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Covid-19: Reimagining work with a zero-trust lens

by | Apr 22, 2020 | IT Security

Ensuring business continuity for borderless offices demands more extensive IT security frameworks.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in widespread lockdowns. Commuting to workplaces has been suspended for all but a few essential-service organizations and personnel. To ensure business continuity, many organizations had to rush almost overnight to implement work-from-home (WFH) policies for their entire workforce. Understandably, when viewed from a ‘zero-trust lens,’ few have found themselves fully equipped to handle the surge in WFH scale, which is testing the robustness of the IT security fabric.

The state of running entire operations remotely is unprecedented! IT heads are scrambling with issues such as infrastructure availability and sizing to meet the growing demands. From a security readiness perspective, CISOs are seen doing comprehensive assessments to map the network usage patterns and risk aspects. With more employees working remotely today than ever before, the odds of potential threats have grown manifold. The biggest challenge for CISOs today is to make necessary tools and resources available to their virtual workforce without compromising confidential data.

The practical and effective strategy that works to address this challenge is ‘zero-trust lens’ approach to information security—a contemporary lens that treats everyone who access organizational network as suspicious and distrustful.

The concept of zero trust security framework distinguishes between what’s necessary and what’s not. It stresses that everything cannot be critical and hence need not require full network access. Contrary to the trust-based perimeter defense approach, zero trust defines users and their job requirements. It provides people with adequate permissions to access applications and tools relevant to perform their job virtually, while withholding the rest of the corporate data. For instance, an HR department employee working remotely need not be given access to the sales department database.

In the current setup, it becomes even more important for CISOs to have visibility on what’s happening on the network. Looking at the fact that many employees may be accessing corporate information through personal and unfamiliar devices remotely, CISOs are expected to incorporate strong multi-factor authentication protocols to strengthen the zero-trust security framework. A strong multi-factor authentication protocol ensures controlled access to data repositories and specifies who may access information and under what conditions.

It is equally important for CISOs to educate their users regularly about not clicking insecure links and staying watchful of phishing emails, thereby preventing easy doorways to hackers and cyber crooks.

Even during these difficult times, organizations can operate to their fullest potential, if they enable their people in a right manner, using a ‘zero-trust lens’ framework to secure the borderless networks.


Tech Mahindra gets new blockchain accreditation

Tech Mahindra gets new blockchain accreditation

Indian IT Services firm, Tech Mahindra, has been recognized as a Hyperledger Certified Service Provider (HCSP) for blockchain capabilities by Hyperledger and the Linux Foundation. Tech Mahindra says that the certification reinforces Tech Mahindra’s capabilities to provide blockchain technology support and setting up scalable blockchain networks for commercial deployments. The company claims that it was one of the 18 blockchain service providers globally to have received this certification, which is considered the gold standard in the open-source community.

Tech Mahindra has deployed over 25 blockchain platforms using Hyperledger projects across industry verticals such as banking and financial services, media and entertainment, telecom, retail, manufacturing, oil & gas, healthcare, and travel & logistics. The organization also has to credit the implementation of one of the world’s largest blockchain networks covering 500 million+ subscribers in India to fight spam calls and text.

The company has been engaged in over 250 global Blockchain deployments, with over 100 core blockchain team members trained on Hyperledger. The company is extensively focusing on developing and deploying several transformative implementations for governments, large and mid-sized enterprises across diverse industry verticals that have enabled customers to solve complex business problems.

“In order to successfully navigate and strategize in this ‘new normal,’ organizations must leverage technologies like blockchain to address this unprecedented challenge and create a competitive edge in the market. As part of our TechMNxt charter, we offer a holistic blockchain ecosystem to create industry-leading applications and enhance customer experiences. The recognition by the Linux Foundation as a Hyperledger Certified Service Provider is a matter of great pride for us to demonstrate our differentiated capabilities globally. This will provide us a definitive edge over our peers to position Tech Mahindra as a partner of choice,” says Rajesh Dhuddu, Blockchain and Cybersecurity Practice Leader, Tech Mahindra.

Hyperledger launched the HCSP program in November 2019. The program requires the blockchain technology professionals in an organization to enroll for an online, performance-based test consisting of a set of performance-based problems to be solved in a command line.

“Our Hyperledger Certified Service Provider (HCSP) program is designed to meet the growing demand for implementing Hyperledger-based solutions. As an HCSP, Tech Mahindra is now part of a global network of blockchain experts with the training and proven expertise to deploy Hyperledger DLTs (Distributed Ledger Technology) quickly and efficiently and to ensure ongoing success. Tech Mahindra has already played an active role in developing and deploying Hyperledger technologies, and we look forward to the work they will do as an HCSP,” says Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director, Hyperledger.

For Tech Mahindra, Blockchain has been a big focus area in recent times. It recently entered into an agreement with Amazon Web Services (AWS) Blockchain for creating solutions in the aerospace, healthcare, and telecom sectors. This year, Tech Mahindra launched a new blockchain-based contract and rights management system (bCRMS) targeted toward the media and entertainment sector on IBM blockchain. The platform has been developed to help media companies to track revenue, royalty, payments, manage rights, and check plagiarism, among others.

Infosys buys GuideVision to boost Dx capabilities

Infosys buys GuideVision to boost Dx capabilities

IT services major Infosys has recently signed a definitive agreement to buy Czech Republic-based enterprise service management consultancy, GuideVision, for 30 million euros. The official statement by Infosys states that the deal is likely to be closed during the third quarter of fiscal 2021.

GuideVision is one of the largest ServiceNow Elite Partners in Europe and offers strategic advisory, consulting, implementations, training, and support capabilities for the ServiceNow platform. This acquisition will enable Infosys to leverage GuideVision’s established ServiceNow training academy and nearshore capabilities for its clients in Europe.

“This acquisition is an important milestone in our journey to build capabilities relevant to the digital priorities of our clients. This move reaffirms our commitment to the growing ServiceNow ecosystem. The combination of scalable and agile near-shore capabilities of GuideVision in Europe, and their unmatched delivery excellence, complements our effort to help global enterprises navigate their next. We are excited to welcome GuideVision and its leadership team into the Infosys family,” says Ravi Kumar, President, Infosys, in a statement.

Founded in 2014, GuideVision serves over 100 enterprise clients in the ServiceNow platform. Its offerings also include a proprietary smart data replication tool for ServiceNow, called Snow Mirror. Infosys itself is a ServiceNow partner and has been recognized as Global Service Partner of the year by ServiceNow for the last two years.

Santa Clara based ServiceNow delivers a cloud computing platform for businesses to manage their digital workflows for enterprise innovations.

Infosys Acquisition: Way to strengthen future capabilities

With the remote-work getting increased traction, digital transformation acceleration has become a central focal point for most of the enterprises. In such a setting, the Infosys acquiring GuideVision is a significant move for the Bengaluru-headquartered company to strengthen its position in the US and Europe, and fortify its digital transformation capabilities.

ServiceNow empowers the IT and operations team of a global enterprise to receive, track, and respond to varied requests of an employee of an organization, irrespective of his location. And they are gradually taking prominence amongst most of the global companies.

Infosys understands that it needs diverse capabilities and solutions to meet the unique demands of its clients and to stay relevant. Time and again, the technology major has made it clear that it will continue to take the digital acquisition and transformation partnership route to stay ahead of the competition. At its recent annual general meeting, Infosys’s CEO Salil Parekh commented that the company was actively exploring acquisitions in areas such as data, analytics, and cloud to further make substantial inroads in the digital capabilities.

GuideVision is Infosys’s third acquisition of this year, after buying Salesforce platinum partner Simplus for $250 million, and US-based product design and development firm, Kaleidoscope Innovation for $42 million.



Tik Tok Ban news: Could Oracle acquire TikTok

Tik Tok Ban news: Could Oracle acquire TikTok

Enterprise software major Oracle seems to have won the fiery bidding for TikTok’s US operations after Microsoft’s confirmation that TikTok has rejected its acquisition offer. Speculations are rife that Oracle is close to becoming ByteDance’s technology partner. It is, however, not clear whether TikTok video-sharing social app’s technical partnership with Oracle also includes majority ownership rights.

“ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft. We are confident our proposal would have been good for Tik Tok video users while protecting national security interests,” says Microsoft in a statement.

The Beijing-based video-sharing social network giant had been facing a ban threat by the US government due to data leakage and security fears. The Trump government had earlier given a Diktat to TikTok to either sell its American operations to a US company or shut down the local operations.

The development has left many industry onlookers flabbergasted as Satya Nadella-led Microsoft was the favorite to ink a deal with TikTok for its US operations from ByteDance. Not only does Microsoft have a fat purse, but it also delivers the best capabilities and engineering science to address the data protection concerns brought up by the US.

Given the ongoing geopolitical tensions, many Chinese companies are facing heat in countries like India and the US.

Earlier this year, Washington had barred telecom equipment major Huawei from selling next Gen 5G equipment and solutions in the US marketplace. India, too, had banned over 100 Chinese apps, including TikTok, early this year, traveling along with a border clash between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.

Tik Tok ban: India’s response

It is highly unlikely that India will revoke the ban on TikTok’s operations unless Oracle acquires a majority stake in TikTok’s global operations as well as addresses New Delhi’s concerns related to security, data privacy, and user permissions.

India was Tik Tok’s largest overseas market, with over 200 million users when it shut down its operations in the country. The industry is abuzz with the reports that TikTok is exploring a backdoor entry in India through a local partner.

It would be interesting to watch if Oracle, the world’s second-greatest software company by market capitalization, can succeed in getting TikTok back in the Indian ecosystem.

Google’s new kid in India

After India banned TikTok in June this year, several companies tried to create TikTok clones to tap the massive audience who were left in the lurch after the Tik Tok ban in India. Surprisingly, none of the local alternatives were able to entice users and disrupt the authority TikTok enjoyed in the short-video segment.

Now, in the latest attempt, Google-owned YouTube has launched a new feature called Shorts, in beta version in India as an advantage of the Tik Tok ban. YouTube says that Shorts is a new way to express yourself in 15 seconds or less. “We’re excited to announce that we are building YouTube Shorts, a new short-form video experience right on YouTube for creators and artists who want to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones,” the company says in its official blog post.

Clearly, even if Tik Tok fails to earn a rejoinder, the competition in the short-video format is not going to stop in India.




Online project management tools: Top office suite analysis

Online project management tools: Top office suite analysis

In the wake of the work-from-anywhere scenario, cloud-based Team management software platforms are witnessing a substantial uptake. Industry onlookers expect this market to see an average of 25% y-o-y growth for the next three years.

The collaboration and productive project management tools enable businesses and professionals to leverage the power of the cloud to deliver the day to day business tasks virtually from the workplace of their choice. These solutions allow organizational teams to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in the cloud and collaborate online through chat, video conferencing, and cloud storage to accomplish various day to day tasks.

While Google’s G-suite and Microsoft owned Office 365 are primarily ruling the team management software market, there are many others, such as Zoho workplace, IBM, and Hancom, eying to make a splash in the productivity suite market.

For the solution providers, the typical market opportunity in this place can be segmented mainly into three categories: individual professionals, small and medium businesses (SMBs), and large enterprises.

The Enterprises and IT leaders have many elements to look at before building a deployment decision. Motivators could include factors such as licensing costs, backup, security, purpose, empowering the mobile workforce, or ease of use.

To help you decide the best fit solution for your organization, Better World provides a quick online project management tools comparison of the cloud-based productivity solution offerings of three top players: Microsoft, Google, and Zoho.

Microsoft 365: For team management

Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) is simply the cloud-based variant of the Microsoft Office application suite. It includes email, document creation/editing, contacts, calendars, IM, online meetings, video chats, and web interface.

Many large enterprises prefer Microsoft’s 365 because of its well-established presence in both desktop and online productivity suite arena. Moreover, Microsoft’s consistent focus on industry-centered innovations, flexible buying options, and full integration capability with Windows always help the company get brownie points from its loyal users.

Microsoft also offers Team, a collaboration platform that enables enterprise users to share documents, conduct online meetings, and collaborate in real-time.

Familiarity with Outlook: One of the vital components that operate in favor of Office 365 adoption is the strong brand recall and understanding of Outlook email client amongst corporate workers. Most of the corporate workers are comfortable working with the Outlook email client. And organizations do not desire to produce unnecessary anxiety and disrupt their business continuity by switching to any other productivity partner.

One Drive: MS’s enterprise-grade cloud storage platform, One Drive, offers seamless user experience in terms of hosting documents and files in Online, On-Premises, or Hybrid cloud. Moreover, the enterprise search engine capability also enables users to track and find relevant documents or files at their convenience by inserting appropriate keywords.

Fully integrated with Windows: Additionally, Microsoft’s core resources, i.e., Word processor (MS Word), chart editor (MS Excel), and presentation editor (MS PowerPoint), have always been favored by the traditional computer users. All the online documents are fully integrated with the offline edition of MS Office without any fears related to formatting errors. They also include plenty of pre-built templates for enterprise users.

Many Office apps and services are also available on the pay-as-you-use model. Thus, some companies buy a basic plan and then add different services according to their business need.

Click here to know more details about the various plans offered by Microsoft.

Google’s G-Suite: For office management

Google sticks with a cloud-native and browser-centric approach and has already proved its productivity suite mettle in the consumer space. With G Suite bouquet of offerings, it is right away taking big strides to further beef up its enterprise market share.

Google’s G-Suite includes offerings such as Gmail for business, audio, and video conferencing capability, interactive and shared calendars, spreadsheets, presentations, auditing accounts, log analysis, among others.

Clean interface: The most crucial advantage that the company offers is the clean, simple, and intuitive email interface. Granular controls can be implemented by IT heads of what data or files can be portioned out and what necessitates to be checked. Nevertheless, one of the areas which annoy users is the poor integration of Gmail with Contacts and Calendar apps, something which may be intricate to navigate.

Team Drive: Google’s productivity suite of offerings includes Team Drive, a shared space repository, which allows a specific set of users or teams to search, store, access, and download files and documents from any entitled network device.

On-the-go collaboration: While Google apps (Docs, Sheets, and Slides) may lag behind Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) in terms of characteristics and pre-built templates, they outperform MS Office when it comes to the on-the-go collaboration. Google’s robust online ecology and experience enable the company to drive a seamless and smooth document live collaboration experience for its users.

Click here to know more details about the various plans offered by Google.

Zoho Workplace: Cost-effective for SMBs

Hyderabad based global engineering firm, Zoho Corporation, has gathered much interest in recent times. The company offers Zoho Workplace, a single unified cloud office platform that brings together collaboration, productivity, and communications tools and integrates them into other business processes.

Launched in 2005, Zoho’s office suite includes word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, databases, note-taking, and web-conferencing. To compete closely with Google and Microsoft, the company has recently integrated its nine existing productivity tools more firmly than ever.

With over 15 million users in 150 countries, Zoho is still seen as an emerging player in the productivity suite market and not necessarily a threat to the tech behemoths, Google, and Microsoft. Nevertheless, it provides a significant advantage to SMB’s and independent professionals as it is the least expensive amongst all three.

Click here to know more details about the various plans offered by Zoho Workplace.




Technology trends for businesses in 2020

Technology trends for businesses in 2020

In the times of COVID-19, when enterprise leaders are facing tremendous pressure to keep their businesses agile and profitable, the dependency on technology trends for business to overcome some of the challenges have increased.

Amidst the strong emphasis on social-distancing to contain the crisis, work-from-home is the new usual, resulting in rising business complexities. From school, yoga classes to grocery shopping, employee onboarding, medical consultation, and client interactions, everything is being conducted virtually. This is not just unprecedented, but also a unique experience for each one of us since not many were ready for such a sudden and abrupt shift.

These new habits, primarily enforced by the pandemic, have created significant losses to the economy and forced old businesses to modernize quickly. There is already a shift in services, and organizations are reinventing their operating models. Efforts are being made to leverage the potential of new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), digitization, collaboration tools, and risk management to drive growth and innovation.

In light of the above, let’s look at some of the top technological trends that are expected to redefine the IT of the Future.

Digital transformation in business

COVID-19 pandemic has turned into a decisive catalyst for digital transformation. Technology leaders are now reasonably convinced about fast-tracking their digital transformation efforts to navigate the current crisis and stay profitable. Traditional brick-and-mortar businesses also realize the importance of creating a robust virtual presence to beat the odds. The enterprises have no option but to accelerate their digital transformation efforts to adjust to the new normal. 

Enterprise technology leaders firmly believe that the current crisis has given a growing sense of belief and visibility to organizations on the best ways to tackle any future disruptions. (See: Chandresh Dedhia, Head of Information Technology, Ascent Health)

One of the biggest challenges that many enterprises are still facing is to drive the mindset shift of their employees. The next six to twelve months will witness a strong effort from enterprises of all scales to adopt technology advancements, change their organizational structures, and inculcate new dynamics of virtual behaviors within their larger teams. Learning resources and tools which can help in upskilling and reskilling will be in demand.

Updating business continuity plans

Covid-19 is proving to be the litmus test for many organizations to stay resilient and operate without any disruption. The disruption caused by the pandemic was a nightmare for many enterprises as they were not well-equipped to manage an upheaval of such magnitude. In the months ahead, organizations will be seen implementing and integrating new and advanced technologies in their Business Continuity Plans (BCP). Modernization of applications and tools to check employee health, emergency response, and data backup functionalities will be strengthened and restructured. 

The focus will be on deploying technology solutions that not only drive remote working but also help reduce operating expenses and increase business resiliency.

Application of AI in business

There is a growing organizational interest to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) technology to accelerate growth, innovate, and disrupt the market. The next couple of years will see enterprising testing and deploying several AI-capabilities to predict human behavior and fortify their market share. 

A recent study commissioned by global consulting major EY and trade association body Nasscom says that 60% of Indian executive leaders believe that AI will disrupt their businesses within three years. (See: Enterprises jump on the AI bandwagon but seat belts are few and Covid-19 lessons for accelerating AI usage).

Once the offices resume their physical centers, tech-leaders will strongly rely upon AI-based intelligent data processing and contactless technologies to ensure their employee maintain social distancing.

Implementing Chatbots to address customer grievances will be accelerated. The banking sector, for instance, has already taken aggressive steps to deploy innovative AI-based chatbots and tools to provide 24*7 customer support to their customers. (See: ICICI Prudential extends coverage of conversational AI Ligo and AI in banking now geared for a takeoff)

AI will specifically drive colossal traction for the industries which operate in the retail and supply chain. Since a majority of the consumers will continue to shop online for an indefinite time, AI-driven technologies will enable businesses to identify consumer purchasing patterns, launch new products, and provide an exceptional experience to their customers.

Stay tuned at Better World for the second part of the enterprise technology trends series, which will focus on technologies such as Cloud Computing, Blockchain, and Cyber Security.





Vodafone Idea Ltd: Could rebranding change the future?

Vodafone Idea Ltd: Could rebranding change the future?

Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL), one of the leading Indian telecom operators, has recently re-branded its identity as ‘Vi’ (read as We) as part of its consolidation efforts to integrate the two brands: Vodafone and Idea formally. Vodafone’s Indian arm and Idea Cellular had amalgamated their operations in August 2018 to survive in the highly competitive Indian telecommunication market. 

However, despite the merger, the consolidated Vodafone idea ltd entity was still carrying the burden of two separate identities from the customer service and sales operations viewpoint. Also, there was a little awareness amongst consumers about their alliance.

“As the integration of the two businesses is now complete, it’s time for a fresh start. That’s why we believe that now is the perfect time to launch Vi, one company that combines the strengths of Vodafone India and Idea. Vi’s focus will be to deliver to citizens and businesses in India a superior network experience, better customer service, and leading products and services.” said Nick Read, CEO of Vodafone Group PLC in a company statement.

The re-branding exercise is an attempt to strengthen brand positioning and lessen the company’s operational expenditure of upholding two distinct brands. The development has come on the heels of Vi’s decision to raise Rs. 25,000 crores through share sales and other tactical means to clear the aggregated gross revenue (AGR) dues. Earlier this month, the Telco received much-needed respite after the Supreme Court, India’s apex law body, provided Vodafone an extended time frame of 10 years to pay the AGR dues it owes to the Indian government.

Indian telecom’s changing equations

India’s telecom sector had over a dozen companies operating until a decade back. However, Jio’s entry and its untenable pricing pushed several money-losing carriers to exit the business or get amalgamated. Since the arrival of Jio, the erstwhile telecom behemoths Bharti Airtel and Vodafone are also struggling to retain their customers.

RJio currently commands 33.47% of the wireless market share, Airtel 28.31%, and Vi 27.57%, according to the Telecom Authority of India (TRAI).

It is worthwhile to note that Vodafone idea ltd (now Vi) had lost 6.3 million subscribers in March, while 1.2 million customers departed from the Bharti Airtel network. In the same period, Reliance Jio, on the other hand, added 4.68 million subscribers.

Interestingly, Vodafone and Idea together had over 400 million customers when their merger was announced. The combined subscriber base of VIL had shrunk to around 300 million by April 2020. On the other hand, RJio is now the biggest Indian Telco with close to 400 million subscribers.

Attempt to regain market share

The industry onlookers believe that Vi’s revamp initiative is aimed at invigorating the brand that resonates with the style quotient of both young and enterprise customers. After the arrival of Reliance Jio, both Vi and Bharti Airtel have been trailing in subscriber market share and trying several branding tactics to fortify their position.

While the current rebranding exercise may generate user interest in the short-term, Idea Vodafone (Vi) will need substantial efforts to regain its market share. The telecom space is getting evolved with the two significant players RJio and Bharti Airtel, competing from neck to neck. While Bharti Airtel may as well have lost considerable subscribers, the company has strong foundations to recover from the onslaught of Jio. 

Jio is sitting on a hotbed of opportunities to build a Jio ecosystem and has already raised Rs 1,52,056 crore from top tech investors earlier this year. (See: The Jio ecosystem has begun to unfold). Vodafone Idea, too, needs to entice massive equity infusion to unload the severe financial challenges it has been facing and change its dwindling fortunes.

Vodafone Idea or Vi said that it would continue to invest in 4G wireless technology to strengthen network coverage and capacity, a statement that it should firmly adhere to hold back its customers.

With the 5G era at doorsteps, technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will get rapid enterprise deployments. And as such, it will be network superiority that will make the difference. 




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