I recently signed up a family member for extracurricular activities, and upon arriving at a small local business, ended up in a conversation with the owner. After a few pleasantries, the usual, “where do you work” question came up. I proudly answered, and the floodgates opened with the owner asking many questions about IT and security:
Should I use two host service providers? One for internal access? One for external access?
How do I protect the business, given my IT environment?
Should I move certain services into the cloud? If so, how do I make sure my customers are protected?
What is virtualization and how can it help me? Does it make sense for me?
My employees want to use their devices at work, should I let them?
How do I block certain web sites?
How do I know if I’m compliant?
How vulnerable is my web site to being hacked?
I don’t have a dedicated IT person, but I’ve worked with many consultants. All of their advice seems to conflict. Who do I believe?
I found myself shaking my head, slightly regretting mentioning where I work – not that I felt put-out, but because it amplified this poor business owner’s anxiety. He had so many questions. Where to start? While his business is small, it’s important, it’s part of a bigger community, and it’s actually a bit complex for a non-IT-expert, like him.
It is easy to lull oneself into believing that small businesses do not face the big problems that their large enterprise ‘cousins’ experience – and to some degree that’s true. It’s not a competition by any stretch, but the large enterprises often have specialists, and far more resources to deal with the questions I’ve outlined (which is just a small sample of the many headaches related to technology).
IT and Security for small business isn’t a trivial matter
A 2013 survey, conducted by the National Small Business Association, compared data with a similar survey conducted in 2010. The 2013 survey outlined that 40% of the respondents claimed that they themselves were responsible for their tech support, where as a mere 24% of respondents outsourced IT. Of the sectors surveyed, only 8% were IT companies.
The remaining 92% of the small businesses ranged from manufacturing and healthcare, to retail and real estate, and other diverse offerings. One of the most fascinating findings was the use of cloud computing, which jumped from 5% in 2010 to a whopping 43% in 2013.
Even more positive, was that the report reflected a combined total of 73% of respondents had a “moderate to high understanding of cybersecurity issues” – well that’s a pretty good start. An understanding of some sort is much better than full-on ignorance. But understanding is not action and it is still a concern. A recent article in The Guardian claimed that “60% of British small businesses experienced a cybersecurity breach in 2013”, which is not surprising given the limited resources of many small businesses.
Some small businesses, thankfully, are able to outsource IT to reliable companies or individual consultants, and others can afford to have one or two employees dedicated to the big picture of IT and security.
BLDD Architects is a unique example of a small business, with a dedicated employee who manages IT for 80 people across five offices in the U.S. The company’s Network Administrator (and a VMware champion), decided to virtualize BLDD Architect’s IT infrastructure to help the company, which relies on graphics-heavy files and complex software (like CAD programs), to run more efficiently, cost effectively and securely.
Studies show that of those SMBs (or any organization) that adopt virtualization, a significant amount realize the benefits quickly – scalability, productivity, flexibility and significant cost savings. In 2013, Cisco released a study (form to fill out) about the long term benefits of virtualization in the SMB market. In May 2014, VMware posted this article outlining that in the next two years, approximately 75% of SMB will adopt virtualization technology. It’s clear that the infrastructure and operations tools of the enterprise are quickly showing up in world of the little ‘cousins’.
Smart SMBs know that new IT paradigms like virtualization also require new security approaches.
BLDD Architects is a company ahead of its time, and is clear about why traditional security solutions would not work in the company’s virtualized environment. Learn more about this small business and how they adopted enterprise-grade solutions…