Small businesses have varying levels of IT requirements. Knowing when to invest in infrastructure or contact IT service providers can be a tricky decision. After all, a solution is only as valuable as the problem it solves!
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the challenges facing small businesses and how IT support services can help.
Let’s start with one of the most pressing issues: Cybersecurity. With the ever-developing threat of cybercrime, and accelerated by the conflict in Ukraine, Cybersecurity has never been more essential to businesses of all sizes. At first, this may not seem relevant to UK companies, particularly small-medium sized organisations, however the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) has warned UK business of the risks posed by Russian affiliated groups.
So, what can you do about it? Protecting your data goes beyond just deploying antivirus. IT systems should be able to deal with incoming challenges in the form of malware and other targeted cyberthreats. Firewalls and security logging can meet some of these needs. Security Incident and Event Management (or SIEM/security logging) is the process of consistently recording access into a network and alerting system administrators of any potential cyberthreats, allowing them to patch vulnerabilities as they emerge. Firewalls come in several different varieties and represent a crucial aspect in the first line of defence. They do this by controlling incoming and outgoing traffic through your system. However, implementing Firewalls can be tricky and a mistake may lead to security vulnerabilities.
Another area of IT operations that should be considered is planning. Businesses need to plan necessary infrastructure upgrades ahead of time, to deliver them in an efficient and cost-effective manner. This isn’t an additional extra; much as cybersecurity needs constant updating, so does hardware and software. Knowing what, how and when to upgrade technology is key, and maintaining IT is also far easier if the initial deployment is future proofed and made easily upgradeable.
The continual progression of technology means many systems inevitably go end of life, increasing the burden on IT staff’s time and resources. Out of date software can expose organisations to security threats, whilst outdated hardware is slow and loses support. This is where the cost vs value problem comes into play; you may save some money in the short term by not upgrading, but at what cost to your business’s security and operations?
The chip shortage has affected every area of the economy, with Small and Midsized Businesses (SMBs) been hit harder than most. Distributors are facing significant back orders, so larger orders to bigger companies may take priority. This can compound the advantages possessed by market leaders and multi-nationals, which is why working with an IT procurement specialist can help SMBs keep up.
Another alternative for sourcing and maintain technology is device repair. Components such as memory aren’t as reliant on semiconductors and so haven’t been affected as badly as CPU’s and graphics cards. So, a viable alternative is to update the memory on older kit in order to beat the back logs.
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that agility is key, and Hybrid working is a part of this. That means businesses must be ready to provision staff when working from home. Extra kit may need to be purchased (made harder by the chip shortage), and even if staff use their own devices, security risks may arise from employees accessing corporate systems through unsecure networks. Therefore, software solutions such as VPNs need to be incorporated into an IT team’s hybrid working strategy.
This leads us onto the ever-present problem of integration, something the uptake in hybrid working has worsened. Moving systems and data between platforms often causes unexpected problems, which can be costly for a small business, as integrating certain features can take up valuable staff time.
Concepts such as BYOD (bring your own device) are especially relevant to SMBs as allowing employees to work anywhere, from their own devices, can save companies a lot of money. This requires robust IT integration and Mobile Device Management (MDM) to quarantine corporate apps separately from personal apps and data., decreasing the chances of sensitive corporate data being exposed. MDM can also provide a defence against lost or stolen devices by enabling remote wiping of corporate data, ensuring sensitive information is kept out of the wrong hands.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to hire, keep and train the right people.
Businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit staff with the necessary skills to operate their IT systems, with Cybersecurity and Cloud expertise being in particularly high demand. These skills have always been hard to hire for, but after the Great Resignation hit the entire employment market (with record numbers of staff, particularly among Gen Z and Millennials considering leaving their job within the next year) the situation has only become worse.
Even outside of technical roles, all staff must be properly trained in detecting and avoiding cyberthreats. Many attacks incorporate a human engineering element such as a phishing email (a disingenuous email designed to get the recipient to click or enter their information). And even without this component estimates show 22% of all data breaches are caused by human error, demonstrating just how essential educating employees on the risks of cyberthreats is to businesses of all sizes. After all, it’s no use investing in costly counter measures if your staff are still at risk of compromising your entire system.
If you would like to expand your IT service but don’t have the upfront operational expenditure to invest in your organisation, then contact our specialist services team today. They can help you identify areas for improvement and by outsourcing technically challenging tasks to Millgate, you can avoid infrastructure and recruitment costs.
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