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What small businesses can learn from largescale IT meltdowns

(Image credit: Image Credit: Den Rise / Shutterstock)

If there’s one important lesson to be learned from the recent cyber-attacks, it’s that the effects of cybercrime can literally bring a business of any size to its knees.

As the NHS continues to reel from the recent WannaCry ransomware attack which paralysed healthcare provision across the country, news has emerged that a simple security patch that could have prevented the attack had been shared by the health service’s IT department the previous month. 

 What this should hammer home to organisations is how IT security is more important than ever and that human error still remains at the core of most cyber breaches. Yet our latest research into the IT practices of British small and medium-sized enterprises revealed that just 49 per cent of companies provide their staff with computer-related guidelines that could prevent hacking incidents. 

As time-pressed SME owners struggle to balance the challenges of running a company, it can be all too easy to prioritise other commercial needs and, in doing so, leave their business vulnerable to attacks. Nearly a quarter of all business owners we spoke to (24 per cent) admitted they typically deal with issues every week. Despite the high-cost that computer glitches can have on a company’s bottom line, A&O IT for Small Business latest research highlighted that more than half (54 per cent) don’t instigate the annual IT check-ups that could prevent potential issues. Interestingly the annual IT check-ups were less likely to be seen as a business priority by male respondents (24 per cent) compared to 15 per cent of female small business owners prioritising the task! 

However, with two-fifths of SME business owners (42 per cent) admitting they’ve lost income as a result of IT issues and a third (30 per cent) having experienced technology blackouts wiping out at least a full working day, it’s clear that overlooking IT support can have a long-term impact.  . 

In launching our A&O IT for Small Business service we wanted to give SMEs the opportunity to learn from larger companies. The new service means that SMEs can now access the world-class expertise, skill and experience of the IT engineers that big businesses have come to rely on around the world.  This includes a complete managed IT service through to crisis recovery, cyber security, remote data back-up, annual IT reviews, hardware management and cloud services. Most of all, it means ignorance is no longer an acceptable excuse when it comes to knowing where to focus security efforts.

Managing cyber-security processes

If there are any positives to take out of the ongoing hacking headlines, it’s that cyber-related consequences can prove disastrous. Whereas just a few months ago only 55 per cent of the owners we questioned were aware that cybercrime had cost UK businesses around £124 million last year (according to KPMG’s Fraud Barometer, marking a shocking 1266 per cent rise over previous figures), this focus on the importance of cyber security can surely only serve to alert more people about the potential risks of overlooking IT. 

Yet, at a time when we’ve all become increasingly reliant on computers, it’s vital that small businesses wake up to the fact that their lack of adequate security systems means they’re even more likely to be targeted. It’s never too late to review whether you have the right IT team in place to assess any risks to your business and help you implement the security measures that will combat malware and avoid devastating downtime. Whilst we take it for granted that technological improvements are making our working lives simpler, it’s all too easy for IT to fall to the bottom of a company’s priority list.

With European data protection laws changing next year, there’s an extra important reason for SMEs to take a closer look at the way they manage their cyber security processes. From May 2018, all businesses – regardless of size – will be accountable for the way they handle customer data through the new EU Data Protection Regulation, with hefty fines for those that fail to comply. And, in this modern era of social media, it’s not just the financial implications that SMEs need worry about; any data breaches from firms that fail to put the right protective systems in place risk additional reputational damage that no amount of software patches can fix. Can you afford the risk?

For the 35 per cent of SMEs who told us they aren’t kept up to date with the latest regulations that could affect their business, it’s never been more important to find the right supplier to outsource their IT functions to. 

As the world moves increasingly online, business success will become even more reliant on smooth-running IT services and air-tight cyber security. For small and medium-sized companies, finding the right supplier to outsource these functions to can be a great way to free up internal resources and reduce overheads. We hope our new tailored IT support service will mark a big opportunity for companies to pre-empt problems and take comfort from knowing that their IT is being maintained around the clock by A&O’s team of highly skilled engineers. Ultimately we want SMEs to be confident that their individual IT needs are being met so that they can focus even more of their attention to the profit-making side of their business.

A&O IT for Small Business is part of the A&O IT Group, a leading provider of Global IT solutions with over 20 years’ experience. The cornerstone for the business success is that it is highly tailored and flexible around every aspect of IT, including mobile, cloud, network, print and desktop. With professional, reliable and proactive IT maintenance customers can avoid the threat of costly business downtime from unexpected IT failure. The new A&O IT for Small Business service is available in Birmingham and Cardiff with plans to roll out nationwide by the end of 2017.

Paul Stanton, project director, A&O IT for Small Business (opens in new tab)
Image Credit: Den Rise / Shutterstock

Paul Stanton is the project director at A&O IT for Small Business.