Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Survey Reveals Enterprises Are Most Concerned About “Advanced Persistent Threat” Attacks by Wide Margin

In a year that IT security experts have labeled the “Year of the Hack,” Bit9’s Third Annual Endpoint Survey of 765 IT executives revealed that Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) attacks -- like the one that infiltrated RSA, a division of EMC, and defense contractors this year – are of most concern to IT and security professionals.
However, despite the concerns about APT attacks, the survey also showed that executives are not doing enough to protect against unauthorized software and malware from infecting their desktops, laptops and servers.

Sixty percent of the respondents said they are concerned about APT attacks, more than double the next closest response, showing the growing anxiety among IT executives around modern threats. The second biggest hacking concern among IT executives, at 28 percent, is having one of their own employees steal company data and posts it online, much like what happened at the Department of Defense (DoD) with WikiLeaks. In third place, at 26 percent, are concerns around a vendor partner being hacked, much like what happened to Epsilon earlier this year. And in fourth place, at 25 percent, are concerns over a cloud application breach, much like what happened with Sony.

While worry remains high around cyber security breaches, the survey also showed a surprising 60 percent of the IT executives use either a written policy based on an “honor system,” or have an open software environment without a security policy in place. However, risky behavior doesn’t stop there. A narrow majority of companies surveyed (51 percent) said they allow their employees to download and install software.

The companies that allow employees to download software often find digital music sites like iTunes, social media sites and instant messaging software on it endpoints. Additionally, almost 80 percent of companies allow employees to use removable storage devices, exposing companies to the loss of sensitive data and intellectual property while increasing exposure to malware.

Additional findings from the survey include:

-- Companies continue to allow employees to engage in risky behaviors: IT executives have become even more hands-off in their software usage policy over the past three years, with 51 percent of respondents admitting that users have full rights to download and install applications. These relaxed download policies have increased 12 percent from 2010 when 39 said they did not have a policy that prohibits employee downloads. That figure increased by 22 percent from 2009 figures. Additionally, nearly 30 percent of IT executives allow the use of personal mobile devices at work that connects to the company Intranet.

-- Endpoint security failures can take down networks: While the majority said they have not experience network outages due to unauthorized software or malware, almost 20 percent of IT executives admit that unusual software found on the endpoint has resulted in crashing the company’s networks. These crashes meant lost productivity. Of those who experienced downtime, 30 percent said the crashes took down their network for 3-6 hours and 89 percent said the crashes lasted two hours or less.

-- Successful breach of company’s inbox stirs emotions: More than a quarter of IT executives would be mildly embarrassed by a breach exposing their company’s inbox, while more than half admitted to being mortified. Most noteworthy is that seven percent claim that their company would be out of business if such a breach would occur.

More information on IT can be found at www.SupportIndustry.com.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nothing Soft About It

by Rich Gallagher, Point of Contact Group

Could you imagine what Starbucks would be like if its CEO hated coffee? Or what if you started a rock band and never listened to rock and roll? These are examples of what, in my mind, is the single biggest problem with the customer support industry today.

About 18 months ago, I raised my hand at panel discussion of senior support executives and asked, "what trends are you seeing in soft skills for your operations today?" They hemmed. They hawed. Finally one of them said haltingly, "well, of course, it's important for people to be polite" before going on to the next question.

Before that, I spent two days at an executive retreat with support leaders from some of the biggest names in technology, as an observer. I heard lots of things about metrics, processes, and systems. But customers? Nary a word. So why is it that in a business that has "customer" as its first word, its C-level executives often seem to give a rat's patootie about customer experience?

I am biased, of course. I live and breathe in this world. I make much of my living teaching customer contact professionals how to communicate in their most difficult situations. When I last headed a 24x7 support center, strategically changing our communications and coaching skills was the linchpin of dramatically improving both our support metrics and the bottom line of our company. Its impact was in my view was greater than that of technology, even as we transitioned from pink pads of paper to CRM, remote support, and webinars. So here is what I would tell my colleagues in leadership roles today.

Read the full article!

Monday, August 8, 2011

US private companies increase IT budgets, with focus on growth and efficiencies

With a focus on new growth opportunities and efficiencies, 29% of US private companies surveyed for PwC US’s Private Company Trendsetter Barometer plan to increase their IT budget over the next year. In 2010, US private companies allocated approximately 5.6% of their budgets to IT. This investment is expected to rise to an average of 6.6% over the next 12 months, a year-to-year increase of nearly 19%.
Nearly half (46%) of Trendsetter companies have identified important and/or sizeable areas or functions in need of IT upgrade or improvement, and 18% of those businesses report that they’ll require additional budget expenditures to make the necessary changes. Overall, these companies are a faster growing group, forecasting an average revenue growth rate of 11.5% over the next year versus 9.1% for all other private companies. More international marketers cite critical IT upgrade concerns (54% versus 39%) and say they need additional spending to cover the required upgrades (26% versus 10%) than their domestic-only peers.

Trendsetter companies’ IT investments will be focused on two main areas over the next 12 months: innovation (36%) and maintenance (64%). Significantly, companies in the innovation segment allocate a larger portion of their budgets to IT than those primarily in the maintenance segment - 9.53% versus 5.01%.

Key areas of planned IT investment for private companies over the next one to three years are information security (70%), next-generation data management and analysis (50%), enterprise mobility via tablets and handheld devices (48%), social media/networking (46%), and cloud computing (40%). Companies in the innovation segment are significantly more likely to invest in next-generation data management and analysis, social media/networking, virtualization, cloud computing, and context-aware computing than those in the maintenance segment.

The leading business objective of IT investments for private companies is to make their business processes more efficient and effective (90%). Other top objectives include better managing enterprise data (75%), optimizing business information/analytics (73%), making the business more agile (58%), and attracting new customers (58%).

More information on IT investment can be found at www.SupportIndustry.com

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Small Businesses Still Growing but Continued Economic Uncertainty Tempers Plans

Although small business owners are slowly proceeding with growth plans in 2011, 40 percent are now delaying their expectations of an economic rebound to the first quarter of 2012 or later, according to the most recent Business Confidence Survey released by Insperity, Inc., a provider of human resources and business performance solutions to America's best businesses.
Only 12 percent expressed a belief that an economic recovery is currently under way versus 23 percent in May. In summary, over 82 percent of respondents either delayed their expectations of an economic recovery to 2012 or later, or are unsure. Business owner sentiment returned to a wait-and-see tone similar to the November 2010 survey compared to last quarter's somewhat optimistic note.

Insperity also announced compensation metrics from its base of more than 5,700 small and medium-sized businesses. Compared to the 2010 second quarter data, average compensation is up 4.2 percent, bonuses are down 3.9 percent and average commissions received by worksite employees reflected a drop of 2.8 percent versus an increase of 5.4 percent as reported in May 2011. Overtime pay is still low, running 8.5 percent of regular pay, under the 10 percent level that generally indicates a need for additional employees, but up slightly from 8.0 percent in the first quarter of 2011.

In the survey conducted July 12-14, when asked how they are managing the number of company employees, 32 percent said they are adding new positions, down from 37 percent previously; 62 percent are maintaining current staffing levels, up from 57 percent; and 6 percent are laying off employees, unchanged from the prior quarter.

The economy was again listed as the leading short-term concern by 79 percent of business owners, up from 68 percent in May; followed by 47 percent specifying rising health care costs, versus 46 percent previously; 46 percent citing government health care reform and 39 percent listing controlling operating costs. For the longer-term, the top responses were led by 74 percent saying they were either very concerned or had elevated concerns about the federal deficit and the total national debt; 70 percent designated the economy, up from 61 percent in May; 63 percent cited government expansion and its effect on business; and 61 percent listed potential tax increases.

When asked about their pipelines for new business for the balance of 2011, 52 percent of survey respondents said that they expect a sales increase, versus 53 percent in May but only 38 percent last fall; 32 percent predicted it will stay the same; 11 percent anticipated decreasing sales; and 5 percent were unsure.

In addition, 70 percent of owners and managers of small and medium-sized businesses said that they are either meeting or exceeding their 2011 performance plans, down from 76 percent in the last survey; while the remaining 30 percent reported that they are doing worse than expected, higher than the 24 percent reported in May.

The survey also said that 63 percent of participants expected to maintain employee compensation at current levels throughout 2011, versus 54 percent last quarter; 24 percent planned increases, down from 31 percent in the last survey and even down from the 26 percent last fall; 4 percent expected decreases; and 10 percent were unsure.

Concerning their current profit-generating activities, 70 percent of respondents named both increased service to clients and selling new accounts as the leading strategies. This was followed by 49 percent who said they were adding new services or products, 32 percent who listed negotiating with vendors and 27 percent named investing in new improvements.

More information can be found at www.SupportIndustry.com.