Technology drives today’s businesses—from how we connect with clients and collaborate internally to how we fulfill our job responsibilities and generate revenue. And at the heart of it all is IT infrastructure, the backbone that supports our digital-driven workplaces.
Weak Points in Today’s IT Infrastructure
Modern IT infrastructure is at high risk for disruption, infiltration, and failure thanks to several factors intrinsic to our highly connected, data-hungry business environments:
IT infrastructure has become increasingly complex during the past few years. Server, storage, and networking systems that IT once managed strictly in-house are now available in the cloud—public, private, or a mix of both—or on-premises. Applications and platforms can be native or delivered as a service, and data is being backed up to tape, disk, the cloud, all of the above. The combinations are staggering, and IT is in charge of managing and protecting it all.
This complex infrastructure comes with multiple third-party vendors attached. Each disparate system and platform IT adds to the mix reduces visibility into system performance and security and broadens the organization’s attack surface. Your organization’s perimeter is only as secure as your least security-conscious service provider, so it is crucial to only partner with vendors you trust.
Many IT teams were caught off guard when COVID-19 caused a sudden pivot to remote workplaces. Without adequate time to prepare, insufficient IT infrastructure made it difficult to secure remote access to the company network so employees could use the files and applications they needed to do their jobs.
Why Data Loss and Downtime Are a Big Deal
Disruptions are bad for business, but if a disruption comes paired with data loss or exposure, things can get a whole lot worse.
The most direct impact of downtime is lost revenue because users can’t buy your product or use your service if they can’t access it. However, there are also significant indirect consequences of downtime.
Today’s users are highly protective of their privacy, and it doesn’t take much to lose their trust. Even a minor security event may be enough to send your users to a competitor. The push to increase consumer privacy protections has launched a wave of new regulations, which can result in hefty legal fees and noncompliance fines if your organization fails to protect sensitive users and employee information adequately.
10 Ways to Protect Your Infrastructure from Data Loss and Downtime
Between the legal ramifications, reputational damage, remediation expenses, and financial impact of downtime and data loss, there is a lot of incentive to protect your infrastructure from known and potential threats proactively.
Here are 10 best practices to secure your infrastructure and create an effective data protection strategy:
1. Review and update your business continuity and disaster recovery plans.
A comprehensive business continuity plan that includes disaster recovery is essential to getting business operations back up and running quickly after an unplanned disruption or security event. As COVID-19 made us painfully aware, your physical workplace may become inaccessible with little to no notice, so be sure your continuity plan includes the possibility of 100 percent virtual operations.
2. Segment networks.
Some ransomware attacks take weeks or even months to discover. This gives the operators plenty of time to explore your network and find the “good stuff.” Segmenting your networks so mission-critical applications and data are separated from unnecessary files and applications can minimize the amount and severity of damage done during the attack.
3. Avoid privilege escalation.
IT teams have a lot on their plates, and sometimes things slip through the cracks. When one of those things is revoking permissions when roles change, it results in significant vulnerability. Hackers use these over-privileged accounts to move horizontally or vertically within the network to gain access to functionality or another system user’s credentials (horizontal escalation) or obtain elevated privileges, such as admin rights (vertical escalation).
Role-based access control, multi-factor authentication, and Zero Trust frameworks can prevent privilege escalation through role-based access control, multi-factor authentication, and Zero Trust frameworks.
4. Upgrade your cybersecurity and data protection solution.
Threats are constantly evolving, so your defenses must develop with them. Out-of-date cybersecurity tools are useless against new strains of ransomware or evolving tactics that bypass current safeguards. An all-in-one cybersecurity and data protection solution provides multi-layer security, backup, and disaster recovery capabilities from a centralized interface.
5. Backup often (and secure those backups).
Properly configured and secured backups are your organization’s lifeline after a security event or disaster. Adopting a 3-2-1-1 backup strategy protects your infrastructure and your data by backing up to different media types and creating and storing an air-gapped copy of the data in the cloud. This copy can’t be encrypted during a ransomware attack; it is protected from localized threats, such as fire; and it is accessible from anywhere, so anyone on the recovery team can initiate recovery efforts.
6. Test your recovery strategy.
The middle of a crisis is the worst time to find out you forgot to document a step in the disaster recovery process or you left out a mission-critical system. Scheduled testing ensures the disaster plan works as it should and that all applications and systems are included in the recovery effort.
7. Educate employees.
With the proper training, your employees can become an extension of the IT security team instead of a liability. Security awareness training that includes phishing simulations will teach users how to identify and avoid common scams and malware threats and provide metrics to track employees’ cyber hygiene practices and improvement.
8. Keep patches and updates current.
Skipped patches and missed updates are an open invitation to ransomware operators. Many IT teams are constantly overwhelmed with work and struggle to keep up with the steady stream of new updates and patches. To ensure your systems and applications are updated regularly, set up automatic updating whenever possible, and install patches and updates as soon as they are available so they aren’t forgotten.
9. Backup SaaS tools and applications.
COVID-19 created a booming market for SaaS solutions such as Office 365. These platforms have become essential for many organizations’ business continuity and productivity, but they can pose a risk to data security.
For example, Office 365’s shared responsibility model means Microsoft will protect the infrastructure it uses to support the applications and systems. Still, the user (i.e., you) is responsible for backing up and securing the data. Microsoft doesn’t provide long-term retention or disaster recovery capabilities, so be sure you have a strategy in place to secure and backup essential files and applications.
10. Install antivirus protection on every device with access to the company network.
You can’t secure endpoints if you don’t know they exist, and today’s highly distributed workforce makes it difficult to account for all of the devices with access to the company network.
Create a thorough inventory of company-owned and personal devices used to access company files and applications, and install antivirus protection on them all. To ensure continued protection, automate software updates so they don’t fall through the cracks.
Future-Proof Infrastructure and Data Protection
Today’s IT teams constantly battle threats on multiple fronts, from ransomware to natural disasters to human error. Downtime and data loss are unacceptable in our data-driven business environments, so organizations must proactively plan for any eventuality.
Download How to Build a Disaster Recovery Plan to learn how to design a comprehensive strategy that minimizes disruption and protects your mission-critical data and applications from current and future threats.