Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in Los Angeles may think that because their organizations are small or midsize, the IT threats that plague larger companies won’t be an issue for them.

Think again …

SMBs are just as vulnerable to cybersecurity threats as their larger counterparts—maybe even more so. In a 2017 report from the Ponemon Institute, 61 percent of SMBs had experienced a cyberattack in the previous 12 months, and another 54 percent suffered a data breach. Both numbers represent increases over 2016. Also, more than half (52 percent) of responding SMBs reported a successful or unsuccessful ransomware attack against them.

That said, the risks to your IT environment aren’t just related to cybersecurity. Here are some of the threats that Los Angeles businesses should know about and take steps to mitigate:

The Obvious Threat: Security

The hackers are out there, and they seem to stay one step ahead of cybersecurity experts, not to mention SMBs trying to protect themselves from digital threats. The Ponemon report also found that 48 percent of respondents experienced phishing attacks. Employee education would seem to be the answer to this problem—workers should simply take better care to not open suspicious emails or click on unknown links, but those suspicious emails increasingly look legitimate.

Cybersecurity naturally should entail safeguarding systems on the digital side, but Los Angeles businesses also must think about the physical security of their IT. If you store sensitive data (including customer data) on servers in your place of business, leaving the door to your server room unlocked 24 hours a day is obviously not a best practice. That scenario may be simplifying the threat, but many Los Angeles businesses have little, if any, governance regarding the physical security of their hardware, or any policies regarding mobile device use. You want to prevent the bad guys from accessing your IT, from the applications you use to the computers at your employees’ desks.

Other Threats Can Be Quite … Threatening

Los Angeles businesses may be so focused on cybersecurity that they forget that other IT threats can be just as damaging to their operations. Although security should never be overlooked or diminished, beware of these additional technology issues that slow down SMBs:

  • Lack of efficiency: If your IT systems are consistently causing you grief, operational efficiency for your entire business can suffer. And if efficiency is suffering, the bottom line may ultimately suffer, too. SMBs may not see inefficiency as a threat, per se, but if unaddressed, it can sink a company just like a data breach—just not as spectacularly.
  • No support for the sales team: Sales teams that rely on technology to be effective need their IT concerns and goals addressed. Yet salespeople’s immediate and long-term concerns might be brushed aside because their role isn’t part of the organization’s core mission. Poor IT hampers sales, and no sales means no profits—and, of course, no profits means no business …
  • Misaligned IT goals: IT elements that don’t play nice with each other can destroy efficiency, but often, the misalignment is never fixed and is even exacerbated as companies chart their future technology goals. These businesses may continue to support antiquated software stacks or choose new technology that is incompatible with their current systems. The result often is IT chaos that threatens efficiency and security.
  • Confused employees: If something with their computers is amiss, non-IT employees often don’t know who to turn to for help, particularly if a company is small enough that it doesn’t have a dedicated technology specialist in-house. Often, these befuddled workers simply accept the problem and carry on at reduced productivity, or, worse yet, they attempt to fix the problem themselves and make it worse.
  • Careless employees: As already mentioned, employees falling for phishing attacks is a serious threat, but other instances of carelessness are just as risky. Stunningly, workers in 2018 still use “12345” or “password” as passwords, giving hackers a far-too-easy path into your systems. Without some teeth behind governance, password and bring-your-own-device policies won’t make a difference for employees who choose convenience over best practices.
  • Picking the wrong partner: Los Angeles businesses may opt to work with a managed services provider (MSP) or another technology partner to help with their IT. Though this is a smart strategy, choosing the wrong partner can increase risk rather than decrease it. For example, a provider without an optimized ticketing system may fail to deliver the tech support an SMB needs, subsequently leaving employees wondering whom to call when they have a problem.

Fortunately, the threats outlined in this post can be addressed and minimized with due diligence—and, possibly, some outside help. The best technology partners and MSPs identify the shortcomings in their clients’ IT profiles and present and implement solutions that reduce risk and increase efficiency. The threats are real, but with the right IT strategy, they don’t need to be so scary.

Which IT threat does your SMB most worry about?