IT is one of the driving forces that empowers SMEs to conduct their businesses in the most profitable way by enabling them to access endless resources that can help develop their products and services. Through the use of high-speed internet access and new technologies, SMEs can expand their market, tap into new trends, track performance levels, manage finances, and communicate with suppliers and clients.
Today, the level of competition that SMEs face is higher than ever due to these advances and the options they offer to an easily distracted consumer base. So, it is important for business owners to ensure that their systems are running at an optimum level to avoid any disruptions that might result in downtime.
Benefits of an IT Assessment
Conducting routine IT Audits can help businesses avoid the costs incurred as a result of procrastination. Waiting until disaster strikes, either from a security breach or from continuing to use that old, out-dated laptop that is liable to crash at any given moment, is not the best strategy to reduce business expenses.
So, this article is going to explain how organising an IT assessment can help your business save money, increase productivity, and protect your business!
There are two major advantages to assessing your IT system.
Security is given top priority in an IT assessment as it poses the greatest risk to the business. Poorly configured or inadequate security software can cause the most harm to a SME. Since 2020, 43% of cyberattacks have targeted small businesses. This is because the perpetrators know that smaller businesses have lower budgets and are short on IT personnel, leaving them in a position that is much easier to exploit.
During an IT assessment, the current system will be scrutinised and checked for any possible vulnerabilities that could lead to a possible breach. Once these issues are identified, the IT consultant can address them by recommending specific software and introducing new protective procedures to ensure that the level of security is monitored and maintained.
Performance & Budgeting:
An IT assessment offers SMEs the opportunity to take stock of the hardware and software utilised in their business and evaluate performance levels. By examining the devices and the software installed on them, the IT consultant can provide valuable feedback that can help determine if an upgrade is required or give an estimated timeline as to when the business needs to purchase new equipment.
If the current equipment is functioning but not running efficiently, the IT consultant can also recommend what maintenance is required to improve the level of performance. This information will enable the business to budget for future upgrades and purchases. Any maintenance carried out will also improve the speed and performance, giving that extra bit of flexibility and time to save.
The 3 Objectives of an I.T. Audit are:
- Mitigate security risks
- Test effectiveness of BCDR system
- Minimise operating costs/improve performance
Why SMEs should consider conducting regular I.T. Security Audits?
It is important to schedule a regular I.T. security assessment as cybercrime is constantly changing and developing. Not only are the scams which we hear reported on the daily basis becoming more convincing, but malware is being produced at a such a rate that it is starting to outpace the development of security patches and protective software!
The organisations behind this highly lucrative form of criminal activity are skilled, highly adaptable, and persistent. It is vital for SMEs to routinely check their I.T. systems for any possible security vulnerabilities and put in place the necessary I.T. policies and procedures that will help maintain a high standard of protection.
I.T. security assessments should be carried out by individual who specialises in this field. Installing expensive software on devices will not offer full protection unless it is configured correctly and monitored. It will also not guarantee your business a speedy recovery if a breach was to occur, especially if there is not adequate back-up of the business’s data.
The following will outline the areas that an I.T. consultant can help you establish and manage within your business:
- Ensure that any active protective software i.e. anti-virus, anti-malware, firewalls on devices are configured properly and providing the level of security that is required by the business. If there is no security software currently operating, the consultant can recommend a package that will meet the needs of the business and oversee the installation.
- Test the network and software for any vulnerabilities such as unauthorized access points. Secure wireless access points & routers.
- Check that updates are being recorded and carried out as required.
- Test the network speed & performance.
- Review I.T. policies and procedures for on-site and off-site use of ICT devices and network login. Record what user accounts are on the system and the level of access each account has to various files. Provide assistance in drafting new policies and procedures which will strengthen the level of security and establish a system of monitoring and managing the staffs’ devices regardless of location to accommodate remote working.
- Secure the business’s Cloud account and other online collaboration tools which are used to conduct business.
- Test BCDR system to verify that regular backups are running and that the system can be recovered successfully.
- Provide assistance and guidance in regard to establishing a BCDR system and Recovery Plan if there is not currently one in place.
- Provide confirmation that sensitive data which is being stored and managed is compliant with data protection regulations i.e. GDPR.
- Reviewing physical security measures taken to prevent theft of devices and data.
What is a Business Continuity Disaster Recovery Plan?
A Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan is a detailed set of processes that will enable a business to remain operational after experiencing an adverse incident and will support the recovery of any possible loss or damage to data held by business. An adverse incident might be a cyber-attack, data loss due to human error, theft, property damage due to a fire, flooding etc.
Business Continuity focuses on establishing a system that will enable the whole business to function despite any setbacks that the business may incur due to an unfortunate incident. This includes looking at alternative ways employees can continue to work safely. As you can imagine it would be extremely difficult for any office to continue working if there is no alternative means to accessing files and any other critical account information held on the I.T. system. By ensuring that the locally stored data is available, up-to-date and easily accessible the business can persist and work through this difficult period using alternative devices or access them from remote locations.
Disaster Recovery focuses on the longer process of retrieving and restoring data from the original I.T. system. This part of the BCDR plan outlines (in detail) the actions that need to be taken after the incident. It is a responsive process that primarily centres around the recovery of large volumes of data. The Disaster Recovery phase can vary in the length and can be more burdensome. By implementing a strict regime of backing up files and neat storage this can greatly reduce the restoration time.
When an I.T. Consultant assesses a business’s BCDR system they will be concerned with what measures are being taken to avoid the risk of data loss and what safeguards are currently in place.
Most I.T. Security Audits will involve an inspection and test the business’s BCDR system to check its effectiveness. They will be interested in the speed, accessibility, and overall quality of the back-up. These are key in reducing the amount of downtime and obtaining a full recovery of sensitive data.
Many SMEs make the mistake by assuming that their BCDR system is up to date and holds all the critical data that is required to complete a full restore.However in many incidences that is not the case and the I.T. team can only recover chunks of information that may not include the latest version.As a result vaulable time is lost by trying to fill in the gaps and in certain situations irreplaceable documents may never be recovered. This is why testing and monitoring a BCDR system is important and should be done regularly.
Another reoccuring issue that I.T. personnel in this field encounter are businesses who back up their files onto numerous external hard drives and deem this as an “adequate BCDR system”. This method of saving data should only be used for personal documents,photos and music not for a fully fledged operating business! This is ineffective,risky and leaves the business in a vulnerable position if anything was to go wrong which is why the consultant will push for business owners to consider adopting safer measures.
After the I.T. Security Audit is completed the I.T. consultant will give feedback on the business’s current on level of cyber security. If there is a need to establish a BCDR system and response plan the consultant can provide a template that the business can build upon and flesh out with them.Each business is different and will require a strategy that is specific to their operations. In terms of acquiring specialised BCDR or other protective software the I.T. consultant can recommend the best package that will ensure that the business is fully protected against large and small scale data loss.
Hopefully this piece has explained the need for SMEs to conduct a regular I.T. Audit to assist budgeting,identify possible security risks and consider their own data management processes.
I.T. Support 4U offers a range of services which can bolster your business’s I.T. infrastructure and help you achieve your goals by ensuring that your system is running efficiently and protected against any possible threats.
If you want to learn more about the process of conducting an I.T. Audit contact us now!
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