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How the cloud powers a secure, remote workforce

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Steve Rackham

Before the pandemic, it was hard to imagine that vast numbers of financial services employees would suddenly, and successfully, be working from home. But when stay-at-home orders proliferated, companies had to set their workers up to securely handle sensitive data and transactions from their living rooms – fast.

As a highly regulated industry handling sensitive information, the financial services sector has been slow to embrace working from home. But when the pandemic hit, insurance firms, banks, asset management companies, and other FS firms suddenly had no choice.

Productivity at home

For most companies that were reluctant to allow working from home, one key concern was productivity. But multiple surveys have shown that productivity actually increased throughout the pandemic, a remarkable outcome for such a stressful period. A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that the work-from-home boom will lift post-pandemic productivity in the U.S. economy by 5%, mostly because of savings in commuting time.

Companies across sectors also worried that certain aspects of people’s jobs couldn’t be done from home, particularly collaborative or creative tasks. But a McKinsey analysis of 2,000 tasks, 800 jobs, and 9 countries found that the sector with the highest potential for remote work was finance and insurance. According to McKinsey, three-quarters of the work that FS firms do can be accomplished remotely without a loss of productivity. That’s in contrast to around 68% of the work of those in management, business services, and IT and 62% in professional, scientific, and technical services.

In addition, FS firms have always had another concern about remote working – the safety and security of their data. Without the right technology in place, working from home can make a company’s IT infrastructure vulnerable, giving cyberattackers soft entry points into the system. However, organizations that implement robust cloud technology to power their remote workers find that they can secure their data from both outages and cyberattacks with software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions.

A cloud-based solution

The cloud is an invaluable tool in making remote employment a workable solution. The cloud can connect workers online to use collaborative tools in secure spaces. It offers secure data storage and data management. It can even help workers keep their systems up to date, with simultaneous security updates and patches.

One of the key benefits of the cloud is that it can be accessed from anywhere, but that’s also the key concern for the cybersecurity team. Multiple access points outside the office means that entry points into the infrastructure are proliferating without security protection. However, there are a number of practical technological steps that FS firms can take to secure their data in the cloud.

Protecting remote workers

Cloud-first security measures are increasingly important for FS firms. For example, authentication is a pillar of good cybersecurity, and the cloud offers advanced authentication and access processes to control who is on the network. VPNs for remote access have become common in the last few years, and multifactor authentication through company smartphones and other devices can boost their security profile.

Security measures like these use the cloud as an essential part of the security, rather than just part of the system to be secured. They include a number of concepts and processes:

  • Zero-trust architecture verifies everything it can before allowing access, including the user, the machine, and the application that is seeking access.
  • Cloud backup services simplify data protection with rapid recovery, enabling backup and recovery of user and application data, and even SaaS recovery for specific applications.
  • Cloud security operations provide centralized visibility and control of user access to critical corporate data. They are designed to alert the company when internal threats or abnormal activity are detected.
  • Desktop as a service or virtual desktops provide added security because data and applications stay in the cloud, rather than on vulnerable end-user devices. Security controls are also consistent across every device, rather than depending on whether the employee is using Android or iOS, Windows or Mac.

The future of work

We may not all be working from home this time next year, but most companies believe that some form of hybrid or flexible working is here to stay. When the pandemic began, companies in every sector, including financial services, had to adapt quickly and go with what worked. Now that remote working has proved to be productive, it’s time to adopt cloud-first security measures that ensure data protection, wherever their employees are.

Learn more about what NetApp can do for you.

Steve Rackham

Steve Rackham is the CTO for Financial Services at NetApp. Steve began his career in technology working for Sequent Computers, spending time at Intel and StorageTek. Joining NetApp in 2016, Steve has spent over 15 years focusing on FSI, working on accounts across the vertical, including heading up a Global pre-sales team for a large, multi-national bank before moving to his current CTO role.​

He has been enhancing relationships with customers and strategic partners alike, helping them solve the different challenges they face across FSI and helping them adopt their own Data Fabric utilizing NetApp’s Data Management solutions. Steve has also been exploring how the rapid advances in AI impact Financial Services, how changes to regulations and compliance will impact organizations as they move forward, and how ESG is steering conversations across the industry.​

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