By Adrian Taylor, Regional Vice President Networks A10
Today we live in a VUCA world full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. As business leaders make plans to ensure their business is ready for whatever the future holds, they face many challenges at all levels.
As a result, many organizations are talking about how to make their business more “digitally resilient.” It’s about understanding the true connection between the technology we all depend on and IT risk. Over the past decade, the world has witnessed a massive digital transformation; the end result is more interconnected systems, a larger business ecosystem, and an even greater reliance on online communications. Employees now access work from anywhere using mobile devices, and servers that used to be on-premises now exist in the cloud.
Thus, the day-to-day dependence of corporate organizations on technology is not only pervasive, but also deepening and even more fundamental to their operations. There is no way to slow down this ongoing digital transformation.
Almost five billion Internet users
To put this into context, there were 4.95 billion internet users in January 2022, according to DataReportal. More people on the network means higher demand for network bandwidth, agility, flexibility and security. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that the virtual workplace is possible.
However, it was also highlighted that working from home is not always ideal in terms of security. Many corporate organizations are choosing a hybrid model and adapting their workplace not only for health reasons, but also to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Wanting to understand the impact of all the challenges facing enterprise organizations today, we commissioned a study in early 2022 that explored various issues around digital sustainability, cloud adoption, security and how businesses plan to operate now and in the future.
We surveyed more than 2,500 organizations from a variety of vertical markets, including financial services, education, government, gaming, utilities, healthcare, retail and e-commerce. It was interesting to see how different sectors are developing and compare the similarities and differences.
What worries businesses the most?
When it comes to digital transformation, one of the industries at the forefront is retail and e-commerce. Along with the digitization of business applications and internal processes, retail organizations have seen much of their consumer-facing store business move online. Organizations that favor consumer-friendly online offerings see exponential growth in e-commerce saleswhich grew two to five times faster than before the pandemic.
So it was interesting that when we asked retail and e-commerce respondents how concerned they were about their organization’s digital resilience and resilience, they were most concerned about their agile development and DevOps capabilities (95%), and how they b remote staff service (95.5%), as well as management of the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 (95%).
Remote support staff was also a top concern for financial sector respondents (96%) when asked the same question. Competition in this sector is constantly increasing as traditional banks compete with digital ones non-banks and try to keep up with consumer demands.
This often means they rush to deploy new technologies that deliver a seamless digital experience and add value to customers. This has led to an increase in the number of application services, which has created a dramatic increase in the viable attack surface for hackers. Not surprisingly, this sector cited optimizing security tools for competitive advantage (97%) as a top challenge.
Respondents in games and utilities are least concerned about remote access (89%). Respondents in the education sector are most concerned about future sustainability and responsiveness to external changes (95%).
How does this affect networks?
Looking at the impact that the exponential growth of online services is having on network traffic, our research found that the gaming sector had the highest average growth of all verticals, reporting a 52.6% increase in traffic. The education sector also experienced high growth at 49.8%, but the average growth was surprisingly low for retail respondents (41.1%).
This could be due to the fact that retailers have gradually moved infrastructure to the Internet over several years, while educational institutions were forced to suddenly switch to offering online services during the pandemic.
Digital resilience is about more than network uptime, and loss of revenue isn’t the only cost. As more and more services move online, most industries handle large amounts of highly personal information, including payment details.
This data is a lucrative target for cybercriminals. In October 2021, UK supermarket giant Tesco found itself in the midst of an e-commerce boom that saw 1.3 million online orders per week when a cyber attack was attempted on it. The company quickly recovered, but the incident took down the company’s website and app for nearly 48 hours, resulting in a significant potential loss of revenue and affecting its loyal customers. Commentators highlighted that a similar period of downtime prior to the pandemic would have had a much smaller impact, demonstrating the growing need for digital resilience.
Certainly, security is a top concern for all verticals surveyed. However, when asked what worries them the most when it comes to cyber threats, ransomware scored the highest for utilities at 14.5%. Any downtime in this area could mean the lights literally go out. Loss of sensitive data was a major concern in the gaming and education sectors (20.5% and 20% respectively).
Interestingly – and perhaps counterintuitively for a sector that risks incurring the wrath of gamers when the network goes down – the gaming sector rated the impact on brand and reputation as the least of the sectors surveyed.
Automation of personal tasks
When respondents were asked what technologies they had implemented in the past 12 months, AI and machine learning were high across all verticals, but highest in government, retail and e-commerce. This is not surprising, as both sectors are looking to automate personal tasks with artificial intelligence tools.
Growing companies, especially those expanding geographically, must ensure that their IT infrastructure is flexible and able to handle a hybrid workforce. Here, respondents in financial services and healthcare predicted that most of their workforce would return to the office, and only 12%, respectively, said most or all of their workforce would be remote. Across all verticals, the preference was for a return to the office, with only 14% saying that a minority or all of their workforce would be working remotely.
As organizations prepare for the next wave of disruptions, including responding to cyber attacks, securing the corporate environment and accommodating remote workers, digital resilience will be the watchword.