation in a way that improves this process.
He says: “Every organisation out there can benefit from thinking digitally but you have to understand what you’re doing. Therefore, once you know what it is you do and how you do it, you can apply digital to that to grow your customer base and grow your organisation.”
The digital transformation problem – resources, people, and technology
In theory and anecdotally, this all sounds simple enough, but the fact remains that while many businesses can successfully identify where digitisation will improve their operations, there’s an onus on internal digital transformation, which requires a huge amount of resources to achieve.
The answer? Outsourcing, or rather, working with specialists who can do what you need, more efficiently – streamlining the process with the Cloud acting as the driving force of change. But even then, you’re inevitably hit with roadblocks.
“There’s so much choice out there when it comes to cloud these days,” says Beder.
“Whether it’s to improve resilience, drive down costs, enhance data protection strategy, etc.
“A lot of the time, organisations are struggling with the resources to drive digital transformation – it could be software developers, technologists, infrastructure, etc. Or, it could be the computing power in the underlying engine to drive these projects.”
The Cloud has emerged as a kind cover-all solution to many of these problems, filling the infrastructural gaps, removing the need for a lot of physical hardware and staff to maintain these excesses.
Historically, businesses have invested huge amounts in hardware and legacy software that were up to task at the point of their activation, but are simply not up to the task of being competitive in the current business climate.
Painstakingly replacing this hardware and updating software is an incredibly taxing process, one that can end up doing more harm than good to an enterprise’s bottom line.
Beder says: “Cloud enables that reach. It also starts to afford businesses services that they would never have been able to build themselves – from an economic standpoint – even if they could technically do it.”
How Infrastructure as a Service can take businesses to the next level
Things move quickly in the technological zeitgeist; standard practice 10 years ago seems incredibly primitive now. Consuming cloud-based services is, more and more, driving digital transformation strategy.
The problem is identifying what you need for your business, why it’s useful and how to implement it. Thankfully, that’s what Beder has built a successful career out of doing
He says: “Secure Cloud, or infrastructure as a service (IaaS), is your production workloads running in the cloud. All the underlying computations that will drive your business in terms of running your finance applications, your ERP systems, your HR system etc. – these all require computing power to run.
“That’s what Secure Cloud would give you, it’s a platform that’s secure, compliant and geographically available across the world, making it able to run those workloads. This is also very cost effective when compared to trying to do it yourself.
“The philosophy behind it is putting focus on your core business, your resources, your people, your assets – what is going to derive the most value for your organisation. Focus on core competencies rather than employing people to do generic technology maintenance when all that can be streamlined with effective digital transformation and in this case, leveraging IaaS.”
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Disaster Recovery and backup is more important than ever
Historically, a business’ vital data and assets are stored disparately – a server here, a storage cabinet there.
This means, if this data is compromised – a very real concern in contemporary business – then recovery is difficult, there’s no one point of reference, the information on what’s happened is removed from the point of incident to the people that need to know about it. That’s where disaster recovery comes in.
For Beder, it also boils down to disaster recovery practices being economically inefficient.
“Historically, for organisations that do implement some form of disaster recovery, it normally means having another site somewhere. They’re running infrastructure in other locations, so that if something happens to the primary location, they can keep the business running from the secondary site.
“Therefore, there’s more infrastructure to manage, you’re essentially doubling up on production, maintenance, management, keeping the lights on, etc.
“What also tends to happen, and we see this a lot with our customers, is there isn’t always confidence in that second site, it’s more just like a comfort.”
This is an area where the concept of digital transformation moves out of the realm of the nebulous and into tangibility – not having to incur the costs of maintaining backup sites, as well the staff needed to operate these sites.
This, as well as streamlining your ability to access data in the context of disaster recovery just makes sense and is a relatively non-fussy way to start digitising parts of your business painlessly.
Many of the same principles can be applied to cloud backup and storage. It’s all part of a grander plan – a smarter way to digitise your business in a way that is cost-effective and reliable.
On this, Beder says: “Cloud backups give you the ability to have a secondary copy of your data. With the amount of bandwidth and interconnectivity we have now, these services are easier than ever to consume.
“Customers now don’t have to worry about shipping data between locations, physically having someone come into the office with a case to pick up some tapes and finding somewhere to store them securely.”
Microsoft 365 and the elephant in the room – security
In a refreshingly honest assessment, Beder explains that there’s some misconceptions about just how far security protocols, like the ones at iland and any cloud-based service provider, can realistically go.
There needs to be an understanding of how threats to your business come about – as Beder puts it, “the insider and the malicious insider”.
He says: “We’re very big on not trying to portray anything as a silver bullet and there isn’t any one single solution to security challenges, you have to adopt multiple angles of protection.
“When you take on different layers of protection and put them all together, that’s when you have the best results.
“When I say take all these layers, I don’t just mean technology.
“If you assume technology will solve all your problems then you’re missing the point because most of the attacks are actually insiders.
“For years, security vendors have been talking about the risk of the insider and there are two kinds of insider threats. The first occurs when a hacker thinks ‘I can exploit someone within the organisation’; this person isn’t malicious, they can be a loyal, trustworthy employee but they just make a mistake.
“Then there’s the malicious insider – someone within a business that’s actually trying to do damage. That’s why multiple layers of data protection and education of the end-user is so important.”
From small businesses, SMEs, through to Fortune 500 companies, there’s a good chance you use Microsoft 365. That also means you’re part of the story of the most attacked piece of software in the world, which is why iland offer specialist 365 data protection and feel that it should be critical as part of any digital transformation strategy.
“For us, 365 backup is really just completing the data protection story. A lot of an organisation’s email, and their collaboration data – SharePoint and OneDrive etc. – is business critical. So, they’ve moved it to Microsoft 365, because as a SaaS offering, it makes perfect business sense to do so.
“However, native data protection in 365 is not comparable to the data protection implemented on-premises before this business-critical data was moved. There could be, and often are, gaps in the data protection once moved to 365.
“Compliance, legal and general data retention risks now present themselves and need to be addressed. Ensuring your data is protected, regardless of where it resides is the take-away here.”
Join the Conversation: Digital Transformation 2021 Summit
The impact of digital disruption will be a key theme at the upcoming Digital Transformation Summit on 28th October.
Now in its sixth year, the Summit has established itself as Scotland’s largest annual conference focussed on digitalisation and organisational change.
For more information on how to register a free place visit: www.digifutures.co.uk