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Managers should be looking to shore up their internal processes and security, focusing on improved end-point protection and appropriate training for staff to recognise anomalies. This is critical as cybersecurity develops further to keep ahead of the hackers.
“The move to a serverless and office less work environment means cybersecurity is now focused on the user and the endpoint,” comments George Ralph (pictured), managing director, RFA, “In a traditional office perimeter security, with a firewall and web filtering, provided a secure barrier to threats. Many of our clients have changed their physical office set ups this year, taking less actual square footage or no square footage at all, meaning their whole approach to security is changing and I am very proud of my teams for being ahead of this almost two years ago with our centralised cyber security models with zero trust approaches.”
The primary changes include using containerised software on machines which communicate back only to a firm’s data warehouse is on the increase. This therefore negates security risks from lost devices or bad leavers. Focusing on Information Right Management and taking it further to behavioural analysis.
The industry is also seeing increasing use of behavioural analysis and AI to monitor endpoints. “This area is developing rapidly, enabling firms to monitor behaviour and flag anomalies. Using AI and machine learning you can monitor behaviour on the users and endpoint: changes to log in, file downloads, requests for different access by users and so on. This behaviour can flag issues which can be then reported to HR in case of rogue staff, a vital business benefit from technology especially in the current climate”
RFA started investing in R&D around Endpoint security around three years ago and have been rolling the service out to clients for the last 24 months. This means RFA clients were able to adapt to the new working hybrid model without impacting their security. To this end, the firm’s Managed Detection Response and layered cloud security uses client-led specifications to build one off solutions that work with the architecture of the clients IT set up.
Managing data and assisting flow
Data management, with a focus on managed application services to assist with data and deal flow, is another primary area of interest in the current environment. Ralph notes: “Developing bespoke solutions for better data management and processing tools will also come to the fore now the initial settlement period of hybrid working has happened.”
He outlines how the use of managed data services has seen an accelerated increase: “Managed data services provide a secure way to store, access and use data. Firms can access their data from one central dashboard in a centralised approach assisting with client reporting, regulatory requirements and performance.”
At the heart of the firm’s managed data services is a powerful single, integrated data platform. It consists of a data warehouse built to serve all three major public clouds (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform) and delivers the leading on-demand scaling SaaS solution for data-driven organisations. The virtual warehouse approach completely separates the data processing and data storage layers, allowing managers to be public cloud-agnostic and scale compute while keeping a single source of truth.
When it comes to managing and storing data, security is a key factor. Using a data warehouse to store data in the cloud means it can support a layered cloud security solution. “RFA’s Security Operations Centre (SOC) is unique to our business. It acts like a traditional firewall by layering security around a firm’s data in our Snowflake data warehouse and as it travels from public cloud to private cloud to endpoint. Our own business IT goals include helping clients to be more competitive, operationally efficient and ever more appealing to investors. Our SOC goes some way to us achieving this as a business,” Ralph explains.
The firm has been at for forefront of hybrid cloud solutions. It uses a mixture of public and private cloud to build an all-encompassing solution which harnesses data and delivers it back to the manager in a secure and user-friendly format.
In Ralph’s view: “It is important to understand the benefits and abilities of public cloud. There has been massive investment in these services and they continue to evolve and their offerings are now really substantial.”
Bespoke applications in the face of change
The Covid-19 pandemic also saw the proliferation of the access to and use of collaboration tools like SharePoint and Teams being adopted rapidly, alongside the whole Office 365 suite. Prior to 2020, clients would use these tools occasionally, but they have now become part of the work practice fabric of many, if not all, firms.
RFA has provided training in these areas and has also been working with managers to develop bespoke applications to ease data flow from tools like the Microsoft Power Suite to internal systems. “This helps them create one workflow leading to better reporting, more automation and better access and use of data,” Ralph points out, adding that the RFA Managed Application Services team focus purely on this to create a fully accessible cloud based SaaS solution.
Further bolstering these efforts is the firm’s DevOps team, whose members are working with clients to build bespoke app-based solutions, allowing them to streamline internal systems and dovetail with cloud-based apps like Office 365 and deliver automation across public cloud platforms. According to Ralph: “Paired with a managed data service to store and sort data, process and workflow automation becomes less clunky and process and business flow improves to really get the maximum operational efficiency available.”
In light of the pandemic, RFA also developed a track and trace app for its own teams. Ralph gives further detail: “This allowed us to manage logistical challenges of being able to service clients but also keep our own teams safe by booking bike racks, desk space and so on. We rolled this out to our larger clients. It’s a practical solution to ease just one of the many burdens faced by managers.”