The price of being connected

The rate of advancement in our industry never ceases to amaze me. I was in the US in the summer of last year, and there I got my first taste of 4G on my phone: I was stunned. I couldn’t believe how fast the connection was, how quickly pages loaded; without doubt it makes 3G pale in comparison. I can see now why EE are splashing the cash on Kevin Bacon to promote the service over here – once people over here get a taste, everyone is going to want 4G. And want it now.

So, of course, I should have known it would never be enough for our Korean colleagues. Just a few weeks ago, Samsung announced it had already successfully taken the first steps in creating 5G.

5G will be ludicrously fast; it is expected to be over 6 times faster than 4G, exceeding 1Gbps, which will enable the download of weighty content such as 3D movies in mere seconds. And with coverage available pretty much everywhere now – even the depths of the Piccadilly line are no longer a refuge – is seems that we are all geared up to have no holds barred access to the internet any time, anywhere.  And that’s good, isn’t it?

Well, the potential benefits for business certainly stack up. For a start, remote working will become much easier: not so much aimed at people who work from home, who will already have their own internet connection, but for employees who are regularly travelling.  5G will not only mean it will be easier for them to download email files to their own devices whilst out on the road but will bring much more advanced capabilities – for example the ability to participate video conference calls.

Next, 5G for backup becomes a real solution: already some companies are deploying 3G at their business sites as a way of providing extra resiliency for internet access. This has only had limited success, mainly due to the limitations of 3G. 4G – as it becomes more widely available – will plug the gap, but as the use of high bandwidth applications grows, this too will falter. 5G will be  the more obvious – and more cost effective - choice.

In fact, the opportunities for deploying 5G in a supporting role could be vast: new offices could be up and running more quickly using 5G access whilst waiting for Ethernet to be installed; 5G could be used to provide connectivity to sites where this has traditionally been an issue, such as building sites. Again companies are already beginning to deploy 3G and 4G for this purpose but as demand for high capacity services grow – as the underlying network capacity ramps up from 100Mb to 1Gb or even 10Gb – it will be 5G that provides the speeds needed.

But as with every major technological advance, there is a downside, and this is no different. Without being a doomsayer, sometimes it is a bit of a jolt to see how technological capabilities that not so long ago were the stuff of space age B Movies are all of a sudden here, ready for our consumption. Of course in the movies, the futuristic vision was often depicted as a nightmare – the prevalence of technology was seen as both imminent and malevolent - and at the centre of this anxiety was the very thing which tarnishes technology today: the risk of abuse by others.

And in today’s world that is a very real risk. Security is probably the most dominant flaw in today’s connected world – affecting every element of technology. And whilst the news stories may focus on the more personal nature of identity theft, businesses have just as much to lose. In 2012, Infosec reported that security breaches were costing businesses billions in lost revenue in the UK alone – with that figure expected to climb. It cited complacency and a lack of education amongst employees as key reasons. There is also the slightly deeper issue that businesses fail to invest in security because they cannot measure a tangible return on that investment.

So this is an area in which we have a responsibility to help and support our customers.

Firstly, we can’t assume that compliance is enough – we need to go further. It is our responsibility to ensure that – as far as possible, we create solutions for our customers that offer the highest levels of security. From a network perspective, this doesn’t just mean adding a firewall to a solution, it means ensuring that their policy is suitable for their needs – and configured correctly. It means ensuring that all hardware has had its access passwords changed and that these passwords are updated regularly to something a bit more inventive than ‘password2013’.

Finally, it is pretty shocking to read the data published last year from Verizon which indicates that some – in fact many - breaches remain undetected for months, by which time the damage is done. Proactive monitoring is an imperative. All network solutions should include network monitoring as standard because one of the key advantages is that it can help detect any potential breach and allow businesses to take immediate remedial action.

Put simply, online access is now fundamental to the way businesses operate, and the easier it is for us to connect, the better, but not at the price of compromising your security.