SAN FRANCISCO: The World Bank is using cloud tools such as Box and Office 365 to improve its ability to operate in 186 countries around the world, covering everything from collaboration and data protection to staff security.
Speaking to V3 at the BoxWorks 2015 event, World Bank CIO Stephanie von Friedeburg (pictured) said she has implemented a ‘cloud-first’ strategy at the organisation for its 30,000 staff in recognition that "you can't outrun the internet".
She explained that the original need to move to the cloud was, in part, owing to the liberal technology use policies in place that meant staff were using consumer services, like Gmail, to share and access highly confidential files.
“We had this unsanctioned adoption of cloud application that wasn’t necessarily good for the organisation as our data was being put places where I as CIO, and our chief legal council, felt it shouldn’t be,” she said.
“For example, staff would think ‘I’m going abroad so I’ll forward this critical document that I’m negotiating with the government or a private sector client through my Gmail,’ and that’s just a really bad idea.”
Von Friedeburg explained that when she first began considering how to tackle this problem her own staff suggested creating an in-house tool, but she decided to move in the opposite direction.
“I just thought ‘you can’t outrun the internet’. It makes no sense for us to spend the money to build and maintain an app where there’s probably applications out there that solve the problems,” she said.
A handy connection between her friend and former Microsoft executive Steven Sinofsky and Box senior vice president of industries and Box.org founder Karen Appleton, led her to a meeting with Box and its eventual rollout in 2012.
Von Friedeburg also now serves on the advisory board for Box.org, the firm’s division aimed at not-for-profit organisations.
Up and running in any location
She said that moving to Box has not only improved the security of its content by stopping staff using insecure services like Gmail to share data, but has boosted staff productivity in more ways than one.
“We often have people working in some of the most fragile conflict states in the world and it’s not uncommon for us to have to pick them up and get them out of wherever they are,” she explained.
“Historically that involved the IT guy with them grabbing the servers, taking it with them and setting them up in a new office.”
However, this meant that staff would often be out of action for several days as access to email and other information was unavailable. However, since moving to Box and Office 365 this is no longer a problem.
“We can now just say ‘OK leave, wipe the servers, leave them behind’ and they can get to new offices, boot up a computer and they’re good to go,” said von Friedeburg.
Outside the law
One problem that the World Bank could have been forced to consider with the use of cloud in so many nations is the myriad data protection and privacy laws that apply to each nation and region. However, owing to its unique nature the organisation is able to circumvent this problem.
“We have privileges and immunities that are granted by the member countries who own us. In signing up to be a member of World Bank you are in essence saying that we are not subject to local jurisdiction and local law,” she explained.
Furthermore, the World Bank uses Box's Enterprise Key Management service to 'double encrypt' data, so even if the US National Security Agency requests data it cannot be handed over without the World Bank being involved.
Even so, the organisation still has to consider the security of its data, and von Friedeburg repeated the belief that handing over the security of data to Box, with its far larger set of skilled staff focused on this, makes the data safer.
“Previously our attack surface was 280 offices in 186 countries with a server in each one so our risk of being attacked was large. By bringing it all into the cloud you shrink that attack surface,” she said.
“Not only that but Box has a larger set of people trying to keep my data safe within a smaller environment than the 50 people in my team trying to do that in 280 offices worldwide.”
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