Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Confused? Bewildered? Who you gonna call?

Until you get middle aged it is quite hard to imagine. It is not a question of feeling old, although I will confess to making noises when I get out of a chair these days, because inside I am still pretty much the same as I ever was, but things start to pass you by.

For instance, music. I have, like most people, always listened to music, and I consider myself quite eclectic in taste. For instance, I love musical theatre, Billy Bragg, Billy Joel and The Who, whilst being partial to a bit of Beethoven. But I have not really listened to ‘new’ music for a decade. My 15yo tends to introduce me to some by default but it generally passes me by. Especially if it involves rap I must admit.

Technology is much the same. I am PC literate and I love my iPhone, but when faced with an android handset a year ago I was totally lost, and Windows 8...well don’t get me started. I have reached an age where familiarity breeds contempt for anything new.

And herein lies the problem with data. Businesses tend to be run by people my sort of age. In the corporate world, 50 is sort of the right age to have reached the top of the greasy pole. And whilst we might be thoroughly capable at what we do, new things are going to baffle us and take us completely by surprise.

Tweet something controversial and you can not only get arrested, but you can see your erroneous and unwise missive galloping around the world, like a viral coffee spill. Get hacked and see your private messages on the front pages, if they mention Angelina Jolie for instance. I am a keen user of Twitter but the things that trend, and the people and businesses that the viral mob can destroy still shocks me.

Data protection used to be easy. Log in rules, access levels, bans on floppy disks and then you had most things covered. Then someone introduced the internet to the equation. Remember that? I was an MD of a SME at the time and we had to have rules for internet usage in work time. If you look in your employee handbook, the rules are probably still there, but they are completely redundant now aren’t they?

Every single employee under a certain age has a smart phone on their person and can check their favourite sites whenever they like. They may be using company wifi (a whole new area of data risk all wrapped up in four little letters) or they might have 4g but one thing is for sure they are always in contact with the world outside. With the phones all switched to silent, there are billions of texts and snapchats flying around right now in any given office.

Someone somewhere will be writing a rule book for this situation right now, as usual a little after the horse had bolted. By the time the handbook is written and circulated, there will be something else new to worry about.

And so finally to my point. Disposing of IT equipment and worrying about data security used to just be a question of worrying about PC’s, laptops and servers. That is why there is very good software available for erasing data, and a myriad of shredders and degausers for destroying hard drives. It is why there is now a healthy market for second hand PC’s, laptops and servers. Some clever bloke with bad glasses and a Motorhead tee shirt worked out how to do it and we all jumped on the bandwagon to provide a service.

But all of a sudden there are lots of things that have a memory. Printers have morphed into amazing machines that can copy, scan, fax, collate and even staple documents, whilst making the tea and keeping an eye on the kids in the nursery downstairs. Even more basic models retain the last few documents they printed before being thrown out, and although some models have a factory reset button, some do not and need specialist attention. Right now, that specialist attention usually means the printer is scrap when the memory is wiped.

So now, middle aged business owners, my peers, my equally bewildered and befuddled brothers and sisters, we have to start thinking about things all over again. It is not just the old computers that could get you fined, it is that old fax machine in accounts, it is that batch of iPhone 4’s you got for the sales force, and as for that printer in the call centre, it is a disaster waiting to spew its guts into the wrong hands.

And this is why I keep telling you to call the experts. Capiche?