The Small-Business Conundrum: Consumer vs Point Solutions vs Cloud Services

The challenge for small businesses is that, as they become more mobile, security becomes more complex. IDC survey data suggest that small businesses do not clearly understand the need for multiple types of security solutions. Adoption rates for specific security measures range from approximately 60% for network antivirus solutions and firewalls to close to 40% for endpoint antivirus solutions, antispam and email scanning measures to only 30% for mobile device anti malware.

And other types of solutions, such as network intrusion prevention, data loss prevention, identity and access management, and device vulnerability assessment have lower adoption rates. Not even registering on small business’ security radar is device kill switches, which can protect company information in the event of a mobile device theft, the fastest growing crime in the United States.

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A mixture of solutions is difficult to source and even more difficult to implement and manage. In fact, security is complicated and businesses would greatly benefit from more simplified and easy to manage solutions.

There are many options for small businesses, ranging from free anti-virus scanning solutions to consumer solutions to managed, cloud-based business services. Small businesses should look at free anti-virus and consumer solutions with a healthy dose of skepticism. Often these types of capabilities have limited functionality, such as the lack of real-time scanning for viruses, and can lead to a false sense of having adequate company-wide protection.

Small businesses may be able to avoid licensing fees, but installation and management does have a cost and it may be difficult to find the company or industry specific expertise to implement correctly. Finally, there may be limited ability to upgrade or expand solutions as a company grows, creating a technology dead end.

Most small businesses start with one or two point solutions, and then add as their security needs grow. For some, this approach – finding the best-of-breed applications – will work. But small businesses should consider the time and expense of identifying and acquiring the best resources. In addition, how will these point solutions be coordinated and integrated?

Over time, business needs will change, especially as a company becomes more mobile and looks to the cloud. There will be challenges in upgrading these diverse security components over time, even with a centralized environment. If a business has multiple sites, complexity grows exponentially.

Small businesses can benefit from a single, comprehensive solution that provides a combination of key security capabilities. This approach may make it easier to acquire and implement security as well as plan for upgrades. However, this type of solution should support both on-premises and cloud capabilities. Even if the business is not using cloud resources, it may in the future.

Of particular importance, especially given limited small business IT resources, comprehensive solutions provide coordinated management and monitoring capabilities. Ideally, a dashboard or single view into security will minimize time needed to monitor and respond to issues.

Once only found in the realm of large enterprises, cloud-based security solutions are now available for the smaller business. And as cloud and mobility applications continue to gain in the small business market, there will be even more security options. Security-as-a-service enables small businesses to pick from a variety of security functions as necessary.

Benefits can be significant, if a company partners with the right vendor. Cloud-based solutions enable a small business to move security from a capital expense to a predictable operating expense. This monthly fee is based on a service-level agreement between company and vendor and is highly flexible, allowing for change. If a company hires more workers, for example, it is easier to expand services than to install multiple point solutions and tune management consoles. Similarly, as small businesses evolve, their security needs will be different. Finally, security-as-a-service gives the small business access to expertise it likely doesn’t have.