IT security in an era of falling budgets – how is the public sector coping?

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public-sector-150In the UK, local government and police IT budgets are under immense pressure due to ongoing cuts – even in the face of rapidly emerging security threats.

To learn more about the unique challenges of public sector organisations, we commissioned an independent survey of 2,728 public sector employees in the UK to discover their views regarding IT security.

Their responses paint an interesting picture of how organisations are seeking to protect their systems and data in the face of diminishing budgets and a more mobile, connected workforce.

The research report we’ve published shows just how serious those challenges are, reveals how public sector organisations are coping, and offers advice on what they need to do to save costs without compromising cybersecurity.

Although 88% of local government employees and 94% of police employees we surveyed have experienced budget cuts in the past year, the list of IT security challenges their organisations face has grown in many ways.

Remote working, BYOD (bring your own device) and shadow IT (where employees use unapproved services such as cloud file sharing) are bringing new levels of agility and performance. They also introduce new threats.

Despite the increased risks of data loss and compromised users, very few employees reported that shadow IT (11%) and BYOD (18%) were top concerns at their organisations. However, a big majority (63%) said encryption is becoming a necessity, and 47% said data protection is a major concern.

41% of our respondents thought their current IT security practices would offer suitable protection against the growing threat of cybercrime. Almost 50 per cent said they did not know, indicating a low level of awareness of cyber security and cybercrime across the general local government workforce.

Saving and efficiency through IT consolidation

With cybercrime at an all-time high and public sector budgets reducing year-on-year, it’s more important than ever that organisations maximise the resources available to them. There is a clear trend towards local authorities partnering with neighbouring authorities to increase and implement shared services – 62% of survey respondents said their organisations are planning to do so. This collaborative approach is certainly helpful in the fight against cybercrime.

Unfortunately, public sector organisations may be missing the opportunity to make further cost savings by streamlining processes and enhancing efficiencies through consolidation of their IT suppliers. Only 30% of public sector workers surveyed said their organisations are exploring the consolidation of existing IT services, and only 9% are looking at consolidating their IT security services.

Public sector organisations would also do well to look at consolidating their IT and security technologies. By bringing together antivirus, firewall, mobile, network and email security, organisations reduce complexity, resulting in easier management as well as faster deployment, installation and upgrades.

By consolidating your services you can also benefit from one support agreement, from a single vendor. It’s an approach that’s been proven to deliver major savings in terms of procurement and contracts: local government customers of Sophos report average savings of 35-40%. Then there’s the soft savings of reduced administration time, fewer training requirements, and reduced need for supplier management.

State of the Nation – Get the free report

To find out more about how public sector organisations are coping with budget constraints and challenging IT environments, download the free research report: State of the Nation.

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