Waiting out the storm

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Waiting out the storm

Peter Croft, managing director of Clearswift Asia-Pacific, says businesses should look at getting the most out of their existing IT security, as the global financial crisis forces inevitable cutbacks.

Peter Croft, managing director of Clearswift Asia-Pacific, says businesses should look at getting the most out of their existing IT security, as the global financial crisis forces inevitable cutbacks.

Without a doubt, the second half of 2008 will be remembered as a time when the words ‘global financial crisis’ were on everyone’s lips. Propelling uncertainty and fear throughout international economies, like the economic tsunami we were promised, it saturated news headlines as a historical event that will affect us all, in one way or another.

The truth is no one really knows how long or how deep this financial downturn is, and at this point there is no real way of identifying the impacts or opportunities it will leave behind.

We do know that the turbulent economic climate we face ahead will see business input costs increase (especially true for organisations exposed to trading in US dollars) and markets slow with waning consumer confidence. This means that businesses will be seeking to reign in their own organisational costs by doing more with what they already own rather than committing to new capital spend.

Whether you call it a ‘crisis’ or a ‘meltdown’, we can be guaranteed of one thing: the flow-on effect will touch various segments of the local economy and it is unlikely that the IT industry will be left unscathed.

A company that was looking at purchasing a piece of technology from an American vendor two months ago could today expect to receive a revised quote that is 15 to 20 per cent higher. This sort of scenario will put pressure on already tight IT budgets and encourage IT managers to look for more value from existing suppliers.

As a result, the general expectation is that IT departments will shift their focus away from new projects and redirect it towards maintaining core day-to-day operations. Logically, strategies will continue to concentrate on driving costs out of IT and looking at new ways to achieve more with less.

What organisations can’t afford to do is let security infrastructures suffer as a result of cost cutting measures. While budgets will be reduced, there won’t be any reduction in the number or severity of security threats.

Even beyond the business world, the old favourites – like identity theft and phishing - remain at an all-time high. Anyone who can take advantage of uncertainty to con someone out of personal information under the pretext of assisting them with their super fund, will be likely to give it a go.

Riding the wave while maintaining optimal data protection can be achieved through security consolidation. It is always going to be more economical to implement an all-encompassing solution from one vendor rather than paying several vendors for various components such as anti-virus, anti-spyware and so on.

Now more than ever, IT managers shouldn’t be afraid of pushing vendors to deliver more for the same annual spend. Like with any downturn, there is plenty to be gained for those companies that are poised to make the most of the recovery. Those who take this opportunity to get the most from their vendors will lower their cost position and look beyond the basic “stop the threat” focus of security technology.

Importantly, good security technology is an enabler, allowing staff to make the most of the collaboration and information-sharing long promised by the web, but doing so safely. The best vendors understand this, and understand that the needs of end users have evolved past simple threat protection.

As we enter 2009, organisations should be looking to security vendors who see their role as solving a business problem as well as a technical problem, and who have the technology to deliver on that vision. Doing so will support organisations as they ride out the storm and leave them well positioned for growth when, as will eventually happen, confidence returns.

Peter Croft is the managing director for Clearswift Asia-Pacific.

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