Simplify My Data Leak Prevention

data_theftA little while back I wrote a post about how important it is to stop making technology so hard (feel free to have a look back here) and that successful technology delivers what people need.

How do we do that? by giving them technology that just simply works, I’ve written a few times about the OAP Internet Virgins show on Sky, here in the UK, which gave older folk an iPad and taught them how this simple bit of well designed technology could work and how it truly changes lives in a host of these cases.

Well I also said i’d give some examples of where I’ve seen simplification of technology have real benefit, however since that promise, times have been hectic, traveling, presenting, doing press and video interviews, a podcast debut and my actual job, all that got in the way of my good blogging intentions!

Well in the midst of all that was a presentation I was asked to do by Microsoft to the Institute of Financial accountants, the topic of which was data security. The idea been to give these predominantly small business owners some tips on how to secure their most critical business asset, their data. Just because these where small businesses, it doesn’t make their data any less critical than the very largest enterprise. However these guys potentially have a much bigger problem, they are financial services people not IT people and the idea that they need complex technology solutions to stop them losing critical data would mean that, in reality, they never would have that option and that’s not the way it’s supposed to work, technology should be an enabler and help us do things better, smarter, easier and shouldn’t be bound by budget, or in-depth IT skills.

Well what have all these things go to do with making things simpler?

Take a bow Office365, Microsoft do lots of really good stuff on their cloud platforms, across 365 and Azure, it’s what you’d expect from a hyperscale cloud provider. One of the things that cloud does is help to greatly simplify IT deployment, need a new server, go to the portal click go and up it comes, need storage, select what you need and like technology magic these things appear, the behind the scenes technology is very complex, but to you the user, it looks a doddle and that is exactly how it should be.

How does that relate back to our our finance friends?

During our event we focussed on a number of areas that you should look at as part of a data leak prevention strategy.

data protection areas

Now some of those things are practical things you can do, sole trader or huge corporate, but some of these areas are more tricky.

If we wind back 5 years or so, how many businesses of all sizes, found some or all of the above areas a real challenge, both technically and commercially.

Technology to address all of these things of course has been around for ages, but let’s just pick on one area and show how cloud and Office365 specifically has made something so much simpler, both technically and commercially.

I remember sitting in a presentation a few years ago showing the power of information rights management (IRM) in a Microsoft infrastructure, for those not familiar, this is a really powerful ability, where you can start building rules into your document work flows and applications to stop important and sensitive information being shared in ways it shouldn’t.

Let’s give an example, how many of us have accidentally emailed the wrong person thanks to auto addresses? I know i have, now normally you are emailing something relatively harmless, but a few months back, I was accidentally sent someone’s personal financial information, as I shared the first name of their financial adviser.

How do we stop that? Well that’s what IRM is there for, IRM would either have rules in the document or rules in exchange that would stop information leaving the safety of your internal systems by mistake.

Brilliant, so why don’t lots of people do it? Because it’s to hard, it’s complex and expensive to set up on-prem.

“But I’d love that kind of capability” I hear you shout, well step forward the bright world of cloud based service, specifically in this case Office365 and Azure.

As we look in our 365 management portal, what’s this handy little option?

rights management

When we click into manage, we get the opportunity to activate rights management, if it’s not already running, and when you click activate – that’s kind of it, your organisation now has rights management enabled for it’s Office365 estate.

What does that mean?

We can now add data security policies to a whole range of documents and emails, so yes, there is a bit of configuration (don’t be afraid to ask for some skilled advice here) but to get you started there is a range of preconfigured templates ready to roll.

ILM Templates

Once enabled, then you have ILM implemented and usable in your business productivity applications.

ILM in Word

There it is, now sat as an option in Word, where you can simply add rights management controls and apply protection templates to your sensitive company info.

Enabling this in your organisation also opens up capabilities into tools like Exchange and SharePoint Online.

For me this is a great example of how cloud technology can hugely simplify, what in reality, is a complex bit of technology too setup.

That is the power of well built cloud (whether that’s private, public or hybrid), making technology deployment quick and easy to deliver and in many businesses allowing you to enable technology that, in a more traditional model, would be too complex or expensive.

It is this kind of approach that is revolutionising the IT industry at the minute, and for all of us in the industry we need to understand this, whether we create applications, architect them or even consult on them. To meet the challenges in the modern business regardless of how complex and challenging it may be behind the scenes.

There’s the challenge for us all!

Like I said at the beginning of this, when working with our financial services friends, their data is just as important as everyone else’s and they shouldn’t be excluded from solutions to their business challenges by complexity and cost, now should they!

If you’re looking for Information Rights Management as part of your data leak prevention strategy, hopefully this post has given you some ideas of how this is not out of your reach either technically or commercially by utilising cloud services where appropriate.

Any questions, feel free to give me a shout on Twitter, LinkedIn or via the comments section here and we can swap some ideas.

Thanks for reading.

Want to know more – try these

What is Azure Rights Management (Technet Article)

What is Azure Rights Management Overview (Short Video)

Happy New Year

2016The house is de-christmassed, the Halls undecked, my own body weight in mince pies devoured and here we are 2016.

I just wanted to pop a little BLOG post up here to do two things.

First to say thanks to all those who took time to read my IT related mutterings on here last year (and on its LinkedIn based cousin!) I’m not a professional technology writer (I know, you’d never guess) but enjoy writing these little pieces about technology that interests me, so before a new year of BLOGS begin, i just wanted to pop up this little note of thanks and give you a little personal review of my 2015, as well as point you back at my most popular blogs last year (according to the wordpress stats) and to give you a little bit of notice of the ones that are going to come up in the near future.

Was 2015 any good?

Well I enjoyed myself, so I hope you did…

I was fortunate enough to get involved in some really interesting technology work last year, which is in the end, why we do it, for the interesting things and tech is at it’s most interesting right now.

What where the top things i enjoyed most last year – here’s a little rundown;

1. Data Leak Prevention Strategies.

Had some really interesting work with a number of customers looking at how they could better protect their most critical of business assets, their data. We did some fascinating work adata_theftround helping people get real insights into their data, understand where it was, who had access to it and get analytic information on what was been done with it.

Giving business that kind of insight was invaluable to a number of customers, as it highlighted some serious vulnerabilities and in a couple of customers gave them insight into some suspicious data access behaviour on which they could act and protect valuable assets.

There  was also some interesting additional benefits of this process, which included a couple of customers making some significant cash savings as part of infrastructure migration plans, the additional insights into their data usage allowed them to make some changes to their strategies and save themselves some significant money in the process.

In the end knowledge and understanding of your data is absolutely critical.

2. Hybrid Infrastructures.

This year, we started to see a big increase in businesses embracing hybrid IT as part of their future technology strategy.

hybrid-cloud-670pxThe initial starting points for most are the “quick wins” things like hybrid email with Office365, backup as a service and increasingly DR as a service, but we have also started to see people begin to move to more full on infrastructure deployments as they looked to move entire environments into the cloud.

This led to some really interesting projects, but one thing I noticed the more of these we did, is you have to fully understand a couple of things..

What you are trying to achieve by using cloud technology?

Fully understand where you are right now.

That second one, particularly, is something that doesn’t always spring to mind, a couple of projects we did really highlighted this, in these instances we almost saw some projects killed off before they began, as without enough insight into their infrastructure,they where having to make guesses, these guesses where leading to some really high commercial costs for their proposed infrastructures.

This was a huge take away for the year, if you’re looking at cloud technology this year, take the time and make the investment in fully understanding what you currently have, your current compute, storage, RAM, networking usage etc., this will give you a much better handle on what a potential cloud model will really look like.

know exactly where you are before you try to move to the cloud.

3. Great work from some of our technology partners.

The other big part of my job is the work I do with our technology partners and there was some really interesting developments from pretty much all of them, here’s some of my favourites.

Microsoft

A big year for our Redmond chums, Windows 10, new sexy hardware and, most interestingly for me, the continued advances in their cloud platforms. Azure continues to impress, bringing new services on a constant basis, the real power of many of them, is how easy they are to deploy when compared to the on-premises equivalent. Advances in storage, DR (Azure Site Recovery), extensions to active directory and increased management capabilities with solutions such as EMS have started to bring into reach a whole range of new services for businesses of all sizes, that they could probably not of done with a traditional on-premises approach.

It is this kind of stuff that excites me about cloud technology, allowing all of us to deliver things that previously we couldn’t, looking forward to much more of that this year.

NetApp
Further down the US west coast you find what is now the largest independent storage vendor in the world (after the Dell purchase of EMC), for me I saw a range of real impressive developments from the guys in Sunnyvale.
The Data Fabric strategy really moved at a pace, the integration of Alta Vault, developments of Cloud OnTap and announcements of the ability to move data freely between a whole range of data repositories, took data fabric from a strategy to a practical deployment methodology.
The release of some very impressive all flash versions of the FAS platforms, brought a real no compromise approach to flash, meaning no longer needing to make decisions between capability and performance. The continued drop in SSD prices also meant these platforms could be released with some hugely attractive pricing bringing flash into a number of customer opportunities that would not previously of been viable.
They of course finished the year with the purchase of Solidfire bringing a new and specific technology to the NetApp portfolio. Solidfire are aimed very much at the cloud service provider market and it will be interesting to see how that story progresses.
I see a big year ahead for NetApp with continued development of the Data Fabric solution set as well as seeing how the Solidfire purchase opens new and interesting markets for them.
Security Partners
It’s been an interesting year working with a number of our partners, the security challenge for many businesses continues to evolve, this does mean that a number of our security partners are right up there with the most innovative of the technology companies we work with.
I’ve seen continued benefit of customers getting a full understanding of their data estate, knowing who has access to what and where the data moves to is still bringing huge benefits. On top of that though, we started to see the development of behavioural analytics solutions, so customers could be alerted to and see unusual behaviour across their estate, which often would point to security and data protection risks.
We also saw a couple of interesting examples where this kind of alerting on unusual behaviour, saved customers from exposure to aggressive virus and malware activity, saving significant time and money in each of these cases.
There was also developments in ensuring that data protection stretched into cloud services, things like encryption where particularly interesting to those considering online housing of their critical data.
I can’t see any of this slowing down in 2016 as the innovation of the technology vendors is only challenged by the innovation of those looking to compromise security.

4. Community.

One of the areas I’d promised myself in 2015 that I’d do more of was increase my engagement with the IT community, this BLOG had been the start of that and over the last couple of years, listening to a number of industry podcasts highlighted the importance of community to us techie folk.

A range of community activities where right up there in my highlights for the year.

Presenting

I’ve always done lots of presenting in my job and this year was no exception, however presenting to some different groups was interesting. I did quite a bit of presenting on Microsoft’s behalf, with a number of them pitched at small accountancy firms, they where interesting and always good to present to a non technical audience and address the challenge of presenting a technical subject, so both cloud and data security for small businesses where on the agenda. There was some excellent feedback from a number of them, which was really pleasing and led to a few of those at the events moving their businesses to Office365 to take advantage of a number of the areas we discussed.

Channel involvement

I got involved in a couple of really IT channel focussed things this year with some specific work with the industry publication CRN. Firstly I was involved in my first web broadcast, myself and 4 industry peers where interviewed by Sara Yirrell to talk about the importance of mobility in business.

Second up my friends at CRN asked me to be part of a panel discussion at their service provider summit event, looking at what the future holds for service providers. I was very fortunate to sit on a panel with some really good industry guys, and between us I think we managed to share some interesting industry insight.

Last up, I did my first set of industry press interviews while in Berlin at NetApp Insight. NetApp had asked me to be involved in doing some interviews with UK industry press, and as part of my 2015 challenge to be more involved in the IT community I was happy to oblige. As a consequence of that, I was also called by a journalist for the first time for my opinion on a breaking new story, on this occasion NetApp’s intended purchase of Solidfire

My favourite bit of involvement though was my debut on the NetApp TechOnTap podcast, I did a brief interview with Justin Parisi, which is included in the day 4 wrap up of Insight in Berlin. I also was a guest on the NetApp Insight video stage where I was interviewed again by Justin to discuss the power of Data Fabric and the NetApp A team.

Recognition

My decision to involve myself more in the IT community also lead to some rather flattering recognition.

In June I was honoured to be asked to join the NetApp A team, the A team is a group of around 20 people around the globe who have worked with NetApp technology and chosen to involve themselves in the IT industry to help articulate the NetApp message or get involved with NetApp users to help address tricky problems, or just engage in the IT community to help out in any NetApp related issues.

Thanks to my BLOG posts, involvement in the community and some other bits of work with NetApp they approached me to be part of this really interesting group, full of some of the IT industries real talent.

Alongside that, I was also asked if it was OK to be included on CRN A-List for 2016 (not sure the IT industry likes to look beyond the letter A!) this is a list of people in the IT channel who are earmarked as those who are going to have impact in the IT industry this year, so a tall order, but I’ll give it a go. Again, it’s a real honour to be included on that list with some people in the industry who i have a tremendous respect for and is rather flattering to be included with this esteemed group.

All of the community activity has been really interesting for me this year and all came about by making a decision to get more involved, so if that stuff sounds like the kind of thing that would interest you in your job, reach out to your peers and see how you can engage and get involved more.

2016 What’s to come

They where just a handful of my of my highlights of 2015, what have I got to look forward to in 2016?

On the blogging front, I’ve got a range of stuff lined up, looking at simplification of IT, looking at where Office365 adds simplicity and capability to businesses of all sizes. I’ll also be paying attention on the growth of Data Fabric and how that can revolutionise your approach to IT strategy. I’ve also got some stuff around practical approach to building hybrid IT solutions looking at integrating your on-premises infrastructure with solutions like Azure and AWS.

I’ll be certainly doing more presenting, I’m already lined up to present for Microsoft in Cumbria at the end of January at an event with UK Trade & Industry and also looking at some other Microsoft related events later in the year.

I’ve also been invited out to NetApp’s headquarters in Sunnyvale to meet with some of the team out there as well as get some insight into NetApp’s up and coming plans.

There’s a whole bunch of other interesting new technologies and partners I’ll be doing some work with and looking at how those solutions help our customers with their business challenges, but a little early to talk about those right now.

I’ll be intending to continue to do more IT community planned activities, which will include resurrecting a well known user group that had, for a range of reasons, stopped a couple of years ago, more details on that soon.

Looking forward to a full and interesting 2016, I hope you are to, and if you have the chance, keep an eye out on the BLOG for some regular (ish) updates on what I’m up to and some random thoughts on the IT industry and how we’re helping businesses and organisations to deal with their everyday challenges.

Thanks for taking time to read this BLOG during 2015 and hopefully I can pop some interesting content on here for you in 2016, that will bring you back.. have a successful 2016.

If you want to check out my most popular posts last year, here’s the top 4.

Flashy NetApp

Data Fabric – What is it good for?

Silo can you go?

Testing Times