How SMBs Can Utilize the Cloud To Build Their Business
There has been a lot of talk lately about the cloud and its ability to put small to midsize businesses (SMBs) and startups on a level playing field with large global enterprises. Can this be substantiated or is it a load of trendy hype to push SMBs to cloud-based solutions? We’ve compiled this breakdown of how the cloud can be used to boost profitability.
The Convenience Factor
It once took smaller companies and startups weeks to launch and configure their own IT infrastructure. Doing so also required a ton of overhead costs. Today’s cloud technology provides the benefits of this very same infrastructure but on an as needed and on-demand basis. SMBs can build a technology infrastructure for themselves online in less than a minute.
For example, a smaller agency that provides apps for its clients, can turn to a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud provider. A PaaS provides companies an environment that enables them to more easily host and deploy apps. They do this by shielding developers from the hassles that come with the set up, configuration, and management of things like servers and databases.
Without having to worry about things on the infrastructure side, the company and its application developers can focus on creating innovative apps that will generate business revenue. Once their server is online and available, they can launch instantly with a 1-click deployment of their application.
Mission Critical Agility & Scalability
In the tech industry, everyone must channel his or her inner Maverick and Goose* because there is a need… a need for speed. Speed is everything and agility is mission critical. The cloud’s rapid provisioning of computer resources can offer additional storage space in mere minutes rather than weeks.
Having that kind of agility bodes particularly well for the scalability needs of SMBs. As business grows and the need to store more data increases, the cloud is flexible enough to resize your infrastructure on the fly and grow with you.
The cost of cloud-based solutions is much more beneficial to SMBs than the cost of traditional shared or dedicated hosting plans. This eliminates the high overhead that comes with buying dedicated hardware and hiring staff to run the servers.
Cloud technology has empowered SMBs by eliminating any need to make the same kind of costly upfront investments that large enterprise are able to incur. There is no longer a need for SMBs to spend thousands of dollars building out a massive infrastructure to support their big data applications. Better yet, backing up that big data is also inexpensive compared to traditional hosting solutions.
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of Mobility and BYOD
There are a lot of advantages to mobility in today’s workforce, but the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) movement has also brought its share of headaches as well.
We live in a society where everyone must have the newest technology. We are inundated with ads reminding us that the smartphone or tablet we just bought a year ago is laughably outdated and inferior to the upgrade that just hit the market.
People who have just bought the latest technology don’t want to have to set it aside to use a separate company-issued device. As a result, businesses are beginning to grant these employee-owned devices access to their file and email servers, databases, and applications.
While this brings certain competitive advantages to employers, it naturally carries many risks, too.
Let’s begin with the pros of BYOD…
The Advantages of BYOD
Greater Flexibility and Productivity – Personal devices allow workers more flexibility, which in turn can increase productivity. Today’s employee isn’t restricted to their office workstation or cubicle. They can carry out job responsibilities from home, a coffee shop, their child’s dance recital, or while traveling.
Reduced Costs – Purchasing even the most basic Blackberry for an employee can cost a company $900+ per worker. Costs like that can be completely eliminated by adopting a BYOD policy where employees are required to use their own device.
Happier Employees/Attractiveness to Job Seekers – Recent studies have found that 44% of job seekers are attracted more to employers who are open to BYOD and occasional remote work. Beyond this hiring advantage over competition, it has been found that employees as a whole are generally happier using the devices they own and prefer for work purposes.
Better Customer Service – This goes hand and hand with more flexibility and productivity. Mobility allows employees to occasionally resolve or escalate urgent client issues outside of normal working hours, and clients remember that kind of response time.
And now the cons of BYOD…
Disadvantages of BYOD
Compromised Data Security – Unfortunately, letting employees use their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops increases the likelihood of sensitive company or customer/client data being compromised. It is important for companies to establish a comprehensive mobile device security policy and never make any exceptions to it whatsoever. Really. No exceptions. Ever.
Employee Privacy – Many employees may oppose using their own devices for work, especially if it’s a company requirement that they aren’t reimbursed for. You have to remember that these are the same devices employees use to log into their Facebook and Twitter accounts or do their online banking. In this age of constant paranoia over big brother watching our every move, employees may be concerned that their employer will spy on them or access their personal passwords and information.
Handling Employee Turnover – Companies must consider how they will address the retrieval of company data and information from an employee’s device if the employee either quits or is fired. Some companies may require that employees only save or edit company files on their servers or use cloud-based sharing software like Dropbox to share and edit docs.
The Importance of a Mobile Device Management Tool
Obviously, businesses must keep track of all of the devices that access their server, applications, and data. Mobile Device Management helps enterprises centralize what is an otherwise chaotic hodgepodge of devices and operating systems. This ensures that all devices are configured, deployed, and properly monitored and managed. This is a smart way for businesses to embrace BYOD while securing data and applications across multiple devices.
Why SMBs Must Proactively Address the Threat of Mobile Hacks
More cyber criminals are targeting small-to-medium sized businesses. One reason for this is too many workplaces have insufficient bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies in place. Some have none at all. Although firms are generally more knowledgeable about network security risks than in years past, they still woefully underestimate the security vulnerabilities linked to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
This is a real cause for concern since data breaches have the ability to put many already financially challenged SMBs out of business.
If customer/client data has been breached, there could be potential litigation costs, and naturally, lost goodwill and an irreparable hit to brand or company reputation.
Don’t Just Say You’re Worried About the Bad Guys… Deal With Them
SMBs say they view network security as a major priority but their inaction when it comes to mobile devices paints a different picture. A recent study found that only 16% of SMBs have a mobility policy in place.
Despite the fact that stolen devices are a major problem in today’s mobile workforce, only 37% of mobility policies enforced today have a clear protocol outlined for lost devices.
Even more troubling is the fact that those firms who have implemented mobility policies have initiated plans with some very obvious flaws.
Key components of a mobility policy such as personal device use, public Wi-Fi accessibility, and data transmission and storage are often omitted from many policies.
Thankfully, most SMB cybercrimes can be avoided with a comprehensive mobility policy and the help of mobile endpoint mobile device management services.
A Mobility Policy Is All About Acceptable/Unacceptable Behaviors
Your initial mobility policy doesn’t have to be all encompassing. There should be room for modifications, as things will evolve over time. Start small by laying some basic usage ground rules, defining acceptable devices and protocols for setting passwords for devices and downloading third-party apps. Define what data belongs to the company and how it’s to be edited, saved, and shared. Be sure to enforce these policies and detail the repercussions for abuse.
Features of Mobile Device Management Services
MDM services are available at an affordable cost. These services help IT managers identify and monitor the mobile devices accessing their network. This centralized management makes it easier to get each device configured for business access to securely share and update documents and content. MDM services proactively secure mobile devices by:
Specifying password policy and enforcing encryption settings
Detecting and restricting tampered devices
Remotely locating, locking, and wiping out lost or stolen devices
Removing corporate data from any system while leaving personal data intact
Enabling real time diagnosis/resolution of device, user, or app issues
It’s important to realize that no one is immune to cybercrime. The ability to identify and combat imminent threats is critical and SMBs must be proactive in implementing solid practices that accomplish just that.
You’ve read it time and time again. “Bring Your Own Device” isn’t a trend, it’s the future. Workplaces where companies let workers use their own devices for work purposes are the new normal. BYOD attracts new hires and lifts employee morale and productivity. But this doesn’t mean a small business owner should recklessly jump right into BYOD just because everyone else is doing it. Data and network security concerns have to be thought out, defined, and addressed in a comprehensive BYOD policy. Here are three things to consider.
Cost of Support
Most businesses salivate at the thought of the money saved by having employees participate in a BYOD program. With employees using their own devices for work, there is no need to shell out thousands of dollars for desktop PCs, smartphones, tablets, and laptops. While that’s undoubtedly a huge incentive, extra support costs must also be factored in. Chances are your employees aren’t necessarily tech savvy and will need help deploying applications and performing basic yet very necessary maintenance techniques. Unless you have a dedicated IT support team, which most SMBs do not have, you will need to turn to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) in your region for support. A MSP can provide specialized expertise and leverage Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools to keep your network infrastructure and business applications monitored, secured and fully optimized.
Limited Number of Support Devices
Obviously you can’t accommodate EVERY employee-owned device. Limiting the types of devices accepted in your BYOD program will mitigate any need to pay for software or equipment upgrades for outdated devices and keep your infrastructure safer as a whole. It’s important to not be too exclusive, select a broad range of devices and their more recent releases to accommodate the varied preferences/tastes of your employees.
Adopting BYOD at your workplaces will expose your company to more legal risks. Sensitive business or private client/customer data can potentially be exposed if devices are lost or stolen. The personal online habits of your employees can also increase your network’s vulnerability to viruses, phishing, or hacking schemes designed to steal such data. These increased legal risks are another reason why SMBs must take precautions such as working with a MSP that offers a solid MDM solution to ensure all employee devices are configured, deployed, managed and monitored in a manner that prioritizes data integrity and security.
More people today use personal mobile devices like smartphones and tablets for business purposes. Such devices, coupled with greater Wi-Fi accessibility and cloud services, have empowered us with the ability to access data and do business from practically anywhere at anytime.
Needless to say, many small-to-medium sized business owners have embraced the BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) revolution. The benefits are obvious; increased employee productivity, enhanced services to customers/clients, and better overall customer and employee satisfaction.
But what about the potential consequences associated with this mobility revolution? Are small business owners doing enough preemptive planning to address potential risks that could arise with the use of BYOD devices?
Mobile Device Management – Questions Every SMB Should Ask
First, it is important that small business owners honestly assess whether their systems, networks, data, and overall infrastructure are ready for the use of an array of mobile devices.
What particular devices or applications are permissible for work use? Assuming security requirements are in place, not every device or application will meet those.
Will anyone in the company be tasked with the daily management of BYOB strategies? What should BYOD policies cover and what kind of management solutions will be needed? Would a BYOD management tool that collects device information, deploys and monitors usage, and offers insight into compliance be helpful?
Which costs will be the responsibility of the employee? This pertains to any fees associated with usage – from network plans, to the device itself, to software, accessories and maintenance costs.
What data will be accessible? Will data encryption be necessary for certain information traveling through the personal devices of employees? Which employees will have read, write, update/delete privileges?
What is the process when handling sensitive data stored on lost or stolen devices, or the personal devices of ex-employees? Does the company or organization have the right to wipe out the entire device or just corporate data and apps?
BYOD is here to stay as it affords smaller-sized companies the mobility of a corporate giant without a huge investment. But when it comes to ensuring that devices, applications and networks are safe from the variety of threats linked to greater mobility, small business owners may find it necessary to enlist the help of a managed service provider to adequately take on mobile management challenges and provide ongoing consultation.