Security a top concern for IT managers

After the 11 September terrorist attacks, IT budgets have never been tighter and IT managers will never look at disaster recovery...

After the 11 September terrorist attacks, IT budgets have never been tighter and IT managers will never look at disaster recovery or security in the same way again.

Many of attendees at the Storage Networking World conference agreed that another emerging concern is that companies are in danger of being sued if a customer's data is stolen or "hijacked" and damages result from the release of information such as credit card or account data.

Michael Vatis, director of the Institute for Security Technology Studies at Dartmouth College, warned conference attendees that chief information officers and other executives need to be more alert in their hiring practices. "We need worry about who we hire as employees, as contractors," he said. "Who has access to our systems?"

Vatis predicted that storage administrators will create more distributed networked storage systems at multiple sites, rather than one or two massive backup or disaster recovery centres, so that no one incident can take the whole system down.

"Technology offers us wonderful opportunities for efficiency, but if it's taken over, if it's hijacked in some way, the opportunities to do harm is greater than ever," he said.

A panel discussion concluded that financial services firms and other large enterprises are under pressure to scrutinise who has access to what information, as well as to find new software security and management tools.

"We need a solution that works for us and not one that is vendor-specific - that is as open and available as possible," said George Vrabel, a senior vice president at Bank of America.

Panellists also said they would be willing to outsource in these tight economic times but warned about scrutinising service-level agreements to ensure that companies actually get what is being sold to them.

"You have to look at the depth of their staff and get a commitment that the team you are being presented with is the team that is going to support you," said Brian Cobb, director of systems engineering at Sallie Mae, a financial services group for the US education sector.

The panel also took vendors to task for not providing open software tools.

A poll of the audience showed that 79% of attendees felt that incompatibility among vendor systems has had a negative impact on their IT infrastructures. In another poll, the audience indicated that a lack of storage management tools is an increasing problem as networks continue to grow.

The ability to purchase even the most basic tools, however, has become difficult.

Rowland Ellison, a senior technical specialist at FedEx, said his executive management had told him that, in order to avoid further layoffs, he must make use of the IT infrastructure he now has.

Diane McPadden, a systems administrator at Harris, a communications equipment supplier, said she had been planning to put together a fibre channel storage area network but now has to dedicate half of her company's storage to less expensive network-attached storage. "We're hurting for disk space and management tools," she said.

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