Enabling Safe Business #ESB16


Last week I hosted another successful Enabling Safe Business – a Closer look at Cloud conference.  This is the third one that I have been involved in.  Here are my opening comments.

The ICT industry is great at coming up with new phrases and jargon.  Apparently the five most confusing terms are somethings as a service (xaas), big data, gamification, digital disruption and of course the one that is on everyone’s lips, cloud.

But cloud has been around for ever, most of us run on some form of private cloud, yet we are talking about a new kind of cloud, not Undulatus Asperatus which was recently named as a new kind of cloud formation (you see there are new things under the sun) but a public cloud, widely available, easy to access.  A cloud that can liberate the way we work, interact and play.  A technology cloud that promises instant gratification, with endless, always on computing.

So this is what today is all about, getting our service units, ICT, security, governance and procurement colleagues talking to each other and gaining a better understanding of what cloud means.  The good, the bad and the downright ugly.

More and more services used by public organisations are being provided in the cloud and accessed online.  We used to call these hosted systems. A quick look in the dictionary though says that to cloud is to overshadow, to obscure or to darken and in my view the industry has to come out from behind the hype and work harder to describe the benefits and the downsides, especially around licencing and migration costs.  It is said that if it is too good to be true then it isn’t.

The internet of things is another one of those outlandish pieces of jargon yet it cannot be denied that cloud computing, as part of the evolution of internet technologies is transforming our world.  By the end of this decade there will be 50 billion connected devices and 7 trillion sensors.  That is a thousand for every one of us.  The amount of data produced in the world from the beginning of time until the middle of the twentieth century is now produced every two days. Where do they get these from?  I’m not a futurologist yet I can tell you that in the future the cost of technology will continue to fall.  The speed of development and deployment will increase as will the appearance of new products.  There will be an increase in joint ventures, joint ownership and pop up products as we all grapple to try and keep on top.  Are you ready?

And all this presents a real opportunity for us all to mess up completely.  In October last year, the email addresses and passwords of 2,200 of British Gas’ customers appeared online following a cyber-attack.  The company wrote to all of those affected, by email, which said: ‘I can assure you there has been no breach of our secure data storage systems, so none of your payment data, such as bank account or credit card details, have been at risk. As you’d expect, we encrypt and store this information securely.  From our investigations, we are confident that the information which appeared online did not come from British Gas.’  Can they really be sure?  Can we really trust such organisations?

It was the third time in a week that a British company had suffered from a data breach. Earlier that week the personal details of Marks & Spencer customers were posted online and a few days earlier, TalkTalk was targeted by a cyber attacker that leaked bank account details of customers online.  I am a customer and the way they handled the affair did not cover them in glory.  I ask you though would we have fared any better?

So we have a lot to consider and I’m looking forward to addressing some of these issues and, no doubt, many others during the day.

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