It’s often said that history repeats itself. However we always assumed that this applied to everything but technology. But sure enough, we’re in the process of experiencing a new IT revolution that will bring us right back to the start.
Business computing had its not-so-sexy golden age in the warehouses of large companies. These were large, noisy, boring boxes that were only understood by the computer operators. Most people in the organization had little idea how computers worked, or what they were for.
This soon gave birth to the server-sided processing architecture, where employees would connect through a terminal and all of the processing would be done remotely.
Then, the PC era came along and put some of the power of these massive corporate mainframes onto the desktops of employees. This made workers infinitely more productive, and commercial adoption was further increased with the introduction of slick visual interfaces which made computing easier to understand for the average person. The PC era also ignited rapid growth in the tech industry as companies now had to create large IT departments to maintain, repair, install, monitor and care for these desktop machines.
But those large mainframe servers didn’t die out. Server rooms were still necessary for networking infrastructure, high-power applications, highly sensitive data handling, and applications such as transaction databases which required centralized processing.
So in addition to the extra responsibilities that came with every employee having their own computers, IT departments also had to deal with the business of running servers. For the past 30 years, the computing world has largely been client-sided. Of course, we use the Internet to communicate and share ideas and data files, but the majority of processing has still been done on our laptops and desktops.
But the PC era is gradually coming to an end thanks to an increasing trend towards the commoditization of IT services. With SaaS, BYOD and Cloud Computing, offices are slowly moving back towards the client-server computing model of the 1970s.
Tomorrow’s desktop computer won’t be a physical box that sits on your desk. Instead, they’ll be more of a “virtual environment” which follows you around everywhere you go. All of your productivity applications will be directly accessible through a VDI interface or a web browser without installing any additional software.
You could start working at your desk PC, and then grab your tablet and pick up right where you left off. All of your programs and documents will be available to you from anywhere because they don’t physically reside on your machine. Instead, they’ll be hosted on a server in a remote datacenter.
Did someone steal your laptop? That’s ok. The thief didn’t steal any of your files. Just grab another one and get back to work. And because these desktops are all hosted and monitored in the primary datacenter, you no longer have to worry about viruses or software updates.
And instead of purchasing computers for each employee, you can provide employees with a bonus if they supply their own computers. “Bring Your Own PC/Device”, often called BYOPC or BYOD lifts the maintenance burden off of IT’s shoulders.
It’s one of the greatest things to happen to computer security in years.
But this new convenient approach to computing also has some risks associated. The simplicity of SaaS and cloud also makes it easy for employees to self-provision their own IT services. Imagine if a sales rep purchased their own CRM account through the Internet and filled it with years of critical business data. The company would lose control over this information if this employee ever left the company.
In the future, the biggest IT threats won’t be technological ones. Instead, they will be threats relating to people and their behaviours. IT’s role will increasingly be one which has overlap with Finance, Legal and HR.
Their job will be to centralize control over corporate information. IT will be tasked with monitoring the flow of information and establishing policies relating to privacy, protection, compliance, usage, sharing, governance of corporate data. The impact of these threats can be seen with the recent Bradley Manning incident, which was a completely human breach that took place within a technologically secure environment. Mechanical systems are easy to control. But human behaviour can be very unpredictable.
It only takes one such incident to destroy a company overnight, so organisations will need to be strict and vigilant in their enforcement of these data and information policies. And most importantly, this new era in computing will require that organizations maintain strict centralized control over all of the systems which manage their corporate data. This new era in computing will introduce us to new kind of threats which require a new way of thinking about data security.
About The Author: Storagepipe provides forward-looking services that help companies proactively tackles the data protection challenges of the future.