Ensuring ‘Availability’ for Energy Sector: How Natural Resources are Going Digital

Digital Transformation

By Gregg Petersen, Regional Sales Vice President, MEA, Veeam Software

Perhaps more than any other industry, oil and gas companies in the Middle East face overwhelming pressure to cut costs and increase operational efficiency. As natural resources prices remain low, incremental efficiency improvements can have a huge impact on profitability.

But cost-cutting and efficiency drives aren’t the industry’s sole focus. Digital transformation is still very high on the agenda for oil and gas companies looking for the next competitive advantage. Investments in cloud and IoT technologies are increasing rapidly, creating new opportunities – and exposing companies to new Availability threats.

Oil and gas companies also rely heavily on numerous third-party business partners and they need to assess and monitor these partners’ data protection standards to ensure 24.7.365 Availability of critical data and services. Maintaining visibility and control over extended partner networks and complex IT environments can be a real struggle without the right tactics and tools.

Although these issues present significant challenges, there are a number of ways that companies can overcome them.

Harnessing the Power of IoT

IoT technologies are bringing oil and gas companies new opportunities to develop advanced exploration, production and operations capabilities. But the proliferation of connected endpoints will also increase data protection risks – and jeopardize the Availability of vital data.

To mitigate these risks, most organizations have focused their efforts on endpoint protection and network security, but it’s also essential to consider the importance of backup and recovery as part of a comprehensive approach to Availability.

In today’s threat environment, an incident is inevitable – the important question is: how will you handle it when the worst happens? Modern Availability solutions enable the recovery of applications and data in minutes, rather than hours or days, so it’s worth taking a look at your current backup processes and tools to assess whether they still fit your purpose.

In a constantly changing threat environment, it’s also important to share threat intelligence with other organizations, so everyone gets a heads-up on emerging threats before they have a serious impact. ONG-ISAC, for example, was set up to enable oil and gas companies to replicate the intelligence-sharing successes seen in the financial services sector.

Working with Partners

Third-party business partners, such as service providers, consultants and contractors, are hugely important in many areas of the business and they often have access to oil and gas companies’ most valuable data. Unfortunately, they’re also a common source of security compromises.

Assessing and monitoring partners’ data protection capabilities can be a huge task – but it’s an essential piece of the Availability puzzle. Many oil and gas companies are adopting risk based security frameworks, such as ISO27001, to help them manage Availability across the extended enterprise and communicate expectations and concerns more effectively.

Managing IT Complexities

With multiple remote sites for exploration and production and a massive array of network endpoints and cloud services, oil and gas companies need solutions that offer end-to-end visibility and centralized control over complex physical and virtual IT environments.

Without proper visibility of the entire environment, it’s incredibly hard to protect valuable IP, such as exploration data, drilling technologies and refinery processes. It’s also very difficult to ensure continuous Availability of the data and services the enterprise relies on. Oil and gas companies should consider deploying solutions that offer real-time, app-to-metal visibility of complex physical and virtual environments.

As new technologies enable oil and gas companies to reinvent the way they operate, the Availability of data and services will become more important than ever.