Philip Turner, Vice President of Europe for the Middle East and Africa at Okta, examines the corporate mindset that’s restraining the uptake of secure cloud solutions in the UK…

Following the latest report from the Office for National Statistics, the productivity puzzle continues to baffle British businesses. While more people in the UK are employed than ever before and working hours have reached an all-time high, the UK is still failing to gain a competitive edge when it comes to productivity.

Why is productivity continuing to drop? One theory gaining traction is that organisations have not invested enough in innovative technologies.

Okta’s recent Secure Business Agility report supports that hypothesis, finding that while most organisations in the UK, France, Nordics and Netherlands fundamentally believe connecting people to the best technology is vital to business productivity, many struggle to achieve agility due to traditional on-premises security mind-sets; in other words, they stick with legacy technology because of unfounded security concerns, instead of adopting new cloud and mobile solutions – even when those tools are actually more secure.

Today’s security pain points

Enabling a highly connected and mobile workforce means shifting the attack vectors that organisations must protect against cyber criminals. Before the advent of cloud, organisations secured their data within network perimeters protected by firewalls, data loss prevention systems, virtual private networks (VPNs) and intrusion detection/prevention systems. However, as enterprises make the transition to the cloud, IT no longer controls every application or device that accesses corporate data, and managing access can be challenging.

Our research shows that poor visibility into user activity is the most commonly cited challenge IT and security leaders have faced in the last year, closely followed by irresponsible password usage. What’s more, 65% of IT and security experts think that a data breach will happen within the next 12 months if they don’t upgrade their legacy security solutions. Security experts who know that legacy systems often remain un-patched, or configured in an insecure state so they can be connected to modern systems, might not be surprised by that statistic; but it should be worrisome to all business leaders.

Significant data breaches not only result in financial losses, but they often also lead to irreversible reputational damage. Once customers lose faith in a company’s ability to keep their data safe, many do not come back. It means that legacy systems can threaten the business itself. Organisations that protect crucial services and data with inadequate, outdated security tools and methodologies will be left behind.

Agility + Productivity + Security = Success

We have found that investing in new technologies has resulted in improved user flexibility (54%), quicker access to documents (52%), improved collaboration between users (45%) and alignment between IT and business objectives (45%). Innovative technologies are helping organisations achieve measurable changes in the daily lives of employees, and are opening up massive opportunities for IT teams to further drive agility and productivity.

However, to maximise results, organisations must adopt new security strategies designed to protect cloud and mobile access. As a result, many companies — including MGM and Adobe — have realised that the key to securing their networks is to protect each user and their identity.

As technology is constantly changing, and with people accessing organisational data from virtually anywhere, identity has become the critical control point through which organisations can manage the connections between these worlds. By using contextual data about users, devices, and patterns of behaviour, organisations can more accurately detect unauthorised attempts to access corporate information, and IT can better mitigate the risk from a security breach to more effectively protect the business.

Boosting Productivity in the Cloud

A study by Capgemini Consulting and MIT Sloan Management revealed that companies that embrace digital technologies generate an average of 9% more revenue than their competitors, as well as 26% higher profits. The numerous benefits of the cloud, such as increased mobility, flexibility and security, as well as improved customer experience, and the ability to streamline processes are leading businesses in every industry to adopt new technologies in order to boost their competitiveness.

In order to make the most of the benefits of the cloud, organisations need to adopt solutions that will enable them to become more productive and connected. That means giving employees and customers the peace of mind that comes with knowing their data is not at risk of a serious breach.

It also entails giving IT the tools to prevent, detect, and respond instantly to attacks, report on cloud activity in real-time, and scale their security programme with the business as it grows more mobile and connected. Only then will organisations be able to stay safe within an ever-changing environment — and boost their productivity while doing so.