SME security: SME mindset must change

When one examines security within small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and large enterprises you see two common elements: both depend on their information technology infrastructure to do business, and both face the same security threats. However, the similarities end there.

Large enterprises benefit from economies of scale. While organizational growth may result in overlapping systems, unnecessary complexity and greater room for error, these entities are often well-equipped to handle security – within their human resource capabilities and budgets available.

For SMEs though, handling security issues is far from straightforward, despite their relatively small footprint. These smaller enterprises often lack the means to secure their networks appropriately, largely due to financial restrictions, limited resources and inadequate in-house expertise.

There is a strong belief in SMEs that security in the organization can be adequately provided by deploying anti-virus software and configuring a firewall. Also, some managers deem IT security to be a low priority. On top of this, their IT infrastructure is either maintained by one or a handful of employees. However, while these personnel may possess basic technical skills, they very often have limited expertise with regard to security.

However, many SMEs offer to their clients services similar to large companies, and most provide internet access for every user. Additionally, they may provide for remote access for home workers or traveling employees, distributed databases and access to backend systems. While large enterprises have necessary security measures in place and the necessary budgets to do so effectively, SMEs simply cannot compete in terms of relative funds available to spend on IT management and information security.

Large enterprises are not averse to security problems or risks, but they do have the foundations to mitigate those risks much better than SMEs. SMEs have the ability to catch up, but they will need to change their mentality, accept that security is an essential cost of doing business, and give it the priority it merits.

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