Australian small businesses have been forced to adapt their ways of working and protocols in the face of COVID-19, as many have. But now, how do these organisations ensure they are set up to survive and, ideally, thrive in the coming months and years? asks Luke Power, Head of Small Business Australia and New Zealand at Cisco
What is the current landscape for small businesses?
Technology has been a key enabler for small businesses to be able to continue to remain productive during this period through means such as video conferencing, collaboration tools, analytics and AI.
Digital transformation is no longer a nice to have as businesses have been propelled into considering digital capabilities, and likely accelerating their digital adoption.
From speaking to our various customers, we know that small businesses face a number of challenges on a daily basis already, but with these challenges there is an opportunity for small businesses to future proof themselves and use their size and flexibility to their advantage. Here are some top tips for small businesses as we face the ‘new normal’:
The role of technology in building resilience
With a greater number of employees now using cloud-based tools and video conferencing services, bandwidth management is one of the biggest issues that small businesses face. This means organisations need to invest in technologies that allow them to track bandwidth and re-route traffic to help ease these pressure points. By managing bandwidth, businesses are able to prepare for surges in use and ensure they stay online and running at optimum.
We know small businesses focus on running their organisations while wearing many hats, and really rely on their IT partners to support them and recommend the best solutions for their business. Technology will be the main way in which small businesses build resiliency for now and for the future and we know through experience that making investing decisions can take months at a time, with budgets and resources often tight.
The major areas of opportunity now include security and mobility, with COVID-19 bringing this further to the fore. Those who had already considered their businesses’ resilience and invested in these two areas would be in a good position now and for the business recovery stage of the pandemic that we are entering.
Collaboration and connecting via technology
As a result of the current situation, small businesses have had to majorly shift how they interact with staff working from home as well as how they interact with their vendors, their suppliers and their customers. All of this has had to happen far quicker than any usual digital transformation process would normally take. While technology such as Cisco Webex has allowed for instant messaging, video calls and file sharing – there are more steps small businesses can take to enhance collaboration.
We have seen a trend of small businesses enhancing collaboration by moving towards cloud applications – to lessen data load back to the office, increase efficiency and become more secure. Moving to the cloud has also enabled small businesses to increase capabilities as they work through the current situation, but also be set up for the recovery process as we begin to approach the ‘new normal’ – it’s a long-term positive step that we see several small businesses now considering as a result of COVID-19.
The other key technology decision that small businesses would have faced in the last few months would be whether to upgrade to business-grade solutions from consumer solutions. This option is more accessible than ever before and allows a far higher level of engagement with employees – from both a morale and training perspective. These tailored portfolios offering enterprise-grade solutions are also scalable, which helps businesses during this recovery phase as they trial and test new solutions and prepare to come out of the hibernation period ready to look at growth opportunities. Such an upgrade will allow small businesses to operate without restrictions, connect and collaborate in an easier and more effective manner and utilise technology that they have previously not had access to, without compromising security.
Cyber Protection for All
There is often not the suitable level of cyber protection without the company VPNs, with the majority of cyber breaches still a result of human error or compromised user credentials it puts greater emphasis on employees being smart online.
As with any crisis, there will always be those looking to benefit and malicious actors haven’t taken long to target organisations and their employees, with vital company data and information deemed vulnerable with businesses’ failure to adopt the necessary holistic approach to security.
Small businesses are unfortunately especially vulnerable as they often lack the resource or in-house expertise to help protect their employees from cyber threats and therefore it’s up to vendors, such as ourselves, to provide that additional support.
There are a few simples steps and tools that small businesses can take on to mitigate risk:
● Implement multi-factor authentication
● Advanced-malware protection for endpoints
● Accepting system updates right away
● Detailed cyber hygiene training and user education for employees
● Holistic approach to security for those implementing the technology needs to be considered
● Drive employees to act as if they are in the office when it comes to online security and behaviour, and remain vigilant to threats – i.e. locking their computer when away from their desk and only using a laptop for corporate use
It remains to be seen just how working and ‘office’ life is going to look once all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, but one thing is for sure – we will be operating in a new digital normal. Technology has been the lifeblood of the adapting process so far and will continue to be the cornerstone of the recovery process; small businesses must embrace this next stage in order to survive and thrive.
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