Facing reality: How SMBs can use cloud to overcome their IT security nightmares

The average IT security budget for an SMB currently exceeds 18 per cent of the business’s annual IT spending and continues to grow. The reasons for this are not hard to find.

Growing IT complexity and maintenance costs are leading the trend. 42 per cent of SMBs see complexity of IT infrastructure as the main reason to grow their IT security budget. Security incidents also contribute to mushrooming spending. Today’s threat landscape, with its rapid expansion of ransomware, POS exploits and DDoS attacks, is forcing businesses to protect themselves by buying in more software and expanding their IT teams.

Growing their IT spend is not an easy job for SMBs and VSBs. As a matter of fact, 66 per cent of VSBs spend less than £800 a year on IT security. Yet the cost of a data breach could range from minor inconvenience, loss of customer data and reputation damage, to fines, and ultimately company closure.

The economic reality of data losses can be tougher than expected, and companies have to be even smarter about budgets during an economy downturn. Seeking to find a solution, SMBs attempting to achieve an advanced level of business data protection, while avoiding additional costs, are starting to embrace a new model of IT security management – cloud infrastructure.

SaaS Economy: From Myth to Reality

The most dangerous IT security myth faced by SMBs is that ‘it will never happen to us’. Data, in fact, proves the exact opposite. The UK’s Government Security Breaches Survey, for example, has reported that 74 per cent of small business struggle with the consequences of a security incident on an annual basis. With fewer resources, these businesses are an attractive goal for cyber criminals, making IT security risk mitigation even more challenging.

Facing limited resources and juggling with multiple legacy IT systems from different periods, SMB IT specialists may look a bit like the heroes of the ‘IT crowd’ TV series, googling the question ‘How can you live like this?’ The cloud model can bring them the benefits of simplicity, ease of management and reduced costs, making security as a service something like a magic wand, and eliminating need to think about when employees mobiles last had their anti virus patched. Cloud security brings with it a centralised way of deploying programs, updates and policy management, allowing businesses to easily meet the minimal standards of IT security.

Small businesses that have suffered from a cyber attack often admit that a breach could have been prevented by adopting very basic rules. Cloud IT security makes these basics possible. Adopting cloud security, SMEs are able to guarantee that customers’ data is safe with advanced protection developed by those who set industry standards. For those businesses thinking about making the transition from traditional IT security to a SaaS cloud approach, the following tips can help to optimise their IT budgets.

Tip #1 Avoid hidden costs - According to an old management axiom, what is not measured cannot be managed or improved. So evaluating the total cost of IT ownership is essential. 

Most SMBs are neglecting to calculate ROI in their IT systems, but cloud adoption solves this problem, by closing a strategic business task of simple budgeting. It provides IT teams with accurate cost and value management, fully clear for all sides (including business owners). Spending scalability (depending on the amount of nodes really used) also makes cloud security solutions an ideal fit for SMB needs.

With this in place, SMEs do not have to pay for 150 licences if 20 of them are not being used due to vacations or a drop in employee numbers. The cloud model makes it possible to pay for the number of nodes actually used on a monthly basis.

Tip #2 Eliminate complex education - Technology should be an enabler, not an obstacle. According to Forrester, global tech spending will increase to over £2.2 trillion by the end of 2016. Quite a pile of this sum comes from certification and education costs. When your business grows to the size of a large enterprise, investing in complex IT certifications is justified. But until that time, using a cloud solution, businesses can avoid entering into complex IT education programs.

Tip #3 Reduce the time spent managing IT security – Spending extra time managing IT infrastructure is a common problem for all businesses dealing with customer data flows that need to be backed up, financial operations that need additional security levels and mobile data management. But small businesses have limited time to spend on these tasks. The quick roll-out and on-demand resources that are embedded into the DNA of cloud IT security, therefore, allows SME IT teams to save their time and focus on more important business priorities.

With the great diversity of security solutions on the market today, businesses of all sizes are close to getting the best-fit technology to meet their needs. Key challenges remain – including how to save resources that could be invested into strategic business development. Cloud security solutions, available on subscription, enable businesses with advanced technologies that fully meet their needs. At the same time, they allow SMBs to avoid the hardware costs synonymous with all on-premises products, giving them an alternative in terms of budget efficiency.

Let’s face it: with the security as a service model, the most frustrating elements of SMB IT security fade away. Limited resources, consuming maintenance and incompatible systems are no longer an issue. The security as a service model is all about business strategy. Along with facilitating better IT, it helps small businesses to cut their costs even in times of economic downturn.

In the end, cloud security allows SMEs to improve transparency and accountability, key attributes to business success.

 Kirill Slavin, Managing Director, UK & Ireland, Kaspersky Lab

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