The SCORE Small Business Success blog recently predicted that we'd see more and more small businesses looking to upgrade their technology and improve their IT infrastructure. That's good news for IT consultants, but why are small businesses switching gears now?
During the Great Recession, businesses cut back on spending. In risky financial times, businesses are less likely to invest in new technology. Sure enough, the statistics show this.
SCORE reports that small businesses expect mobile sales to grow by 630 percent, and yet more than 90 percent don't have mobile-optimized websites. Likely, these businesses have put off making upgrades, waiting until the overall economy improves.
But they can't wait forever. That's why experts are predicting a surge in mobile development, network upgrades, and improvements to other IT infrastructure.
Outdated Technology: Increasing Dangers to Small-Business Owners
There are two consequences of using outdated IT systems: loss of business and loss of data security. The latter can be seen in a report from Symantec, which contains some shocking data:
- About a third of all cyber attacks occur at businesses with fewer than 250 employees.
- The number of attacks on these small businesses has increased faster than any other sector.
Putting two and two together, it's obvious that hackers have figured out that small businesses are easier to attack. They've shifted their focus to go after businesses like your clients’. This is why Symantec has named small business attacks one of the "most important trends" of data security.
Given that small businesses have put off system upgrades, we could be seeing even more attacks in the future.
The Biggest Data Security Concerns When Updating Client Technology
From the mobile device in a client's pocket to data storage in the cloud, there are potential data security pitfalls everywhere you look. As clients invest in new technology, here's how you should manage your IT risks:
- Adding mobile devices. Mobile devices are great. Well, they're great if you don't have to worry about securing them. Seriously, we love us some iPhone 5S, but from an IT security perspective, this technology can be a headache. When employees use their mobile devices for a mix of personal and work activities (and use them on secure and non-secure networks), they could expose your client to data breaches and malware attacks. This means you could be sued when a client's employee downloads an Android app that turns out to contain malware or vulnerabilities. (To learn ways to prevent employee-caused data breaches, see "Client Education Resources for Fighting Data Breaches.")
- Adding new hardware / computers. When a client adds new computers, it's always important to remind them that some of their old IT solutions may no longer work. They may need to update their enterprise software.
- Switching to remote / cloud data storage or backup service. When you cloud-source an IT function for a client, make sure the client knows the risks involved. Explain all the details to the client. Explain that cloud services rarely go down, but can occasionally be unavailable. (For example, Microsoft's OneDrive has suffered a number of outages over the years.) In short, disclose any potential risks.
- Switching to SaaS products. Clients might be unfamiliar with SaaS (software as a service) and other clouds solutions. Make sure they're prepared for it. Further, a client might not know that OS upgrades and new computers might mean that old software (like the Adobe Suite) is only available as SaaS. Clients won't be used to buying monthly and yearly subscriptions to software and could feel they're getting shortchanged.
- Becoming mobile-friendly. If a client wants a mobile app or mobile-optimized website, explain that mobile business works best when the client is actively involved in promoting their business through mobile channels. If you develop a new app, a client may think that the sales will start pouring in. But it doesn't work like that. Clients need to incorporate mobile offerings into their business, advertising, and general infrastructure. (For more on increasing a client's mobile presence, see “How to Talk Apps to Clients.”)
In addition to these warnings, there's one thing you should always keep in mind: make sure your client knows exactly what they're getting. When you deliver a new device or develop new software, clients may come away with "buyer's remorse." Some of this is because of the technical nature of your work. You know what a mobile app can and can't do. A client might have a less concrete idea.
By explaining carefully what each technology upgrade will offer, you can reduce some of your professional liability. Customers will be less likely to be disappointed – and less likely to sue you.
If a client does file a lawsuit, Professional Liability Insurance (also called Errors and Omissions Insurance), can cover your legal expenses. To learn more, take a look at our free sample E&O Insurance quotes for IT businesses.