It’s already the end of the year, and time to start thinking about what the New Year will bring for small businesses. As all businesses will be working to prosper and grow in the year to come, we have put together a list of trends for small businesses to look out for in 2011 that will help them achieve their IT goals.
1. Business and Personal Communications Come Together in the Workplace
In 2011, we are going to continue to see a blurring of the lines between business and personal communications and information in the SMB workplace. While more effective mobile technology creates efficiency for employees, it also creates security and management challenges for small businesses and their customers. Small businesses increasingly rely on mobile technology to run their businesses and improve productivity, but not all have dedicated IT staff to manage their mobile devices. This means that more often than not, small businesses lack the tools to adequately protect the customer and business information that resides on mobile devices from threats and theft or loss.
Symantec Hosted Services estimates that one billion workers will be mobile at least part of the time or remote from their businesses’ main location by the end of 2011. As this happens, small businesses will need to address the associated challenges by adopting new models, such as security in the cloud, and implement more granular web security policies for their employees.
With cyber attacks becoming more significant, SMBs are turning their attention towards prevention as they are learning just one attack, or one lost device that compromises critical information can impact profitability and place their business quickly in the red.
Small businesses need to prepare for such cyber attacks by implementing complete protection on their devices and educating their employees on best practices to prevent these attacks. Cybercriminals continue to play a cat-and-mouse game with security providers, which is why security providers are always working to stay one step ahead of them.
In addition to preparing for cyber attacks, small businesses will also be preparing to help stop the loss of critical data. Data loss can happen in various ways including internal employees emailing confidential information or copying that information on USB drives. However, not all data loss incidents are malicious. There are well-meaning employees that accidentally share information that they shouldn’t. Once again, employee education will be essential for small businesses in preventing data loss in 2011.
3. Managed Services Will Continue to Thrive
While software continues to drive innovation, 2011 will bring new delivery models in response to the need of small businesses to ease IT operations, especially in the areas of security and storage. Cloud computing, hosted services and appliances are examples of increasingly attractive delivery models that provide small businesses with flexibility and ease of deployment for their security, backup and storage needs. In 2011, we expect small businesses to increasingly adopt cloud services to optimize their security and storage for a greater return on investment. So in the coming year, how will a small business determine its best option? For those without a dedicated IT staff, managed service providers can guide small businesses through the decision-making process by assessing what their storage needs are, and which delivery model will be best to address the business’ needs.
4. Time to Make Disaster Preparedness a Priority
SMBs are responsible for large amounts of private customer information and financial data – and they are just as accountable as any large enterprise for ensuring it is completely protected. Critical information such as bank account numbers, credit card information and personal records must be recoverable in the event of a disaster or outage. The 2010 Symantec SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey found that SMBs are still not taking disaster preparedness seriously: half of those surveyed said that they still do not have a plan.
Sixty-five percent of SMBs surveyed live in regions susceptible to disasters, and have experienced an average of 43 power outages. The top reasons for downtime were cyber attacks, power outages and disasters. Most SMBs cannot afford to not have a disaster preparedness plan in place. When the unexpected strikes, SMBs need to know their critical information is recoverable. Their business could depend on it.
5. Social Media
The way we communicate will continue to change in 2011 as small businesses increasingly leverage social media to improve customer communication and employee productivity. However, small businesses will also need to understand how to protect and manage these non-standard applications, since business information that is communicated in these outlets will still need to be secure. Social media archiving will grow in importance as organizations unleash the power of social business, while maintain archiving as a form of control to reduce information risk.