Feeds

SMEs play IT fast and loose

Neglect basic housekeeping

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

When it comes to managing their IT systems, small and mid-sized businesses (SMEs) have limited resources and in some cases this leads to neglect of basic IT housekeeping and consequent risk to their businesses.

A recent Quocirca report shows that one in three mid-sized businesses and 90 per cent of small businesses do not have an IT manager. When they do, it is often only their part-time job. Despite this, SMEs are pretty good at doing the obvious stuff like backing up servers and securing their main internet access point.

But when it comes to securing their employees' PCs things are far patchier. Desktop and notebook devices are the most common point of failure and therefore represent a major area of risk. But less than 50 per cent of SMEs were certain they had a backup up routine for PCs, and when they did, for the majority it was only carried out once a week or less. Around 50 per cent of the total were not even sure if they had basic PC security like anti-virus installed.

Few had automated patch management software leaving servers and PCs alike exposed to viruses and worms that get propagated as soon as software vulnerabilities are admitted to by vendors.

SMEs IT environments are fairly sophisticated. These days most are connected to the internet, 90 per cent of mid-sized businesses (50-300 employees) have servers and internal networks and this only falls to 70 per cent for small businesses (< 50 employees). Two fifths of mid-sized businesses are using advanced network based storage options.

So if they are able to manage this infrastructure, why leave their employees' workstations so exposed.

This is due to both the lack of resources and the complexities of their IT environment. Microsoft Windows may be pervasive on the desktop and the most widely used server operating system, but most SMEs are using old versions. For example more SMEs are using UNIX than the latest version Microsoft server operating system Windows Server 2003.

For many this use of old software is neither something they can or want to change. Many are reluctant to make changes to working systems just because a vendor wants them to for security reasons. This can be disruptive and expensive.

And it is not just the cost of the software upgrades themselves. Upgrading PCs to Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows XP, often requires additional memory to be installed or new hardware all together. This does not mean SMEs are tight fisted, just that their IT systems work and they have better things to spend their money on.

But this should not prevent them from having the same level of protection for PCs that they already have for servers. Basic security software can be installed on all PCs and set to update itself; this will help prevent operational failure of PCs. But hardware malfunctions will still occur on occasions and of course, computer equipment is often the target of thieves, especially when it is being carried around. So, PCs need to be backed up on a far more regular basis than is currently the case.

Again this should not be onerous. PC backup up routines can be automated, scheduled to run at quiet times and even from remote locations over the internet. Good backup software will only look for changes. PC backups can be aggregated on a central server or networked storage device if a server is not available. The regular backups of central storage, that most SMEs already do, will then include all data stored on PCs as well.

There are a number of other steps that SMEs could be taking. None of them are particularly onerous, disruptive or expensive. Quocirca’s report, “Protecting the IT and Data Assets” is free to readers of The Register here. A few extra steps taken now could prevent a lot of pain and cost in the future.

Your industry needs you

Sign up here to become a permanent member of our Reg Reader Studies Survey Panel. You'll get the occasional email alerting you to a new survey and may even get the chance to win Reg goodies. Marvellous. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.