The rise of cloud computing is driving a seismic change in where organisations store information. Traditionally, all but the smallest companies held their data on computers and servers that they owned – usually located on their premises.
But today, organisations increasingly rely on cloud computing suppliers to store that data.
That’s not usually a bad thing. Most cloud suppliers go to enormous lengths to protect their customers’ data, because their reputation depends on it. And let’s face it: when businesses hold their data in-house, they don’t always apply the same rigorous security and backup procedures.
Having said that, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in the world of IT suppliers. Do you completely trust the third parties that have access to your organisation’s data?
Here are five common ways IT suppliers can undermine the trust you put in them. How many have you experienced?
1. Being unclear about where your data is
Data centres are the buildings in which IT providers house their servers. They’re purpose-built, with backup power supplies and internet connections, along with complicated cooling systems to keep everything running smoothly.
Building and maintaining a data centre is complex and expensive. As a result, many IT providers rely on data centres run by other companies.
There’s nothing wrong with this, in principle. But it can make it harder to understand where your data is physically located.
In a world where providers may operate servers in different countries, that can really matter. For instance, one set of laws may apply to data stored in the EU, while another may apply to data on servers in the US.
EU law relating to data about individuals is particularly stringent, so it’s important to understand whether or not your provider stores this data outside of the EU. If they can’t give you a straight answer, can you trust them?
2. Putting fishy stuff on your computers
What is about new PCs? They almost always come with a load of useless software pre-installed. This ‘bloatware’ does nothing except slow down your computer from day one, so the best thing you can do is to remove it.
(The problem is so significant that Microsoft even offers special ‘Signature Edition’ computers that come without all this rubbish.)
At best, bloatware hits your efficiency. But at worst, it can spy on you or pose a security risk. For instance, earlier this year it was revealed that computer giant Lenovo was shipping computers with software called Superfish Visual Discovery.
This software injects advertising into websites you view, presumably earning commission for Lenovo. But as well as interfering with your browsing habits, this software was causing a significant security risk.
That sort of thing is bound to pose questions about trust.
3. Not coming clean about security issues
As an IT provider, few things are worse than suffering a security breach. Not being honest about what’s happened is one of them.
If you’ve entrusted your organisation’s valuable data to your IT provider, you have a right to know if that data has suffered any kind of a breach. What’s more, you should be entitled to know exactly what’s happened and to what level of risk your data was exposed.
For instance, file sharing and backup service Dropbox suffered a security vulnerability last year. Although it had been made aware of the problem weeks earlier, it didn’t fix it until it received media coverage.
Contrast that with the open, transparent approach that social media service Buffer took when faced with its own security problems.
Which of these companies would you trust more?
4. Being vague about what you’re getting
If you want to see an example of IT providers being vague, look no further than UK broadband services. Things have improved in recent years, but it wasn’t long ago that companies were advertising connection speeds that very few (if any) customers were actually able to enjoy.
Connections offering speeds ‘up to’ 20Mbps (megabits per second) were common, yet most residential customers were getting nowhere near that level.
The world of technology is full of jargon, so it’s hardly a surprise that IT suppliers often use confusing language to describe what they offer. Many don’t set out to be intentionally misleading, but often you can only unearth what you’re actually paying for by scouring the small print.
The most trustworthy IT providers will take time to explain things to you. If you ask for clarification, you’ll get it. And important documents – like your service level agreement – should be crystal clear.
5. Pretending they understand your industry
Some companies will do anything to get a sale. That can include trying to bluff their way in sectors where they have very little knowledge.
It’s not always important for your suppliers to have a good grasp of the challenges you face. But in some situations, it can really help. For example, Exponential-e offer solutions tailored to meet the specific issues faced by organisations in sectors such as broadcast, sports and the public sector.
If a potential IT supplier claims to understand where you’re coming from, be sure to push them on their knowledge. You should quickly be able to determine whether they really know your business, or if they’re bluffing.
And if they’re bluffing in one area, might they be bluffing in others, too?