Big data. Big problem: security and reliability

Data fraud and hacking can be devastating for any business, and they are two issues that are very much a reality with no organisation one hundred per cent immune.

big data

The floppy disc has long been a symbol for data and storage. Despite traditionally only storing 1.44 megabytes it remains synonymous with data thanks to its use as the “save” icon in many software packages, not least of all MS Office.

Their consequences can be extremely damaging, tainting corporate reputations irredeemably, and can even lead to costly court cases. The result of which can be a hefty fine or even  potentially a custodial sentence for directors in serious cases. The recent breach at Tesco Bank springs to mind as an example that is only too real for its customers. So how do companies ensure that their big data is secure and reliable?

How Do You Know Your Big Data Is Reliable?

In instances where missing data points are vital to performance  the inclusion of unreliable information can sway results, disrupt user experiences or, in extreme cases can mean big problems for business. In today’s world all aspects of our life are changing faster and more often. This influences reliability by increasing the speed at which data expires – that is to go out of date and no longer be relevant or accurate. There are hundreds of micro factors involved nowadays these range from staff retention. highlighted loss of knowledge/information as one the hidden costs of staff turnover1.

More residential and business property transactions are taking place each year since 2011, this figure is lower than ten years ago, before the economic downturn2. Individuals moving house has implications for staff retention too. So many of these issues are interlinked. Less than 50% of FTSE business disclose staff turnover it is surely increasing each decade in part due to our shortening attention span3 as humans. Could our attention span also be affecting our likelihood to change or stick with a supplier as we get bored, look for change or attempt to follow the latest trend? Could it also be affecting accuracy of data input and checking. Businesses must therefore continually innovate to stay on top of data that is going out of date much faster.

Data quality is an issue all around the world. With a large emphasis on the speed of capture the collection process still tends to neglect the true value of validation. Figures from Royal Mail Data Service released last year estimated that in the UK 63.3% of businesses have missing, incomplete or out-of-date customer data. Validation was an issue cited there too with basic checks reportedly not taking place.

With simple automated verification and validation techniques you can reduce the amount of unreliable data entering an organisation and with proper systems in place to internally sense check data the reliability can be greatly increased.

How Do You Improve the Security of Your Big Data?

The recent Tesco security breach was a hostile one which resulted in a severe impact to individuals and whilst big data is becoming a more visible issue, as businesses we must take steps to understand the potential risks of the data we collect. The two main points for businesses to consider are the same factors as calculating risk – probability and consequence. In this content therefore we must ask:

  • How important is this data?
  • How likely is a data breach – in light of the robustness of security?

The old adage of prevention is better than the cure applies here – and therefore the more important the data the more steps must be taken to prevent any intrusions or breaches.

With the likelihood of a data breach you are dealing in terms of risk. Ease of access is probably the greatest factor here – how many people, internally and externally access your system and how easily can they do so. Is the data limited to only the people who need to have access? Is it limited to secure connections? Is it encrypted? Is it only accessible via certain IPs or offices?

In these cases, where the sensors themselves are actuators and in charge of controlling the security and safety, data collection can affect the outcome of whether a machine shuts itself down or causes potentially dangerous failures.

In the case of information request sensors, data can be tampered with or the sensors themselves can be hijacked, causing an abundance of new issues. Here, deploying big data fraud detection schemes with careful planning and management log systems can work wonders to reduce foul play.

Ultimately, data security is unique to each business and so the ways in which we protect data need to be unique. Whilst there is a need to reassure clients about security, it is beneficial to continually improve and update your security systems keeping specific details of updates under wraps. To do otherwise can act as a way to point hackers in the right direction and therefore increase the possibility of exploitation.

The key then is to regularly assess your data collection needs, pinpoint potential places for data breaches and invest in robust systems and software to combat data loss and intrusions.

1. Employee Turnover Hidden Costs []
2. UK Residential and Non-Residential Property Transaction Section 1, Chart 1 [HM Revenue and Customs Annual UK Property Transaction Statistics 2015]
3. Attention Span Statistics 2000 vs 2015 [Statistic Brain]

Automation in Business

Is Automation Changing Your Business?

Technology has long been the focus innovation for many progressive business leaders across the globe, but throughout history, our culture, arts, technology and even business have pushed boundaries, exploring ideas, discussing concepts and creating ingenious products that have changed our lives forever.

Whilst science fiction has predicted a plethora of everyday tech such video-calling, driverless cars and smart bionic limbs to name a few, inventors such as the Wright Brothers and Nikola Tesla, manually delivered innovation using the physical application of their scientific and engineering expertise. Their visionary creations helped pave the way for many everyday technologies.  Imagine what they could have achieved if they had been able to cede responsibility for repetitive and time-consuming tasks to automation.

Since then numerous advancements have taken place to build on their ideas and increase efficiency. Long gone are the days of starting a car manually with many new cars now starting at the touch of a button. Today, artificial intelligence can be seen influencing and assisting our daily lives. Even entering a password, email address or first name online can now be an automatic process thanks to software. In fact automation software can also be used to send the email response once you complete a form.

In business, automation is now as key as marketing or finance.
Companies are seeing huge returns thanks to automation and software robots. Business Insider suggests that robot co-workers may be closer to reality than we think, with 850,000 public sector jobs in Britain expected to be performed by robots by 2030.

Three Reasons Why Automation is Already Crucial for Businesses

Automation is helping businesses work faster

With automation now freely available and increasingly affordable, there are now more and more businesses relying on the automation of common tasks and processes to make work easier, faster by removing the difficult aspects and allowing staff to focus on the important elements.

From manufacturing to broadcasting and entertainment, automated software and machinery can be deployed to perform repetitive tasks more accurately and with greater reliability than people. Companies such as Zume Pizza have introduced robots to make perfectly sized pizzas with the perfect amount of dough and tomato topping, whilst Chain Reaction Cycles has created a fully integrated automated warehouse that eliminates the need  someone to manually process product orders.

Automation is making businesses more efficient

Automation and artificial intelligence software can replace more than just manual labour. Implementing automation, businesses can repeat tasks with frightening speed and precision. Machines (and software) can be programmed to make the decisions in a fraction of the time it would normally take and shut down, pause or restart in a case of any one of a myriad of undesirable situations or simply if someone is working nearby or passing. This helps to eliminate not only errors, but costly recovery time and set up time as well as avoiding lawsuits or disciplinary action.

Automation is saving money for businesses

Reducing the need for back-office operations and labour by incorporating automation into processes can save businesses money if implemented well. In 2012, mobile operator O2 invested in software automation to reduce temporary staff costs caused by peaks in customer activity .

The firm automated various tasks including SIM swaps, porting mobile numbers, migrating from prepaid onto a contract, unlocking a phone. Each task is a separate software program licensed from Robotic Process Automation firm Blue Prism.

With competition growing year on year in all business sectors, automation is allowing companies to remain competitive by reducing costs  and there is potential for businesses to save millions with software. In an economy where customers are increasingly looking for the best value the speed at which a business’s operations are upgraded and automated could be the difference between successful growth and stagnation.

Adapting Your Business for the Digital Age

With rising competition from new digital players, investing in new technology has never been more vital for keeping up with industry trends and retaining market share. But do IT companies suffer from the old cobblers shoes adage in this respect?

A recent survey commissioned by Exact revealed that 38% of the UK’s small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are concerned that if they don’t adapt their business models for our increasingly digital world, they could go out of business within the next five years. Despite these growing concerns, only 6% of these businesses are doing something about it and investing in new technology, and worryingly IT companies are equally bad.

All organisations, but especially IT businesses, must adapt to thrive or face struggling to survive.

How can IT SMEs rise to the challenge?

  • Invest in cloud technology
    Whilst you are busily moving your customers to a cloud model, how much of the software you use to drive your business is delivered in the same way? Digitalisation of a company can require vast amounts of investment of both money and time; however, this has proven worthwhile. In the past year 58% of businesses have moved to a cloud computing model, which is an increase of 11% from the previous year. Investing in the setup of a cloud model and cloud tools for your business will bring a number of benefits, including improved efficiency, increased collaboration and up-to-date software plus it frees up capital expenditure.
  • Instil a culture that nurtures a tech-savvy workforce
    One of the best ways to continue growing as a business and remaining adaptable to change is by bringing in new thinking. Building a positive, modern tech-forward working environment begins at the recruitment stage. By attracting new forward-thinking employees from a variety of backgrounds and skill sets and cultivating a collaborative work ethic, your business can ensure it continues to move in the right direction. Make sure these people are equally applied to solving internal business problems as well as customer issues.
  • Form strategic technology partnerships
    In a Vodafone poll technology providers were thought to be great third-party partners. By partnering with other companies, you can leapfrog the competition in developing new or complimentary solutions for your product portfolio. 69% of the businesses polled believed the benefits of having a third-party tech partner enabled them to compete within the larger market and strengthened the company’s capabilities. These partners can also support scalable growth and help you adapt to new tech trends, ease transitions and assist with training without overshadowing your overall business aims and plans. In this new world, your old competitors are now your new friends.
  • Utilise alternative finance options
    As with technology partners, finance partners can be equally valuable. When traditional funding sources are unable to meet funding needs, IT SMEs can now look to a growing alternative finance market to assist their growth and transition. A new generation of IT-specific finance companies can provide much more bespoke, relevant services that are best suited to an IT company’s needs and help them stay in control of their finances.

As a dedicated provider of IT finance, Syscap can create tailored solutions, giving you rapid access to funding through a simple and quick process. For more information or to join the Partner Programme visit Syscap online.