BUSINESS PHONES | 6 MIN READ
Small business margins are typically razor thin, which can make leaving room in the budget for IT difficult. Small businesses have a few options they can employ if they wish to have some form of IT to secure their network: utilize break/fix support, build an in-house IT department, or hire a managed IT services provider. Keep reading to learn why small businesses need IT support and gain more insight into what options they have.
Not enough time? Jump to:
Do Small Businesses Need IT?
Many small businesses opt to have no form of IT, instead managing it without any dedicated cyber security professionals through the use of basic antivirus software and by educating employees on how to avoid cyber threats such as phishing emails and malware.
However, there are a few reasons why this logic is faulty. First, there are so many cyber threats that exist and ways they can penetrate your network that an antivirus software and employee cyber security education cannot fully protect against all of them.
For instance, hackers can access your network through open ports on your network-connected devices. The everyday person doesn't know how to secure the ports on their network, which means that security gaps can exist that you cannot close yourself.
However, securing your network isn't a static task that can be completed once and then forgotten about. It is an ongoing process that evolves with the tactics of cyber criminals, which is why paying someone to secure your network or remove a threat will only work temporarily.
Additionally, IT staff complete crucial additional tasks that accomplish more than just protecting against network threats. Depending on the type of IT you employ, they can:
- Implement equipment upgrades− If your business needs new computers or other network-connected hardware and software, completing this task yourself can be time-consuming and complex, and the costs to pay someone to install it can quickly add up. IT professionals can complete these tasks for you, saving money and stress.
- Assist with office moves, expansions, and transitions to a remote environment− Opening office locations and transitioning to a remote office involves enough moving parts that effectively setting up your network can be forgotten about or left to be completed by costly break/fix companies. IT professionals can take the burden off by completing these tasks themselves.
- Back up data− If your business' network were to go down, you could potentially have to restore your network to the most recent backup, losing all data that wasn't backed up in the process. IT professionals can automate efficient data backups to minimize data loss in the event of a network outage.
- Minimize downtime− By building BCDR plans, automating data backups, and using software to rebuff cyber threats that can cause network outages, IT professionals effectively minimize network downtime.
- Ensure regulatory compliance− For businesses that must be compliant with data privacy regulations such as HIPAA, IT professionals can help ensure compliance by taking steps to safeguard sensitive data, such as by implementing role-based security measures within your network.
These additional tasks alone can make IT worth the cost, seeing as they are crucial in maximizing productivity, planning for the future, and protecting company data in the event of a network outage.
Why are Small Businesses More Prone to Cyber Attacks
Less Resources to Fight Back
While hackers target big businesses with ransomware because they have much more money at their disposal to pay ransoms, they also have a much larger budget to build out a robust internal IT department to prevent and rebuff cyber attacks, and some even have cyber insurance to mitigate the liability associated with a cyber attack.
Since smaller companies have a tighter bottom line to maintain, many simply cannot afford to allocate much money to building out their network security infrastructure.
And if they are the victims of a ransomware attack, many small businesses may not have the resources to pay a third-party company to restore their systems, which means that some are more likely to pay the ransom.
Ransomware attacks can be so expensive that they can shutter a company's doors permanently− take this Denver Post article as an example.
The Gateway to Fortune 500s'
While larger companies such as Fortune 500s' are difficult to hack, seeing as they have the budget for comprehensive cyber security, small businesses typically have minimal network security.
Hackers know this, which is why some will target small businesses with Fortune 500 clients and use them as a gateway to hacking those larger companies.
For instance, if a cyber criminal were to hack the email of a small business account manager, they could then send a phishing email posing as the account manager to the Fortune 500 client asking for them to click on a malware-loaded link that will download ransomware to their computer.
Small Business Cyber Security Solutions
Break/fix is a form of IT support primarily used by companies that are small enough (typically five employees or less) to not have much room in a budget for hiring a full-time IT professional or using a third-party IT services company. Break/fix companies function similarly to a Best Buy Geek Squad in that they are hired sparingly to fix a single particular issue.
This type of IT solution is utilized to fix singular issues such as:
- Network outages
- Computer troubleshooting
- Hardware/software installations
However, since these companies are only used sparingly, the fees that these companies charge can be sizable, which can eat up the miniscule budgets that extremely small businesses can have.
Unlike in-house or third-party IT, which can fix issues much sooner, break/fix companies may not be able to fit you in their schedule for a little while, which can cause costly downtime if the problems you're experiencing are extensive, as well as hinder productivity when employees cannot work properly.
Additionally, since break/fix companies are not paid to consistently monitor your network, that means this task is left up to your business. Since cyber security is a dynamic project that involves regular network maintenance, security gaps can quickly pop up in your network after a break/fix consultation without dedicated and trained IT personnel.
Small businesses hire in-house IT staff to build out a robust department that is onsite to address network issues and perform regular network maintenance. For many companies, once they move out of the break/fix phase, the decision of whether to hire in-house IT or third-party comes into play.
Building an in-house IT department or hiring a single in-house employee lets businesses customize that department how they see fit by hiring employees with the exact qualifications and experience that they want and need.
Additionally, businesses that wish to have a hands-on approach to network security can see the benefit in having a department that is physically onsite and in close proximity for management purposes.
However, building an in-house IT department tends to be more expensive than using a third-party IT services provider. The cost of salary, benefits, workstations, and any necessary network management software for just one full-time in-house employee could pay for a entire third-party team of IT professionals.
Additionally, since these employees typically work normal 9-5 hours and take sick time and PTO, your network security can falter when they're out of the office. Employees on a lean in-house IT department can also quickly become overwhelmed with managing the sheer number of support requests from other employees.RELATED: In-House vs. Managed IT- Which is Better?
Managed IT Services
Managed IT services are just what they sound like− IT services managed by a third-party company. They monitor and protect your network from cyber threats while optimizing business processes, backing up data, and minimizing network downtime.
Day-to-day tasks can include:
- Hardware/software installations
- Network monitoring
- Managing end user support requests
- Data backup
- Disaster recovery (ie. ransomware)
Having proper IT support is becoming more important each year, as cyber threats are constantly on the rise. Businesses whose network stays stagnant or isn't constantly monitored are at a high risk of being victimized by a cyber attack, experiencing severe network downtime, and more.
For those who don't wish to build an in-house IT department, managed IT services provide a strong alternative. They ensure that you have dedicated personnel to actively monitor and protect your network from the cyber threats of today and tomorrow.
When are managed IT services a good option?
Managed IT services can be a good option for the following types of businesses and more:
- Those who lack proper backup processes− When data backups aren't automated and completed as often as possible, your business risks losing a large amount of data in the event of a network outage, and paying high downtime costs as it will take longer to recover your network. An MSP can automate backups and help you build a proactive BCDR plan.
- Those in the financial, legal, or healthcare industry− Businesses in these industries typically house large amounts of sensitive data within their networks that they are bound to protect due to data privacy regulations such as HIPAA and Sarbanes Oxley. An MSP can set specific data security protocol to ensure compliance with these regulations.
- Those who desire a hands-off approach to IT− Those who don't have the time or resources to effectively manage an internal department may benefit more from an MSP. While an MSP will keep you updated on changes and work with you to develop future plans, they require less management than an internal team.
Small businesses have a few options for building a strong network infrastructure and having effective cyber security protocol. Use this article to help determine next steps within your organization.
For more cyber security content, follow our blog!