Table of Contents
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- How to secure your business from cyberattacks
- Business communication
- What do new communication tools mean for small businesses?
- Remote management
- What are the IT solutions to manage your delocalised workforce?
A 2020 Bain and Company study found most businesses overestimate their cybersecurity and 76% have weak or no security in place at all. More than half of Small Businesses don’t think they are vulnerable to cyber-threats, but this is untrue. 20% of Small Businesses have been a victim of a cyber-attack or data breach last year alone.
There are a few reasons why businesses are more vulnerable now than in previous years. More companies are entirely backed-up on the cloud. The networks needing protection from cyberthreats are growing exponentially.
People working remotely represent a considerable threat too. Many employees are unaware of phishing scams and proper program updating. They sometimes use unsafe home Wi-Fi networks and questionable password protocols. In all those cases, the risks of breach significantly increase.
Small Businesses need to be aware of the risks and manage them properly with inhouse accessible solutions and working practices.
How to secure your business from cyberattacks?
Audit your current cybersecurity
The first step for any business, no matter its size, is to be conscious of its weaknesses and the protections it has in place. Having proper anti-viruses installed and updated is a must, but also the first and the easiest step.
Hackers target several strategic points. One such area is the Active Directory (AD). Breaching AD gives hackers access to a company’s network and user’s authentication, opening up a vast range of possibility from identity theft to access to confidential information. It becomes paramount to monitor AD breaches with a best practice checklist and new technologies. Training sessions to make employees more aware of threats and what a breach looks like is also a good starting point, limiting many problems down the road.
Replace VPNs with Cloud-Native Data Security
VPN hardware works very effectively on local networks in offices. Except when employees work physically away from the business, using their home Wi-Fi networks, so they are no longer covered by the VPN security blanket.
The new age of remote working means extending the network’s security beyond its physical location. Being able to protect the business’s cloud data with appropriate encryption is a priority.
Cloud-native Data Security involves the proper encryption of all data, malware scanning, firewalls, limited Identity and Access management, automated investigation, and multi-factor authentication. It requires maintenance, awareness, and can become clunky if not appropriately managed. Cloud agnostic security streamlines the process by connecting to multiple cloud platforms and tools. Sadly, none are entirely compatible with all platforms today, but cybersecurity technology is increasingly going in that direction.
Look for zero-trust network security
Another exciting technology is zero-trust network security. While the model was developed in 2010, it is only now taking on full relevance. The principle is simple: it segments the network, applications, data and all of a business’s digital resources into the smallest units possible and verifies every step. Instead of a unique password check, which assumes a user is not a threat once they are in, the zero-trust network implements minute security checks all the time. It questions the safety of every interaction, in and out of the business’s cloud.
Considering that hackers’ breaches often mean they take on an employee’s persona, a continuous cyber-check is the safer way. The zero-trust method checks more than just users. It monitors their location, the machine they use, the type of access they seek and such information. It effectively tries to understand who the user is and only gives them access to the data they need to accomplish their tasks.
2021 brings exciting innovations to business communication. We are celebrating the deployment of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 onto the world: an unprecedented, massive, seamless connection to the cloud with almost instantaneous data sharing.
Last year, many small businesses were forced to fast-forward their transfer into the digital age. This newer, faster technology should make it easier to connect with advanced tools, creating all kinds of possibilities.
Better, more efficient communication is the way to the future. But what are the communication trends for this year? A wide range of the new IT tools is meant to fix a plethora of issues faced in 2020. The biggest challenges tackled are communicating with digital customers and data exchange between objects.
Used to big brand service, consumers expect more personalised and responsive support. Before and after-sales presence are keys to customer experience. The care a buyer is shown influences their decision to stay with a brand or look for an alternative. Negative user experience makes customers more likely to leave bad reviews and taint a business’s reputation. Automation, and AI makes communication manageable and less time-consuming.
The materials, products, and technologies of a business itself are changing too, developing the ability to communicate through IoT: the Internet of Things. While this affects large enterprises first, small businesses should not disregard the progress. There are many ways IoT can help a small business, especially now as better internet connections allow increased data transfer and big data analysis.
What do new communication tools mean for small businesses?
5G and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity
Many things will change with 5G, but the Business News Daily reminds us that this technology is just at its beginning and the surrounding infrastructure hasn’t yet evolved to fill its real potential. Still, many impossible technologies, because they required too long downloading and vast amounts of data to sort, can now be rolled out, such as IoT.
5G has been a big topic for 2 years now. We all know of its speed for entertainment purposes or smart-city capacity, but what can it do for small to medium businesses that 3G and 4G could not? Simply put, 5G enabled the connection needed between our various technologies to work together in real-time. Suddenly, some cloud-based activities can rely on advanced Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality features because those are not out of reach to the regular customer. HD camera footage can be recorded, stored, and viewed online seamlessly for better warehouse security. Printers, inventory control tools, and shipping trackers can be connected to a company network and managed from a distance. All the data from those processes can be safely encrypted, recorded, stored in a safe back up drive, and much more.
In the long run, technologies enabled by 5G should ease the supply burden, streamline it, reduce errors, physically secure businesses and create new types of customer interactions.
Automation and AI customer service
AI technology is already very present in everyday business activities. It eases customer service by offering 24h support. Bots can be added to Facebook business pages and websites to answer basic inquiries or create an easy marketing loop. The key is keeping it clear, short and sweet, or risk annoying customers who usually seek speed when talking to bots. IBM claims Chatbots can answer 80% of everyday requests, easing small businesses’ workload.
Some everyday AI use is less obvious, like the writing assistance provided by email services. Google AIs can suggest ways of finishing sentences. Those suggestions stem from the analysis of big data collected over millions of emails using similar word structure. With increased connectivity and available data, AI will undoubtedly start acquiring more skills.
or small businesses, AI offers exciting possibilities in automated responses, Interactive voice response (IVR) systems and advanced speech recognition. An added perk is the greater availability of analytical reports on customer behaviour for better consumer care, promotion and decision-making on Google analytics and private software. While more AI-based tools should see the day in the next few years, some are already advantageous in gained time and insight.
The Internet of Things, big data everywhere
IoT refers to the ability of objects to connect, interact together and send data to the cloud. In terms of Small Businesses, the ability for objects to connect to Wi-Fi translates into a long list of uses. It can cover better physical security and inventory control (through RFID identification) for safety and tracking purposes. Smart-heating, smart-airconditioning and smart-lighting are applications of IoT that offer interesting cost-saving possibilities through remote management and workforce practical use analysis. Real-time vehicle tracking for transportation businesses becomes possible too. Retail companies, on the other hand, can benefit from broader payment options using Mobile Card Readers. Overall, IoT offers efficient cost-cutting solutions, time savers, expand business opportunities and safety.
In its most cutting-edge form, IoT can provide a monitoring system that collects data through sensors and analyses it. That data can be used to identify issues, provide better service, or suggest cutbacks. Truthfully, the full benefits of this technology have not been scoped out yet. With 5G growing more and more available, the domain should bloom into exciting unforeseen directions and offer more solutions to businesses of all sizes.
According to research, an estimated 40% of work can be done remotely. The pandemic forced the hand of many businesses, and this shift from office to home space work put into light a lot of shortcomings and issues such as cybersecurity threats and the need for a good remote IT support. But with statistics showing employees to be 47% more effective working from home, finding solutions to remote management issues makes sense. It would allow further savings by allowing business to rent smaller offices.
Overall, a business that can embrace a delocalised workforce holds a competitive advantage. The significant areas new technology can help are team collaboration, onboarding and Human Resources because a big question remains: how do you employ and train remote employees effectively?
How to manage your delocalised workforce?
Decentralised team communication
Video conferencing has boomed during the pandemic, some app brands becoming household names, but many other useful collaboration tools have come to light. Small businesses can gain a lot from platforms allowing them to create content, interact, share, track projects, message and run online team-building activities.
Start-ups proposing solutions for better teamwork communication are exploding, and 2021 should offer many exciting solutions. There is already a wide array of Virtual Collaboration Software that replicate a sense of working together and are worth looking into if you are looking for better remote management. Popular features are a visual representation of workload, file management, workflow management, video meeting capability, scheduling tools, the ability to track various projects, chat and transfer data with coworkers.
Virtual Collaboration Software tools can also help with training a new employee in a distributed workforce. With limited face to face interactions, transitioning to new tools is arduous and more time-consuming. Luckily, most large software programs offer video tutorials that a trainee can watch. Combined with a mentor’s regular virtual contact; those measures can go a long way for solving initial problems.
For better onboarding, using the minimum amount of communication software and outlining the engagement rules is essential for cohesive work culture. The first elements to explain are how the attendance system works, the appropriate response time to messaging, and the process for reporting an issue. Emphasising the security protocol, how to call out for IT help and prevention of such things as burnout and feelings of isolation come next. With the right management and communication tool, businesses can effortlessly deal with these challenges.
Human Resources software
For a long time, HR methodology and management has not evolved. The use of spreadsheets is widespread even for medium businesses. This could still be the case in 2021, but “The shift to remote work has changed businesses in terms of productivity, engagement, culture, two-way communication and employee development, and has highlighted the need for effective technology to help navigate these challenges,” says Rhiannon Staples, chief marketing officer of Hi bob. “As such, centralised HR information systems have become mission-critical.”
What does such a system offer? It holds all employees’ data, can easily be updated, automates payroll, can house a performance and attendance management tool, keeps tabs on law regulation compliances such as insurance and training, as well as tracks new applicants. Automation makes the HR process faster, and the system can hold all of the data in one place. There are multiple Human Resource Information System (HRIS) programs available and worth exploring. Ones which simplify administration, sharing contacts between employees, tracking and scheduling are preferred, particularly if it has analysis tools giving comprehensive insights into workforce trends.
There are many exciting technologies to adopt this year, even though they come with a fair cybersecurity warning. Wider and bigger communication with better cloud security is at the heart of 2021. As a last piece of advice, we leave you with a list of things to watch out for when acquiring new technology for your business.
- Make sure they have the most seamless integration possible. You want your tools to help you, and for that, they need to be compatible with what you already have.
- Look for customisability. Some features will not be relevant to your type of business, tailoring to your needs will make a technology much more useful and less clunky.
- And finally, look for ease of use. Instinctive apps or platforms with good video tutoring are easy to implement quickly, use to their fullest and are more appealing.
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