Paul de Vince, commerce, technology and media partner from law firm Gateley plc, explores five areas of tech that all businesses should be thinking about.
In a world constantly updating, downloading and storing data in clouds, it’s paramount that businesses are thoroughly prepared for all things tech. From security and regulation to work environment, storage and process, the only way forward is to join the digital age.
Among a bewildering array of developments, five key areas that businesses should be thinking about are: data breaches, GDPR, software as a service, virtual offices and M&A challenges.
Not a year passes without something in the press about data breaches. They are increasingly common and bring extensive ramifications for identity theft of affected users. 14% of all new UK IT vacancies are in cyber security and there’s a known shortage of qualified candidates. If your company hosts mass data then you need to assess your current situation – what have you done to ramp up your security? How qualified is your team? What’s your plan if a data breach occurs? Being proactive is essential.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
With less than a year before the legislation comes into effect, businesses need to start planning. However the right to be forgotten has major implications across IT space. Fundamentally, all major systems are eventually backed up to tapes and stored in massive libraries. Tapes are physical media and you can’t delete individual data segments from them – if you restore them, delete the data then try to back up to them again, you have effectively just lost your backup. Once a backup is completed it is, by definition, a point in time and cannot be altered unless deleted, but failure to comply with GDPR could result in hefty fines.
Software as a service
In among the many attractive cost features of moving services into the cloud there are many less glamorous considerations that can get overlooked. These need thinking through before key decisions are made.
For instance, what does a restore cost? Some companies quote thousands of pounds to carry out complex restore operations and what if you get sued and there is discovery? How easily and cost-effectively can you comply? Data compliance with things like the GDPR can remain entirely your responsibility even when you engage third-party providers and with fines up to 4% of your total turnover, you still need to make sure you have the tools to ensure compliance.
Other issues include whether your services contracts provide for loss of service? And is all the exposure you have to customers fully understood? Often contractual provisions can mean that rights to recover liability from service providers is extremely limited, so putting data into the cloud could massively increase your risk.
So, maybe it is time to get your head out of the clouds and to start asking questions before you make key moves.
New tech-enabled ways of working continue apace and developments such as, video conferencing and remote working are now considered ‘old hat’, but what are the risks? For example, in terms of employment, how easy is it for a manager to defend a tribunal claim against someone in their team when they are rarely present in the workplace? Can mobile working truly connect people? And what would be the personal injury and negligence implications for issues surrounding workplace accidents and workplace stress when someone works from home?
Cost saving implications are no doubt attractive, but are there new policies in place to govern a digital workforce and assess the implications?
Often mergers are intended to cut back-office costs. These will be budgeted upfront and firms are eager to realise them. However, this sometimes means there are limited funds allocated to migrating systems onto the acquiring firms’ platforms and integration timescales are pushed out at the same time as experienced staff in the acquired company are allowed to leave. That inevitably sets up vulnerabilities in both security and reliability.
The pace of change and innovation in technology provides many opportunities for businesses to cut costs and provide more effective services, but there’s a dangerous perception that costs can be cut without risk increasing based on the assurances of the companies selling the systems. So, as well as getting up to date with the digital world, it’s important that businesses dot the i’s and cross the t’s, ensuring they are completely tech-ready.