What businesses should upgrade in the new year
Cybersecurity safeguards are gifts that keep on giving
Great, you have a budget surplus for 2017! For many companies — and especially not-for-profit organizations — this is cause for celebration. It is also time to be strategic and allocate those unused 2017 funds in the most beneficial way possible so you don’t lose the line item in next year’s allocations or possibly reduce your tax liability.
So, what has the most far-reaching impact and ROI while benefiting every individual in your company? Here are the three most important technology items we recommend, each a crucial gift that keeps on giving.
1. Are you at risk? It’s time to find out.
Upwards of 60 percent of small business hit with a cyber-attack go out of business within six months, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance. A cybersecurity risk assessment is the tech industry’s version of the white glove test. Every company is at risk for getting hacked. It’s a fact, and knowing your vulnerabilities is the bare minimum for protecting your clients’ data while it is entrusted to your company.
High-profile security breaches happen regularly, but don’t be tricked into a false sense of security that only large corporations are targets. Hackers regularly go after small and medium-sized businesses, even here in New Hampshire, and they know how to find the gaps in your cybersecurity wall.
Those gaps might be a lax “bring-your-own-device” policy, or a technical shortcoming in a line of code that makes your network security recognize returning users. The only way to find out exactly how vulnerable you are is by conducting an in-depth look at organizational policies and decisions that exist (or don’t exist) to protect your company and the information it stores. A risk assessment involves looking at how you use your systems, what data management and workflows govern it, your IT infrastructure, and the state of your current IT policies.
We recommend revisiting your risk assessment every year, or more frequently if you fall under a regulated industry with cybersecurity compliance requirements. If you’ve never had a full-on, formal, look-under-the-rug review of the tools and policies that govern your data and technology, now is the time.
2. Update your applications to the newest (safest) versions
Have you noticed that you’re updating your iPhone apps more frequently? And that brand-new server you bought six years ago seems to be running more slowly. What’s going on? Each time a software company releases a new update — whether it’s to your Facebook app or desktop OS, that update is fixing bugs and patching new security issues so your network (and employees) can safely and efficiently do the work it is designed to do.
As technology evolves, so do the devices we use to access the Internet and content. As computer systems get more sophisticated and integrated with other systems and devices, new vulnerabilities arise. If Microsoft (or whoever wrote the software) doesn’t catch it before nefarious hackers do, you could have a cybersecurity emergency on your hands. Virus software is good, but it won’t help you if you’re still running last year’s version. And it won’t protect you against one of your employees falling for an email scam (an important component that is addressed in a risk assessment).
Updates and compliance with the myriad systems a typical business uses every day is complex, and ensuring they all talk to each other the way they’re supposed to is exponentially so. One important way to make sure your systems are secure — and stay that way — is to always have the most current versions installed across your organization.
3. Replace older hardware
Most companies replace devices like laptops, network infrastructure, data storage, and other technology devices every five years. But just as software must account for the ever-morphing digital landscape, the physical tools you use to access the data are just a crucial. Even if your data is stored offsite, at a server farm, or in the cloud, it is only as safe as the devices you use to access it.
If the security gains weren’t enough to pique your interest, think about this: for every old computer replaced with a new one, a person gains about 10 minutes a day in reclaimed productivity. Ten minutes that used to be devoted to waiting for programs to load or watching the beloved “rainbow wheel” spin are now reclaimed, adding up to more than 40 hours over the course of a year.
The gift that keeps on giving
Wouldn’t you rather use your company’s hard-earned money (to better understand your risk profile; to work on more secure networks with faster computers) than lose it to hackers or productivity churn? Your IT department will love you for it, because cybersecurity is a full-time job, and the information technologists who know your systems like the backs of their hands likely aren’t equipped to also conduct and monitor the hundreds of cybersecurity “white glove tests” that are crucial to business success. And with any luck, there will be another year-end surplus to consider.
Ryan Robinson is the chief service officer at Mainstay Technologies, an IT and Cybersecurity firm that serves businesses and nonprofits throughout northern New England.