As more and more SMEs opt to utilise new technology in the wake of the pandemic, how can they ensure safe operations while coming to terms with the opportunities new technologies afford?
In June 2019, research conducted by Close Brothers found 58% of SMEs in the UK were not using cloud-based computing for software, storage, or other remote business services. One year on, a report by OGL Computer found that 57% of respondents had plans to adopt cloud computing and collaborative software to drive profitability and business efficiencies.
For some SMEs, like AI Global Media (a B2B digital media publishing company) making use of technology is ever prevalent in their business plans. Tony Garner, one of three directors at AI Global Media explained his rational behind embracing technology, “Technology is critical to all businesses. For large corporates or technology focused start-ups, the reasons are clear, but the benefits for SMEs aren’t always clear and, at times, can be difficult to crystallise. An easy example is having 2 multi-function printers in the office, allowing printing on one, whilst scanning on another. Additionally, there is typically software that can report on who is using which resource which can be invaluable when monitoring activity and costs for departments / individuals. This is a minor example but by scaling up the same rationale to deploying a fully integrated Accounting and CRM system. Typically, there will be sizeable upfront costs and time commitments for the business but the main benefit from having these systems is knowledge. Knowledge that the process is being adhered to, knowledge around pricing, knowledge around who approved what and, the most important of all, knowledge around where improvements in customer experience can be made to make you better, quicker, and more focussed than the competition. This knowledge alone should be enough to bring more long-term value to the business.”
Previously, the main impediment to the adoptions of cloud services by SMEs was a lack of understanding, despite the recognition of the benefits to businesses, as outlined in the Close Brothers research. However, as the times necessitated the speedy employment of new technologies, some businesses find themselves learning as they go. A situation which is leaving businesses with a risk of exposure to hacking and data breaches.
Of course, options do exist for dealing with these issues, even when the infrastructure is provided as service, as Josh Hewitt, Head of IT from AI Global media explains, “There are a few approaches we are looking at when it comes to security of the business:
– an advanced firewall for the business which will protect incoming and outgoing traffic.
– getting everyone working on a business-owned machine
– Credentials such as 365 will be locked down with licensing so it cannot be used elsewhere.
– Blocking users from sharing business files and folders externally by use of Sharepoint advanced security permissions.”
AI Global Media, along with 59% of UK SMEs are now making regular use of applications such as Microsoft Office 365, Teams and SharePoint to communicate and share information with stakeholders both internally and externally. As the hitherto small investments made by SMEs into technology begins to steadily grow, this new market for tech companies swells; small business owners and managers must consider how to protect their assets.