The UK’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey released earlier this year estimated that approximately 2.9 million cases of cyber crime affected UK businesses over a 12-month period between 2022-2023.
With cyber attacks and data leaks happening almost daily, businesses are looking at how to improve their cybersecurity and resilience across every part of the organisation.
Although engaging with cybersecurity vendors and deploying their solutions is a very important part of a business’ strategy, it’s not the only action that needs to be taken. In order to be truly resilient, businesses should look at their entire infrastructure and assess the risks it could be posing. One such element is the software the business is using.
Using software that has not been specifically built for a business’ environment or does not align with its processes, may cause challenges for both cybersecurity specifically but also wider business objectives. This is where custom software development comes in – a powerful tool that not only allows businesses to create bespoke solutions to support their business goals, but to also aid in broader resilience and cybersecurity across their environments.
The challenges with off-the-shelf software
While off-the-shelf software has its benefits – it can be deployed instantly, it is usually cost effective, and it tends to include a wide range of features – it cannot align with every business priority.
Common challenges that businesses face when using off-the-shelf software include:
Integration. As it has been built to broadly fit the needs of businesses, it can be difficult to integrate off-the-shelf software with other existing systems and extra time and resource is often required to consolidate them.
Inflexibility and scalability. As a “one-size-fits-all” model, off-the-shelf software may be more difficult to customise for a business’ specific workflow or operational process and therefore is likely to stifle scalability as well.
Data partitioning. In off-the-shelf software solutions, businesses have no influence on data partitioning due to data sensitivity. Solutions need to be universal so often all data is in one database or domain and cannot be separated and delivered by a service on demand.
Data leakage. Usage monitoring systems are also a frequently overlooked aspect when choosing a solution off-the-shelf. Monitoring allows early detection of irregularities and can prevent or limit data leakage.
Limited support. While off-the-shelf software tends to receive regular updates, troubleshoots, and bug fixes, it is unlikely that a business will receive dedicated support from the vendor that goes beyond that.
Due to these challenges, overall, when it comes to cybersecurity, off-the-shelf software does not allow businesses to have the best cybersecurity posture possible. What’s more, with every industry having to adhere to stringent security requirements, each business needs its own customised strategy to ensure it is resilient but also compliant.
So, how can customising software help?
When it comes to cybersecurity posture, every business will be different – there’ll be different measurements, different goals, and therefore different priorities. These also may change over time as the business grows. As such, cybersecurity must always be considered at the start of any new process, and that includes software development.
Building in security from the start is critical, but it can sometimes be missed if software is being developed on a mass scale. The benefits of custom software development tailored to a specific business are that not only can developers bake in security from the start, but they can also ensure the relevant security policies are in place and adhered to as well as provide ongoing consultancy and support for the business using their software.
Tailoring software to your needs
Software can be customised in several ways, from a few tweaks to existing platforms, to a fully developed piece of software designed for a specific business’ needs. Therefore, it’s important for a business to assess its priorities and challenges before embarking on a software development venture.
Some considerations include:
Gathering input from stakeholders to understand how everyone across the business uses the different software that is in place, how it benefits them as well as any current challenges that need to be addressed.
Conducting an audit of business processes and what existing systems and software are in place to currently support them.
Defining requirements to outline what the software needs to do from a feature perspective as well as what else it can support across wider business processes. This is where cybersecurity should be included in the conversation.
Engaging with third-party experts who can consult on the software development process or even design it themselves with the business priorities in mind. This helps, helping businesses to understand the technical feasibility of their requirements as well as the best approach for implementing custom software solutions.
Confirming the budget and resource available for the project and aligning with any third-party providers. Custom software that cannot be finished due to a lack of money, time, or resource, will likely present more challenges.
Reap the rewards
Further to the benefits discussed above, aligning cybersecurity and software development through a customised project specific to a business will make both businesses’ processes and cybersecurity initiatives easier. Trying to do one without the other creates double the work in the end and is unlikely to result in the improvements or benefits businesses are looking for.
Any business currently assessing its cybersecurity posture or current software setup, or even better – both, should look into customising its software to suit its needs. Who knows what the rewards will be.
Ambroży Rybicki is the CEO and co-founder of ARP Ideas and is an architect of custom solutions built on the Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Office 365 platforms. Ambroży is a visionary full of ideas for achieving the most difficult goals for any business when it comes to the software they use.