Sep 08 2023

How Higher Ed Institutions Can Better Protect Data With Application Modernization

The process of updating apps gives organizations a valuable opportunity to enhance their security posture as well.

As digital transformation initiatives accelerate across colleges and universities, institutions must bring their applications up to date. The limitations of some legacy applications may hold back transformation efforts and hamper improvements to efficiency, productivity and security.

“This slows the pace of innovation because organizations can't meet the demands of their customers,” says Greg Peters, chief architect for strategic application modernization assessment with CDW. “Organizations need to extract out functionality and modernize those applications.”

Ultimately, digital transformation initiatives can improve the experiences of all users, including students, faculty, staff and administrators while delivering numerous institutional benefits.

“Digital transformation is the application of technology to drive better experiences and efficiencies,” says Rolf W. Reitzig, a member of the Digital Velocity Solutions team at CDW. He adds that the transformation can give organizations the ability to respond to what users want more effectively.

However, as organizations engage in digital transformation, they must ensure that their data and workloads remain secure from cyberthreats that are constantly growing in number and sophistication. Application modernization provides several valuable benefits toward achieving this objective. In fact, a 2022 report found that 54 percent of companies said that their app modernization initiatives were intended to improve security.

EXPLORE: CDW’s white paper “How Application Modernization Supports Digital Transformation.”

A DevOps Approach to Improving Security in Higher Education

Many organizations modernize their legacy applications using a DevOps approach, which brings development and operations teams together to improve the speed, quality and security of app development. DevOps processes can increase velocity, shorten resolution times, improve user satisfaction and spur innovation. They can also reduce security risks for organizations that employ them effectively.

A further refinement of DevOps is the DevSecOps approach, in which security plays a foundational role in the development process. DevSecOps automates the security testing of applications as they are undergoing modernization. Any security issues that are detected in an app must be remediated before it can move to the next stage of development or production.

“When you're trying to modernize applications, you want to look at every key aspect, and that includes things like, which dependencies do they use from a security perspective?” Peters says. “If they’re using containers, are they secure?”

Addressing these concerns early in the modernization process helps to ensure that security issues are resolved before they can lead to a data breach.

DIG DEEPER: Learn how to reimagine a secure student experience with DevOps and DevSecOps.

Important Security Objectives for Application Modernization

An application modernization project presents an organization with an opportunity to further enhance its security posture by integrating with security measures. For example, an application can be incorporated in an institution’s zero-trust security approach. Zero trust requires all users — whether inside or outside a college’s network — to be authenticated, authorized and continuously validated for security configuration and posture before being granted access to applications. Adoption of zero trust has risen sharply in recent years, and a recent report notes that of 55 percent companies had implemented a defined zero-trust initiative by 2022.

As institutions engage in app modernization, they can also ensure their applications work with updated security solutions, including multifactor and passwordless authentication. These help to ensure that only authorized users gain access to applications and data.

Ultimately, the security benefits of app modernization can also improve the performance and reliability of applications, further helping colleges and universities achieve the goal of enhancing the experiences of all users.

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