Cloud security and small businesses – what you need to know to avoid the pitfalls

Today we work in a world that is increasingly connected, convenient and cloud-based. This comes with a world of benefits not just for enterprises, but also for small to medium sized businesses (SMBs).

It’s now easier than ever to share documents in the cloud, video-conference with colleagues across the world and compile resources so that global teams can quickly access them from shared storage. The downfall, unfortunately, is that the use of cloud tools makes it that much easier for hackers to target your organisation. More points of access mean more places for hackers to target. Many SMBs are using these collaborative tools, but haven’t updated their firewall or network security solutions to adequately combat the rising threats cloud and collaborative programs bring, and it’s leaving businesses vulnerable.

According to Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report, more than 58 percent of malware attack victims are categorised as small businesses. SMBs have now become more appealing targets for hackers, and it’s costing them dearly.

Taking it to the cloud

Cloud applications have become essential, and are business-critical for most organisations. Particularly employees can be spread across many locations, working from home, the road or satellite offices. This necessitates a secure, reliable and performant connection to the Internet for every employee regardless of location. Internet connectivity is now entwined with business continuity for almost every organisation.

The problem, particularly with SMBs, is that often these organisations have scaled quickly and may be relying on improvised home-office equipment that doesn’t adequately protect their network from threats.

Never neglect the network

Network security is a vital piece of the puzzle. Most wireless routers aimed at consumers or small offices don’t have the right features to safeguard or optimise network traffic. The right next-generation firewall should be able to not only provide foundational security like intrusion prevention and malware protection, but also ensure business continuity with features like bandwidth shaping and the ability to provide failover options between Internet connections so that any business, regardless of size, can stay online and productive.

As SMBs grow, often security is one of the areas that isn’t scaled properly or upgraded in lieu of focusing on revenue-generating activities in the short term. Part of this is because it can be daunting to learn to protect a growing business against cyberthreats, but it doesn’t have to be.

Simplifying solutions

Many organisations struggle with securing multiple locations, whether they have branch offices, remote workers or retail storefronts. Having the right network security solution provider is an important factor. There are ways to avoid installing security solutions at each point of presence, reducing the management overhead, complexity and attack surface.

Solutions like SD-WAN for software-defined networking and cloud-hosted and managed firewalls can simplify and streamline complex security operations.  Smaller organisations often feel like they have to balance security with complexity and cost.

However, there are convergent technologies like next-generation firewalls and unified threat management solutions designed specifically for organisations with fewer resources and in-house expertise. They can provide the same level of security as complex enterprise solutions, but at a fraction of the cost and with greatly simplified configuration and management requirements.

Maintenance is key

The lifecycle of firewalls is often between three and five years, but many businesses are unaware of the need for regularly updating/replacing their firewalls. These are not “set it and forget it” technologies. At a minimum, administrators must keep not only threat signatures up-to-date, but also patches and upgrades to firmware. Since this can be an intimidating process, it is essential that companies look to software-first approaches to security that provide seamless upgrades to the software platform without the need for downtime.

Businesses don’t start big, they grow. SMBs are the heart and soul of the economy, and their security solutions need to be able to grow with them. Network security is an important place to start as your team works across geographies and time zones. There are plenty of excellent tools to help you manage this process, specifically designed for the needs of growing organisations.

Be certain to do thorough research to find the right fit of your organisation, and then don’t forget to reassess the security needs of your company on an ongoing basis to address new threats and the changing dynamics of your organisation.