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      IT Professionals Find Optimism Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic


      INAP’s Senior Vice President, Product & Technology, Jennifer Curry, appeared as a guest on a recent episode of TechStrong TV, a web series produced by the editors of Devops.com and Digital Anarchist. Curry discusses INAP’s latest research about the pandemic’s impact on IT infrastructure strategies, the prominence of security solutions in 2021 and the importance of visibility in managed services.

      Check out Curry’s segment with Charlene O’Hanlon of MediaOps below:

      Curry spoke on findings from INAP’s third-annual State of IT Infrastructure Management report, noting that IT professionals now feel their colleagues view them as essential due to the pandemic. In the previous year’s survey, IT pros reported feeling bogged down by mundane tasks and lacked the time to champion innovations for their organizations.

      “The feeling among IT staff is optimistic about their place inside the company,” Curry said. “[Infrastructure demand] was unprecedented and it afforded a lot of optimism and creativity—opportunity for folks to showcase a different side of IT and where we fit.”

      Even as the world returns to some sense of “normal,” IT will continue to find optimism in the call for innovation. There will be less of a focus on scale as sights shift to how infrastructure is pulled together and how people will interact with it moving forward. Curry noted that there will especially be an emphasis for security solutions to protect hybrid infrastructures.

      “Security is a layered approach,” said Curry. “It’s not one and done. It’s not one solution. It’s layers against those different components of the infrastructure.”

      Network, data and OS security figured prominently as an area that companies need help managing, with 35 percent of survey respondents noting this as a vital quality of infrastructure solutions since the beginning of the pandemic. Service providers can help build layers of security to ensure infrastructure solutions are safe and compliant.

      Curry noted that cybersecurity strategies will become more and more complex as a company’s attack surface grows and data collected at the edge goes back to the core. Providers will bring their expertise from working with so many different clients and environments to figure out the best methods to protect and secure that data and infrastructure.

      “One of the really critical items for CTOs, IT directors and application managers will be the visibility into everything going on that they’re not controlling,” Curry said. “You want to know. You want to be confident and want to see what your partners are doing.”

      In November of 2020, INAP furthered its efforts to achieve unprecedented managed cloud visibility with the latest release of its Intelligent Monitoring service, which is now available for Bare Metal and Dedicated Private Cloud customers.

      Laura Vietmeyer


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      Cyber Threats Don’t Shut Down for COVID-19


      Today we are pleased to welcome guest blogger Tony Bradley, Senior Manager of Content Marketing for Alert Logic, INAP’s trusted managed security partner and expert in cloud security for financial services customers.
      – Wendy Williams, Product Manager, INAP

      Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are living in a different world now than the one we had at the beginning of 2020. Everything has changed in terms of how businesses communicate and operate, but some things haven’t changed. In spite of the dramatic shift in the world in general, it is still business as usual for cyber attacks and cybersecurity.

      Everything Has Changed for Companies

      Companies of all sizes and across all industries have been forced to find ways to remain productive and keep the business going while suddenly working with an entirely remote workforce.

      What does that mean from a cybersecurity perspective? It means that users who were previously sitting in an office using company-issued computers connected to a company-managed network are now getting their work done on a random collection of personal and business devices connected to the public internet over their home Wi-Fi networks. The complexity of the environment has skyrocketed, and the exposed attack surface has expanded exponentially.

      Cyber Attacks Are on the Rise

      As challenging as things have been this year for businesses and individuals, the reality is that cyber attackers don’t care about the COVID-19 pandemic, or whether you’re quarantined or not. On the contrary, the chaos and confusion of the sudden shift to working remote and the expansion of the attack surface represent a major opportunity for attackers to exploit.

      Most users are more exposed on their home networks and lack the filters and security controls that exist on a corporate network. The unprecedented situation we are facing has changed standard processes and methods of communication, making it more difficult to determine what is legitimate and what seems suspicious. Employees are also anxious for information and more likely to click on links or open attachments they shouldn’t. As a result, attackers have ramped up phishing, ransomware and business email compromising attacks.

      The Need for Visibility and Vigilance

      It is more important than ever for organizations to have visibility of all endpoints and all activity. That means increasing visibility to encompass the dramatically expanded attack surface, including personal endpoints connected to remote networks. Increased focus on suspicious activity on cloud platforms and cloud-based SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications is also necessary.

      It’s also critical to understand that attackers don’t have business hours. Not only is it always the middle of the day somewhere on the planet, but many attacks—at least the initial exploit that gets attackers through the door—are automated and run around the clock. Organizations need to be vigilant, and that means having security experts monitoring endpoints and activity 24/7 to identify and respond to suspicious or malicious activity.

      Value of MDR

      Businesses have enough to worry about, and very few have the tools or people necessary for effective cybersecurity. This is especially true given the COVID-19 pandemic and expanded attack surface of users connecting from personal devices and home networks. The best strategy is to stay focused on the core strengths of the company and satisfying customers, while engaging with a trusted partner to provide the cybersecurity visibility and vigilance you need.

      Working with a managed detection and response (MDR) provider enables an organization to get the protection and peace of mind they need. INAP and Alert Logic have a strong partnership and provide deep, focused cybersecurity expertise to keep your networks and data safe and give you confidence in your cybersecurity even during these unprecedented times.

      Tony Bradley

      About the Author

      Tony Bradley is Senior Manager of Content Marketing for Alert Logic. Tony worked in the trenches as a network administrator and security consultant before shifting to the marketing and writing side of things. He is an 11-time Microsoft MVP in security and cloud and has been a CISSP-ISSAP since 2002. Tony has authored or co-authored a dozen books on IT and IT security topics, and is a prolific contributor to online media sites such as Forbes and DevOps.com.

      Wendy Williams
      • Product Manager, Private Cloud and Security Services


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      COVID-19 Pandemic Shines Spotlight on How Essential Soft Skills are to the Future of Tech


      In the day-to-day life of a workplace, success often hinges on how well a team works together. All the technical skill in the world won’t help an IT team or company reach its goals if it’s plagued by poor communication, poor leadership and lack of flexibility, among other things. These soft skills have proven even more important in the age of COVID-19, with a rise in remote work and the corresponding shift in the ways we work with each other.

      Even before COVID-19 disrupted work as we know it, soft skills were so important that one study found 67 percent of human resources professionals declined to offer a job to an otherwise qualified technology candidate because of a lack of soft skills.

      Prior to the pandemic, we asked 500 senior IT professionals and infrastructure managers to rank the soft skills they thought would be most important for future IT professionals to possess. The attributes were ranked 1-6, with 6 being the least important. Below are the average ranks.

      Most Important Soft Skills for Future IT Professionals

      Soft Skills in Tech

      Since these results were collected, the world has obviously changed. And yet, our “new normal” only underscores the results.

      Flexibility Is the No. 1 Soft Skill for IT Pros

      Based on the rapid changes we’ve seen in tech and the world at large, it should come as no surprise that “flexibility” was ranked most important. Working with a team that’s willing to step up to the plate and roll with the punches will lead to better outcomes than working with players who are rigid and unwilling to bend as priorities shift.

      “Hiring managers need to identify flexibility as a key behavior and skill set during the hiring process,” said Jackie Coats, INAP’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources. “To evaluate it, have the candidate explain a time when they had to deal with an unforeseen situation, and what they did to accomplish their goal regardless of the surprise.”

      Business priorities are often adjusted and the demand on IT teams will move with them. Or a team member might leave unexpectedly, and the rest of the team will need to fill in.

      “Another question to determine flexibility would be to ask how the employee has helped outside of their role when the team was short-staffed or under a tight deadline,” Coats added.

      As we’ve seen remote work become the norm for many businesses, flexibility is an important trait for both employees and for supervisors to possess.

      “Being flexible during these times is a critical tool we as leaders must leverage,” said Matt Cuneio, INAP’s Vice President, Global Support. “Nothing is more important to the health of a team than confidence that we’re all in this together. We’re going to be flexible with each other, ensuring we all win.”

      A Need for Innovation Necessitates Creativity

      Change often feels unexpected, as we’ve seen with the pandemic, but it’s always inevitable. In another pre-pandemic survey, we wanted to get an idea of what exactly will be driving change in IT roles now and in the future, so we asked our participants to choose the top driver. The need for innovation took the top spot, selected by 27 percent of participants. (Robust security and infrastructure scalability came in a close second and third.)

      All of this change and need for innovation emphasizes the importance of creativity — the second ranked soft skill for IT pros. IT teams are also asked to problem solve on a daily basis and come up with new solutions to help the business achieve its goals or to find solutions to unique problems, like how to adjust networking strategies for a decentralized workforce.

      Undervalued Empathy?

      Empathy is the ability to identify with another person by sharing in their perspective and feelings. This soft skill is commonly valued in the helping professions, like counseling and social work, but can bring great value to teams in all professions by helping develop camaraderie and trust. Yet empathy ranked lowest on our list.

      Cuneio shared his thoughts on the impact of empathy for IT, both within a team setting and with customers. “I had a friend tell me once, ‘Listen to understand.’  A listening ear is a powerful and necessary tool in today’s world,” he said.

      Fostering empathy between individuals helps people feel heard and understood, which in teams can benefit collaboration and brainstorming sessions where colleagues feel empowered to share ideas.

      “Every interaction you have is an opportunity to impact someone’s life,” Cuneio added. “It always amazes me the response I get by asking the simple question ‘How are things?’ The key component to this question is to listen and inquire to the response.”

      It’s also been shown that companies that have a more empathetic culture outperform less empathetic companies by 20 percent. The bottom line: Individual empathy shouldn’t be overlooked.

      Laura Vietmeyer


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