I’m writing this article in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, a year after we first left our offices and moved to remote work. While it has immediate implications on all of our lives – both physically and virtually – it also gives us a glimpse into the future of cybersecurity and end-user computing. This transformative event can also help us design a more resilient, more productive, and more scalable computing environment.
Here are a few observations on the current cyber/end-user computing landscape.
Users are now remote by default and – judging by the public statements of the GAFAM tech giants (that’s Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft) – remote-first will be a standard policy in tech and in many other verticals.
- With WFH everywhere, world laptop shipments are growing strong. Laptops are not getting any weaker too (just look at Apple’s monstrous M1 chip). At the same time, most users are not leveraging a fraction of their laptop’s capacity.
- Enterprises have realized during the COVID-19 crisis that they can’t ship a laptop to every user and contractor out there – either because of lacking supply or because of budget/cost reasons.
- Talking about cost: when companies are facing a financial crisis, computing budgets are looked at more closely than ever. Solutions must have great ROI and be cost-effective, especially at scale.
- A new wave of modern collaboration tools is hitting us – just think Zoom, Slack, Teams, and a thousand other apps and services. Tech innovation had not stopped during the crisis and organizations that cannot adopt them quickly because of (justified) security concerns will stay behind.
- The cybersecurity industry has picked hardware-based isolation as the standard practice for securing literally everything, including our data centers, our cloud workloads, and even our fingerprints on smartphones.
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Assuming these trends are here to stay or become even stronger in the next ten years, what are the ideal characteristics of an enterprise computing environment under these conditions?
- Strong isolation-based security is a must. Instead of fighting a cat-and-mouse game, enterprises would want to reduce their attack surface by isolating sensitive assets and only allow access to these assets by authorized users running on trusted computing environments.
- To keep up with the ever-accelerating innovation, enterprises must be able to let users use any app, on-demand. No multiple IT hoops to jump through, just let users be productive and adopt the tech they need to get their jobs done.
- Users expect an amazing user experience, and they will get it. We can’t hold our employees back. If they are blocked, restricted, slowed down, or just need to use a certain app, they will find a way to use it. Enterprises must find a way to securely allow that.
- Users have hardware preferences. Many are used to Windows 10 PCs, some love MacBooks. Enterprises must support any laptop.
- Users must be able to work anywhere on the planet. They don’t always have a high bandwidth network and they might have high latency. Heck, they might even be offline at times. The future of “always connected” had been promised for decades, but it’s still not here – it’s probably at least a decade away.
- End-user computing solutions must be scalable, by design. Scalability is both about IT’s ability to quickly deploy the solution at scale, but also about supporting it at scale, handling its operational aspects at scale, and making sure they don’t go bankrupt as they scale.
- Users expect you to respect their privacy. Users are educated and know better than to let enterprises install a privacy-invasive EPP/EDR/VPN client that sends all of their data to their bosses.
Do most enterprises have this covered? unfortunately, most of us don’t (yet). In the next post, I’ll explore various alternatives and what’s missing to create an end-to-end secure computing environment that is scalable, user friendly, and future-facing.