Business Intelligence for the 21st Century (Part Two): Cybersecurity

April 18, 2012
Cloud anxiety may be a 'red herring' standing in the way of progress, experts say.

By all indications, Business Intelligence (BI) is running an indelible course toward ever faster, ever smarter and ever more pervasive reporting capabilities. As it does and data begins to slip out of the hands of in-house IT, users' trust in their cybersecurity is being tested as never before.

Part one of this series discussed how current trends have led companies to move BI off premises and into the cloud for increased speed and agility. Complimenting that, the April 2012 issue of IW contains a story demonstrating the integral role mobility is playing in that process.

Tied to both of these movements, however, is a lurking anxiety and a certain persistent fear about what sending your BI data off-site and onto the device may mean in terms of cybersecurity for this new generation of tools. The source of this fear, however, is unclear and may not be as closely tied to actual security threats as many assume.

Nevertheless, for many companies on the road to developing 21st century BI systems, this fear has proven to be a major roadblock standing in the way of both BI efficiency and efficiency in general.

Microsoft Cloud Study

Highlighting this issue is the result of a survey offered by Microsoft Corp. (IW 500/16) last month calculating rates of cloud computing adoption among small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

According to the report, cloud anxiety is one of the most significant blocks to adoption with 44% of respondents saying they believe cloud services are still too risky to even touch.

Countering this impression, however, is a growing sense that this fear may not be living up to the reality of the risk. In fact, it may be an anachronistic perspective on data management in general.

"I think the amount of concern people have doesn't measure up to the real concerns," said Mark Bernardo, general manager of automation software at GE Intelligent Platforms. "I think a lot of cloud-based offerings, especially based on today's IP infrastructure, can be made immensely secure, as secure as you are within an intranet within your manufacturing facility. There really would be no difference."

The Red Herring

Roman Bukary, general manager of manufacturing and wholesale distribution at NetSuite, takes this one step further.

"For a number of years now, I would claim that security is actually a red herring," he said. In fact, he added, cloud computing may actually be more secure than in-house systems based on the amount of resources dedicated to security measures.

With this level of security, Bukary urged manufacturers to let go of their fear and trust in the cloud. "IT is not your area of focus," he said. "Our whole business is based on making your data secure."

Manufacturers, he said, should farm out their resources to experts and focus on growing their business instead.

While agreeing with this general premise, GE's (IW 500/5) Bernardo warned users to use caution before moving ahead with this level of trust.

"I think in some cases, frankly, [cybersecurity] can be a red herring," he said. "But I would put an asterisk there that says we need to be careful that we don't go the other way and make claims that the systems can handle all of the security within the cloud. There is still a great deal of emphasis still needs to be put in every layer between the cloud and down at the manufacturing floor to make sure that's true."

"If there is one weak link in that equation, the whole security story falls apart," he said.

In the end, however, it just comes down to being intelligent about Business Intelligence choices and navigating the course to mobile, cloud-based BI thoughfully.

As Bernardo said, "cloud-based computing is more secure than most people think, but people still need to be cautious if they make that leap."

About the Author

Travis M. Hessman | Editor-in-Chief

Travis Hessman is the editor-in-chief and senior content director for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest. He began his career as an intern at IndustryWeek in 2001 and later served as IW's technology and innovation editor. Today, he combines his experience as an educator, a writer, and a journalist to help address some of the most significant challenges in the manufacturing industry, with a particular focus on leadership, training, and the technologies of smart manufacturing.

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