Your IT providers - are they providing enough?

Making up 99% of the UK’s business ecosystem, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent a significant portion of the economy’s market share. While they vary in size, ranging from less than 10 employees for micro businesses to less than 250 employees for medium-sized businesses, it is common practice across the board for SMEs to outsource their IT services – mainly due to their size and a lack of necessary resources to manage these services internally.

With 96% of all UK businesses in 2018 employing less than 10 individuals, it’s only natural that IT outsourcing is popular. In essence, the nature of micro business lends itself more to hiring a consultancy to manage your IT network externally rather than employing a dedicated, permanent employee. IT outsourcing represents a viable option for companies that lack the expertise and manpower to internalise their IT services, as well as being a cost-effective and efficient means of establishing reliable service and support.

Though outsourcing might seem like the perfect fit for your small or medium sized business, there are a number of considerations that SMEs need to weigh up before deciding to commit to outsourcing their IT services, with privacy, data security and provider reliability a few areas for concern as discussed by our team of corporate investigations experts at Blackhawk Intelligence.

What can your IT service providers do?

As a small enterprise, a holistic approach to growing your business is only logical, and this means managing your resources and time efficiently. Depending on the scale of your operation, a significant server room and a dedicated team of IT support professionals are more than likely unnecessary, which is why many SMEs decide to take the path of outsourcing their IT services to an external contractor.

An IT services provider can assist you with a variety of business aspects that you mightn’t have the expertise or manpower to oversee, including:

Network set-up

Depending on the scale of your operation, you may need a complex network that connects your servers, computers, printers and other devices. The size of your business will determine the degree of complexity, as well as the number of switches and routers required to facilitate the connection and the overall functionality of the network.

Database management

A database management system performs the function of systematising your data, organising it and making it accessible. Typically, this will link your company’s database to users and application software such as file systems and including backups and recovery functions.

Software support

Software support, or a software support specialist, is responsible for providing technical support for specific business-related software – this can include troubleshooting, installation and basic usability assistance.

VoIP service

Voice over Internet Protocol systems are a combination of hardware and software technologies that facilitate and transmit phone calls over the Internet rather than via a typical telephone line. Skype is an example of a VoIP system.

Cloud storage

A platform that stores data online in the ‘cloud’ rather than locally, cloud storage technology is an effective tool for businesses that want instantaneous file sharing capabilities across multiple devices. Dropbox and Google Drive are notable examples of this.

Computer repair

For some small businesses, the volume of in-house technology mightn’t warrant a dedicated IT support technician, so having a consultant on call is enough when hardware repair is required.

What should you consider when hiring an IT service provider?

One of the most significant drawbacks to outsourcing your IT support and services is the loss of internal control should a problem arise. In normal circumstances where you have an in-house IT support network, if there is an issue, you’re able to clearly ascertain the root cause of the problem and then address this in real time. Conversely, communicating a problem to your IT support services, if they’re an outsourced contractor, can be more difficult and often it will take longer to get a resolution – particularly in circumstances where your support provider is based offshore. Here, it becomes an issue of the structure of your business, your enterprise’s ability to cope in such circumstances where your network may not be operational for a period of time and whether you’re ready to sacrifice efficiency for cost-effectiveness.

This leads us to the issue of provider viability. With a plethora of IT support services currently on the market, it goes without saying that some are going to be more reliable than others, so careful consideration is not only a good practice but also a genuine necessity. Your business’s security is of paramount importance, so making the right decision when it comes to selecting and employing a reliable IT support service should be first and foremost. Typically, this entails researching the reputable providers in your area and consulting them as to the logistics of their security measures and their protocols in the event of a network or technical problem. Included in this should be an investigation of their responses to preventing fraud and cyber-attacks. For advice on whether an outsourcing IT structure is suitable for your business, Blackhawk Intelligence can assist you to make an informed decision.

What am I at risk of?

An awareness of the threats to your business is fundamental to good business strategy. Protecting your business and its interests is a requirement for success, so you should be knowledgeable when it comes to any threats that might jeopardise your business’s security.

In 2018 an estimated 3.5 million individuals in England and Wales experienced some type of fraud, with fraud accounting for over 30% of all crimes nationwide. Of these incidents, 56% were cyber-related crimes, and with this figure predicted to increase in the following calendar year – your business’s digital security is more important than ever.

Many SMEs are of the opinion that because of the size of their business they aren’t targets. In fact, the size of their business makes them more of a target for fraud, as typically their security measures are not as robust as in larger conglomerates and corporations. This is why comprehensive precautions need to be taken when establishing your business’s digital network.

Outsourcing your IT services can pose a risk to the security of your business’s sensitive data, including financial records, customer database and employee database. The best practice for navigating this issue is ensuring that the provider you employ has a set of security measures in place that will protect your data when it is being sent, stored and transferred. If they use remote servers, making sure that encryption technology is used, and if they’re an offshore provider, researching the local intellectual property laws is also required in order to ensure that your sensitive data is being protected.

While your security when outsourcing IT services mightn’t be as concrete as it would be if you had your own in-house system established, making sure that the provider you employ has an effective level of cover is key to protecting your business and its interests from potential fraud.

Is your business currently secure?

Even if your current IT support network might be secure, there are other facets of your business that might be susceptible to cyber threats. Many SMEs overlook their website as a cause for concern, however, this can often be the most at risk aspect for a small business with an online presence.

Typically, a business’s website is its first point of contact with customers in the digital domain as well as being a useful tool for sales, marketing and revenue if you trade online. In keeping with the nature of small businesses, however, a website might only exist as a supplementary afterthought. Regardless of your digital presence, ensuring you have the right software and plugins is essential when it comes to deterring potential cyber threats. With a spike in ‘ransomware’ attacks in recent years, and phishing as prevalent as ever, protecting your data is critical – and this begins with safeguarding your information online and being cautious with your digital footprint.

If you’re unsure as to the current security measures being taken by your IT support provider, or you’re not up-to-date with what sort of data-protection is currently being offered by your website provider, a business intelligence analyst from our team might be able to provide insight into the ways your business can mitigate its risk. In any case, it’s best to consult an expert, like Blackhawk Intelligence, in order to understand the current structure of your business’s online presence, any security risks that you might face and how you can properly address them.

How Blackhawk Intelligence can help

With a proven track record of supplying expert, specialist advice with respect to business intelligence analysis, loss prevention strategies and digital fraud mitigation for medium to small enterprises, Blackhawk Intelligence provides valuable insight into the practicalities you need to take in order to effectively protect your business. We can assist with:

  • Preventing cyber-crime by assisting clients to understand the risks of digital business, and putting in place the systems and processes that can protect you.
  • Identifying cyber threats and carrying out forensic digital investigations in the event that your business comes under attack.

If you’d like to know more about our services, please contact a member of our team on +44 (0)20 8108 9317 or send us an email at enquiries@blackhawkintelligence.com.

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