Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The UK IT Industry Awards 2013: A night to remember

Rebecca Bailey
Senior PR & Marketing Executive
Egress Software Technologies Ltd.
Informally dubbed the ‘Oscars of the IT world’, the UK IT Industry Awards celebrate best practice, innovation and excellence, and form the gold standard of achievement for any organisation within the IT sector. Unsurprisingly, then, emotions were running high for the Egress team last Wednesday, when our bid to be named Cloud Provider of the Year culminated at the Battersea Park Events Arena, London. 

Celebrating 40 years of IT

The lavish awards ceremony, put together by the Chartered Institute of IT (BCS) and Computing Magazine, provided a fitting backdrop for leading individuals and organisations from across the sector to champion the endeavours and innovation that, as BCS Group Chief Executive Officer David Clarke explained, not only “provides best practice now but next practice very soon”.

As sponsors of the event, the Egress Team began the evening in the VIP Lounge with a champagne and canapĂ© reception, before we took our seats alongside the other 1,300 guests to be formally welcomed by David, as well as Editor of Computing Stuart Sumner. The pair recognised both the calibre and the volume of entries for this year’s awards, before Stuart introduced an infographic celebrating 40 years of IT. The subsequent spectacular gala dinner was followed by Comedian and TV Host Jimmy Carr’s appearance on stage.

After a short round of stand-up – in which Jimmy played upon the common perceptions and misconceptions of the IT industry – the true business of the evening began.

Cloud Provider of the Year

As one of the last categories to be announced, the Egress Team had quite a wait before hearing about our success. However, entertainment was provided by Jimmy Carr’s quick wit and the good humour of those presenting the awards – including Egress CEO Tony Pepper. Arriving onstage to Jimmy quipping that his name would be well-suited to a mafia boss, Tony put on his best New York accent to greet the comedian.

Before long, however, the moment of truth was upon us. Our table sat in nervous silence, only to erupt in cheering as our logo appeared onscreen and we were awarded ‘Cloud Provider of the Year’.

Reflecting on our achievement, Tony commented: “The way the awards are judged is one reason they are held in such high regard by the industry. Rather than just an online form with a restrictive word count, BCS and Computing Magazine give every finalist the chance to present in person, which means you can explain in detail the work you are doing and justify why you think you deserve to win.

“For Egress, this meant we could demonstrate what an amazing year 2013 has been for us, with revenue growth of over 400% and a 95% increase in customers. This success is based in our fundamental belief in continued investment into product innovation and leading-edge technology.”

The rest of the evening was spent toasting our success, as well as that of the other winners and those acknowledged as highly commended. Egress partners and clients were amongst those recognised for their excellence on the night, most notably Softcat, who were awarded ‘Large Supplier or Major VAR of the Year’ and the London Borough of Hackney for ‘IT Project Demonstrating Most Effective Use of Collaborative Technology’. Similarly, Network Rail received the award for 'Innovative Mobile App of the Year', in the category co-judged by Egress’ Dan Hoy.

True to Egress form, we had a fantastic night of celebration and are proudly displaying our newest trophy in our London office - however, we're also already planning how to return bigger and better in 2014!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

European data protection reform proposals: What does the latest development reveal?

Rebecca Bailey
Senior PR & Marketing Executive
Egress Software Technologies Ltd.
The value of EU citizens’ data is predicted to increase to €1trillion by 2020, and as the extent of international intelligence efforts have demonstrated, it is a much-coveted commodity. Consequently, legislation must keep pace with digital development to offer comprehensive data protection – a sentiment recently reflected in the European Parliament.

Late last month, an overwhelming majority of the European Parliament’s Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) backed reforms to the European Data Protection Act. Speaking ahead of the vote, President of the European Commission JosĂ© Barroso summed up all that the reform hoped to achieve, declaring: “We need to combine the digital agenda with a better framework for protection of data and privacy rights. Trust in the data-driven economy has to be restored not only for the needed confidence but also for its potential impact on growth.”

Although the reform has yet to be debated, and agreed upon, by the European Commission, Parliament and Council, these recent developments offer interesting insight into the future of the European data protection landscape.

One continent, one law: data protection in Europe

It is hoped that the legislation will replace a ‘patchwork’ of national laws with one, pan-European law that, ultimately, will make it simpler and cheaper to conduct business in the EU by becoming a one-stop-shop for data protection. To this end, last month's vote introduced and enhanced several concepts of the initial proposal, and will shape the way that data protection is carried out throughout the EU (find a full summary of the changes here):
  • Data transfers to non-EU countries – Coming in direct response to the data surveillance activities revealed earlier this year, should a third country request a company disclose personal information, firms will have to seek authorisation from their national data protection authority before transferring the data, as well as inform the individual(s)
  • Data Protection Officers – It will become mandatory for companies with more than 5,000 client contacts per year to appoint a Data Protection Officer
  • Right to erasure – Individuals will be able to request data controllers erase personal information – and firms will also have to forward this request onto other organisations where data are replicated
  • Explicit consent – Where processing is based on explicit consent, organisations will have to obtain clear permission from the data subject (who can withdraw their consent at any time) before processing personal information
  • Profiling – Profiling will only be allowed subject to a person’s consent, when provided by law or when needed to pursue a contract
  • Sanctions – Fines of up to €100m or 5% of annual worldwide turnover (whichever is greater) will be levied against companies found in breach of data protection rules

A breakthrough for European data protection

Satisfying the requirements of 28 member states has meant that it’s been a long road to even reach this point, and although critics have pointed out that vague wording could cause loopholes, the progress has been championed in the European Parliament as a “breakthrough” and a ‘clearsignal [that] data protection is made in Europe’.

The strength of this support must galvanise organisations in the UK, and the rest of Europe, to engage directly with the data protection reform. Thanks to its extensive aims, the impacts of the reform will be far reaching, meaning that every organisation will have to be aware of what will, or won’t, change for them.

Although there is some speculation as to whether the reform will be introduced in 2015 or 2016 (or even later), and it is likely that further amendments will be made before a final version is agreed, staying abreast of developments and remaining responsive now will put organisations in a better position to cope with the changing data protection landscape.