It is common for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to outsource their IT services, mainly due to their size and a lack of necessary resources to manage these services internally, but what risks are they facing?
In the UK, SMEs make up 99% of the UK’s business ecosystem and about 96% of them employ less than 10 individuals. If you run an SME, then you know that the nature of micro business lends itself more to hiring an external consultant to manage your IT network 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 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 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 often 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 might not have the expertise or manpower to oversee, including:
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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 of 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 it quickly. 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 in another city.
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.
One of the most effective ways to find out if your potential IT service provider is truly who they say they are, engage our company checks service. We can help you to identify:
- A company’s legal status
- A company’s history and business address
- A company’s credit worthiness
- If it has the appropriate license or permit to operate
- If it really belongs to a reputable trade body
- If it has any legal proceedings
- Confirming its directors and decision makers
- International search, anything from registries to financial statements in another country
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 coming years – your business’s digital security is more important than ever.
Many SMEs are of the opinion that because of the size of their business fraudsters don’t target them. But in reality, 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 also 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 to make sure 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.
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. For example, many SMEs overlook their website as a cause for concern, although the website 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, engage an IT expert to provide insight into the ways your business can mitigate its risk. Discuss with the specialist 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
We are a company that specialises in corporate intelligence and investigation, including financial fraud investigations following an incident. We also help SMEs to trace the assets lost.
While companies call our fraud team after a breach or a fraud has taken place, we believe that prevention is better than cure. This is why we encourage you to engage our due diligence team and company background checks team prior to you working with an unknown partner, particularly one that is going to handle your IT services with access to sensitive data.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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