2019 Trends as seen by Jack Bedell-Pearce, MD at 4D Data Centres
Jack Bedell-Pearce, Managing Director at 4D Data Centres, considers the remaining opportunities, threats, and challenges businesses will face this in the second half of this year, sharing some advice along the way.
Don’t underestimate the importance of customer experience
Like many technology companies, we rely heavily on our team of technical engineers and account managers to answer customer queries as quickly as possible. While we have technical engineers on-site 24/7 to answer support tickets, like most businesses, our sales team only work weekdays.
This proved far from ideal last year with prospects leaving voice messages or completing online quote forms over the weekends. We had to admit to ourselves that neither approach led to a great customer experience.
Our technical customers have always been happy with the live chat facility via our website but this obviously needs a competent human being on the other side. Someone who can ask the right kind of qualifying questions and provide useful answers.
We quickly found the solution in an artificial chat bot. The 4D chat robot, called ‘Bot’, has enough intelligence to ask useful qualifying questions, route existing clients accordingly and schedule follow-up calls for when the sales team are back in the office.
Our customers, technical or not, soon fedback that they enjoyed interacting with a chat bot that had some personality and that sometimes the bot provided them with more information than a human operator.
Customer experience is crucial to any business and as our own experience shows, investing in it to strike the right balance with our customers and prospects has paid dividends.
The GDPR – 6+ months on…
Yes, we know, you heard about GDPR non-stop during last year but we would be remiss if we didn’t touch on the most interesting outcomes of GDPR since it was enforced. One benefit is that this new regulation has forced many tech businesses to think seriously about how they process data and data protection as well as where the data is physically stored.
In the case of the former, there has been a big effort to improve intrusion detection and prevention. Undoubtedly this is great news for consumers who will hopefully reap the long-term benefits of fewer instances of their data being stolen in the future.
The issue of which country data is stored in (often referred to as ‘data sovereignty’) is a bigger problem, especially with the proliferation of the public cloud and SaaS. Getting a straight answer out of service providers has proven difficult for some companies, and as Britain heads towards the European Union exit, the post-Brexit question of how and where data can be stored or transferred will become even more pressing. This is one headache that’s not going to go away quickly.
IoT – get up to speed on it now
The IoT trend continues to grow with every part of our lives becoming more connected to the Internet. With this great convenience also comes some serious considerations about who has access to the information drawn from IoT devices, and how that data moves over the Internet.
For any business developing IoT products and services we would highly recommend they focus on the following three areas:
Ensure good business practice around Information Security such as ISO27001:2005
Using best practices of secure software development like OWASP
Encrypting information being transmitted so that it cannot be intercepted and manipulated with SSL/ TLS.
Last year we saw an increase in targeted phishing emails alongside the continued issue of malware in Android apps disrupt consumers and businesses alike. This year we believe we’ll see attackers continue to infiltrate and maliciously control IoT devices.
Some inexpensive IoT devices such as IP cameras and Smart Home devices don’t even have default passwords set or are relying on undocumented APIs with no authentication and the ‘walled garden’ approach of being behind your home or office firewall to protect themselves.
This means that companies with such devices installed have a huge IT security threat within their organisation without even knowing it, which creates a much larger attack surface for cybercriminals to target.
While AI adoption is delivering results for businesses it is also being adopted by hackers. We believe we’ll see an increase in hackers attempting to corrupt and hijack AI systems with automated and intelligent attacks, and try to alter the logic of these tools to perform malicious tasks.
5G will enable millions more devices to connect to the internet, all with high bandwidth capabilities. However as with most new technologies this means we’re also likely to see new record breaking DDoS attacks utilising an increased number of compromised devices connected at even faster speeds.
Biometric vulnerabilities such as facial recognition and fingerprint technologies will also have added pressure with progress already being made in creating ‘fingerprint master keys’ which have a high probability of unlocking devices due to the use of partial matching. New methods are constantly being developed to spoof user identities to trick the underlying technologies that make up the biometric systems into granting attackers unauthorised access to devices and information.
Towards the end of last year, we started to see enterprises de-cloud certain services, particularly when they had set an original strategy of either all cloud or cloud first during the 2010 - 2014 period.
One of the primary reasons amongst CIOs for de-clouding is cost and cost inflation. While on the face of it, the elasticity of public cloud providers gives greater flexibility, the majority of services delivered for the enterprise have relatively predictable workloads. The additional cost for flexibility is therefore negated by this predictability.
Enterprises have also been regularly caught out by bandwidth (data transfer) charges either within the cloud environment or into their offices. Services such as Direct Connect or Peering can help to reduce this, but this lack of control and precision has been a significant cause of tension between CIOs and CFOs.
If you’re considering de-clouding parts of your enterprise’s IT services, it is critical to understand the relationships between systems and proprietary services that may have been built within the cloud service providers ecosystem. However, we would recommend that you first assess the infrastructure as a Service (compute, block storage etc..) areas.
These are generally the fastest and easiest to move and have fewer direct ties-ins restricting movement away from the cloud provider. Significant cost-efficiencies can be made by looking into these areas of predictable resource requirements and looking at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over either 24 or 36 months, justifying the potential capital expenditure required.