How to conduct a successful technical refresh to improve security


Author: Richard Archideacon, CISO consultant, Cisco Security

One of the five main conclusions of our new publication Safety Outcomes Study, Volume 2, was the obvious benefit of having a proactive strategy to refresh business-critical technologies. So what exactly does this mean – and why are we focusing on it here?

In part one of this five-part blog series focusing on each of the top five security practices described in the study, a technology refresh strategy is under the microscope. What does it mean? Why is this important? How often should a technology update take place? Who determines this schedule?

All valid questions. Let’s start at the top.

The obvious need for technological refreshment

Every day, security technology debt – or lack of investment in security technology – reduces the effectiveness of the global security teams that support business change. Our report revealed that on average, almost 40% of the security technologies used were considered obsolete.

As you might guess, this level of tech debt is a drag on security teams. Maintaining these older technologies drains resources that could be used elsewhere. And it’s safe to assume that very few CISOs are so close to team members that they’re looking for something to do for them!

Figure 1: Effect of IT architecture characteristics on technology refresh performance

A solution in the cloud

For a more effective refresh strategy, enterprises must adopt a modern, consolidated, cloud-based architecture. The investigation revealed that when this approach was used, nearly 72% of respondents benefited from a strong refreshment program — a third higher than those with an on-premises architecture.

By using modern cloud-based technologies, organizations have a great starting point for their technology refresh program, resulting in above-average capacity.

Figure 2: Effect of cloud and on-premises environments on level of security technology integration

Easy integrations

This should come as no surprise, given the ease of integration with cloud-based technologies. Modern cloud-based technologies usually come with “out-of-the-box” integrations or can easily integrate through the use of APIs.

These integration capabilities are extremely important for security managers because 30% of survey respondents consider “ease of integration” a key factor in choosing the solution — the main driver of technology decisions. Ease of integration was expected to reduce implementation risk by requiring less deployment effort, rather than keeping “best of breed” solutions current.

With the move towards multiple integrated technologies and the move away from “best of breed” solutions, a cloud-based approach is essential to ensure that each of these separate but integrated technologies is up-to-date with functionality. the latest and greatest in security.

Who should determine an upgrade schedule?

The frequency of upgrades is an important factor in keeping up with the evolution of the business. Those pursuing a quarterly upgrade policy showed a 60% greater ability to keep up than those following an annual upgrade policy.

Although an organization may have a structured and frequent renewal program, What determines that the refresh rate is also important. The most common factor is the relationship with the supplier.

A refresh can be initiated by a vendor-determined schedule or as part of a consolidation initiative. In our study, these were important factors in more than 65% of organizations with strong technology renewal performance, rather than those that either launched their own initiatives or simply reacted. On the other hand, less than 50% of organizations that adopted a reactive strategy successfully completed a major technology update.

Figure 3: Effect of core drivers for upgrades on security technology refresh performance

There can be several reasons for this. Suppliers can often have a broader view of many organizations across multiple verticals and regions. This could help them understand new requirements and change more quickly.

Arguably, these are observations that would naturally be made by us, since we are a seller ourselves. But the most important factor is the benefit derived from more effectively managed security — a benefit that is universal.

Top takeaways for the Tech Refresh

The pace of change in business is both driving and driving new technologies. This enables more dynamic organizations to approach their particular markets with speed and agility. The constant challenge for security teams is to keep up with the change demanded by their colleagues.

Adapting through a proactive technology refresh strategy will support rather than prevent change, and our research reveals the best ways to achieve all of the best business results.

So, what can we finally conclude from this study? When designing and developing security architectures, adopt a set of principles that:

  • Keep technology as modern as possible
  • Contribute to the implementation of consolidated cloud-based architectures
  • Incorporate periodic updates, preferably quarterly
  • Illustrate how suppliers can support the refresh program

These will increase your chances of supporting required business outcomes and provide a set of better managed security features. On the practical issues of achieving a well-integrated technology architecture, watch for our next blog in the series.

And, of course, to find out how to maximize each of the five key factors that drive the best safety outcomes, read our full report.


Richard Archdeacon is CISO Advisory at Cisco Security. Read more Cisco guest blogs here. Regularly contributed guest blogs are part of the ChannelE2E referral program.

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