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Improving Energy Efficiency and Enterprise Network Security With Cloud-Enabled Technology


“There are two kinds of big companies in the United States. There are those who’ve been hacked…and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked.”

Several years before FBI Director James Comey made that bold, now infamous proclamation on CBS’s 60 Minutes, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) partnered with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to initiate a federal strategic plan for cybersecurity research and development.

In December 2011, the two organizations adopted a comprehensive agenda that aimed to minimize the corruptive use of cyber technology, improve education and training, and establish a science of cybersecurity.

Since then, however, the colossal numbers of data breaches among some of the country’s most respected retail chains have been mind-boggling. You name it — Target, K Mart, Michael’s, Neiman Marcus, Home Depot, Dairy Queen, Staples — leaks of customers’ personal data and the increased vulnerability of retail chain enterprise networks have quickly morphed into a fiscally precarious situation.

In July 2014, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued an advisory, stating that at least 1,000 businesses in the U.S. had been affected by Backoff malware, which targets the retail industry’s point-of-sale (POS) systems to mine customers’ personal and financial data. With POS checkout terminals, self-check units, PCs and back-office servers, retail companies encounter multiple attacks in stores and company headquarters every day, whether they know it or not.

From compromised credit card information, to sabotaged enterprise networks, security issues are rooted in a combination of challenging factors, including: a highly complex and distributed infrastructure of geographically dispersed stores, the use of public cloud storage, and a lack of on-premise IT professionals who can quickly respond to critical issues when they arise. Continually drawing against revenue, security concerns are forcing retail chain stores to spend millions to protect their networks, while searching elsewhere for solutions to cut costs without sacrificing quality.

Putting Energy Into a Secure Solution

New waves of technology are a double-edged sword, often creating both the problem and the solution. For example, new software that integrates the use of private or hybrid cloud-based technologies with innovative power management tools can greatly increase network security and significantly cut energy costs, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) accounts for the second highest operating expense for retailers.

In a study conducted in May 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimated a potential savings of $3 billion through energy management in an industry that consumes about $20 billion of energy per year. While retailers often view new cloud-based solutions as labor intensive and expensive to implement, these easy-to-deploy automated tools with out-of-the-box functionality considerably decrease operational burdens.

The days and weeks spent on monitoring, managing, and maintaining networks can now be reduced to under an hour. Eliminating the need for costly consultants, maintenance agreements and redundant tasks, these solutions add up to savings not only in time and money, but also manpower.

From the Outside In

Cloud-based management tools with power savings features enable the remote control of systems, regardless of varying time zones and store operating hours. These tools allow for fixing in-store problems from the outside, such as remotely waking and shutting down machines and servers — preventing them from being left on after hours when data is at risk, while still allowing for critical system updates. They also provide a 360-degree view of who and what is connected to the network, thus preventing clever hackers from infiltrating sensitive files.

With capabilities designed to work together, these solutions enable retailers to enforce customized energy and security policies, detect potential threats before a breach occurs, and confidently transfer data to headquarters via POS devices.

But the benefits extend well beyond brick-and-mortar store locations—which for some of the major chains number over 2,000 stores — to include company headquarters and distribution centers. Small and large retail chains alike can quickly realize ROI from IT savings that rapidly accrue and positively impact the bottom line.

New Era for Retail

As pioneering industry leaders continue to develop energy-efficient technologies and security practices, retail stores may soon have the option to install automated cloud-enabled systems that also monitor and control air, heat and lighting in order to cut carbon footprints while improving their overall financial environments.

With real-time, remote collaboration and simple specialized applications that reduce energy consumption and bolster security, retail chains can look forward to a new era that will provide a superior customer experience and offer a competitive edge in a global market.

Undoubtedly, the digital age has had a profound impact on retail stores, particularly with options for accessing and buying products and services more numerous, and perilous, than ever before. However, as far into the future as pundits can predict, brick-and-mortar stores will remain the most important hub for retailers as the industry continues to adjust to a multi-channel operational model of consumer engagement. Data breaches, notably from point-of-sale devices, have certainly cast a pall over the industry in recent years. Now, by leveraging new technologies to enhance enterprise network security and reduce energy use, retail chains can focus more time and resources toward mission-critical goals and objectives aimed to provide a positive customer experience with quality products and services that add value to our lives.

Ashley Leonard is president and CEO of Verismic Software, a global provider of cloud-based IT management technology and green solutions, where he manages U.S., Australian and European operations, defines corporate strategies, oversees sales and marketing, and guides product development. Leonard is a technology entrepreneur with 25 years of experience in enterprise software, sales, operational leadership and marketing. Founded in 2012, Verismic’s latest offering, Cloud Management Suite (CMS), is an agentless, cloud-based IT management software solution that is revolutionizing the way IT professionals engage in endpoint management.

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