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How businesses can lower data security risks in hybrid working environments

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In the space of just a few months, the COVID-19 crisis brought about years of change in the way companies in all sectors and regions do business. 

From the necessitated move to cloud and the launch and expansion of e-commerce efforts, the pandemic has paved the way for accelerated digital transformation, resulting in the ‘new normal’ of work where Australian employees are increasingly opting for a hybrid work-from-home and office environment.

As a result, a significant amount of routine business is now being conducted via collaboration channels, including Teams, Zoom and Slack – and employees are taking agreements over these platforms as binding.


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In fact, recent research shows that time spent on tools such as Zoom and Teams has increased by 21% in Australia since the start of the pandemic.

The impact of hybrid working on business processes has not only changed the way employees and businesses operate, it has major implications on the security dynamic, increasing the risk of data loss in organisations as a result of complex IT environments.

With more workers given mobility solutions (phones, laptops and external drives) and remote access to data and applications, there’s an increased chance that physical technology will become lost, stolen or damaged. Stored within these lost devices will be sensitive intellectual property, customer and employee details and business-critical information.

In many cases, the data has never been backed up, which means it’s gone forever.


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Similarly, the increase in sensitive data being shared over instant messaging tools means that employees are taking data out of the control of the businesses that employ them, exposing companies to risk. Fifty-three percent of Australian employees are saving their own copies of the information they share over instant messaging tools including Zoom, Teams and Slack while, conversely, 47% of knowledge workers delete it entirely.

Either approach could leave companies open to significant fines if regulators ask to see a paper trail.

With deals being done, orders processed, and sensitive information shared through video-conferencing and messaging platforms, it’s critical for companies to include this rapidly growing volume of data in their protection and compliance envelope. If they don’t, the implications could be dire.

Organisations need to have a proactive data protection strategy that delivers visibility and security, no matter where the data is located. To ensure data is both protected and compliant, organisations can consider the following best practices:

Backup at regular intervals

Setting up a regular schedule to maintain multiple copies of your data may sound obvious, but this is one step that many organisations forget to take. In the unfortunate event of a cloud outage or ransomware attack, you want to maintain business resilience and ensure operations continue to run with minimal disruption.

 Apply data protection across all workloads

Data is growing exponentially and becoming more fragmented across the data centre, cloud and the edge. Unifying data protection in a single platform is the only way your IT team can deliver required service levels with agility while limiting cost and risk.

Avoid a single point of failure

If you only have one copy of data and it’s hit by ransomware, you are likely to pay up as your chances of restoring the information is limited. The same is true when a unique piece of data is accidentally deleted. In both instances, data loss can be avoided if you have a backup copy. Having at least two copies, where one is isolated and immutable, will help minimise potential data loss.

Test your recovery process

Running drills on a regular basis will help ensure employees are familiar with the processes involved in recovering the data that they need. This may involve checking that a secondary site will go live if the main site fails, or it can be as simple as recovering an arbitrary file to a PC and checking it is identical to the original.

When it comes to data on collaboration tools, organisations can look at incorporating the data sets from collaboration and messaging tools into the business’s data management strategy using eDiscovery and SaaS data backup solutions. This will empower users to make the most of the tools without putting the business at risk.


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Geoff Coleyhttps://www.veritas.com/en/au
Geoff Coley is Director, Strategy & Architecture, Asia South and Pacific region, at enterprise data protection leader Veritas Technologies.