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How SMBs Can Leverage Managed Solutions to Overcome Budget and Talent Constraints

The health of the US economy depends on the health of small business. Small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) make up more than 99% of all US businesses, and employ nearly half of U.S. workers. Including the category referred to as SMBs (small-to-midsize businesses, defined as 100-999 employees), those numbers are even larger.
 
Under attack
Anything that threatens SMBs threatens the global economy. Cyber-attacks against SMBs are on the rise and pose a grave danger to businesses struggling to defend themselves with smaller IT budgets and limited access to an information security expertise. 

Recent reports by the Ponemon Institute and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) put a spotlight on these risks. Half of the SMBs surveyed by Ponemon experienced a data breach in the past year. The BBB results show that half of small businesses couldn’t stay profitable for more than a month if they lost access to critical data; 19% believe profitability could be sustained for only a week.  
 
Many SMBs assume they are not lucrative targets for cybercriminals. This is misguided for several reasons: first, poorly protected businesses are “low-hanging fruit” and an easy money grab for hackers. Second, many exploits are now automated and succeed by attacking at high volume, without discriminating as to size or type of business. Third, targeted attacks on unsecured SMBs are sometimes carried out in order to gain backdoor access to a larger enterprise’s network.
 
No budget for tools and talent
Given all that is at stake, why aren’t SMBs better prepared to defend against attacks and respond effectively to incidents? The primary answer is lack of funding and resources. Layered, proven security solutions are often costly and difficult to implement. Many SMBs simply do not have the technical or information security expertise to understand the threats and risks they face, let alone the ability to fully address them.

Cybersecurity and IT management processes often include volumes of data from dozens of sources. Even large companies struggle to manage all of it, and are increasingly seeking automated, intelligence-driven solutions to ensure they can keep up with all the threats, alerts, and regulatory obligations.
 
Cybersecurity talent is expensive, hard to find, and hard to retain. Smaller businesses are competing with enterprises and government agencies, which can offer higher salaries and more interesting work.

A better way
SMBs seeking better protection and a way around prohibitive investments in infrastructure, security software, and information security hires are turning to comprehensive, best-fit solutions from managed security services providers (MSPs). MSPs with integrated security and risk management offerings can cost-effectively and safely secure physical hardware, networks, data and sensitive information.

It's a viable option for smaller businesses that have critical assets to protect — data, technology infrastructure, operations, revenue, customers, partnerships — all these require coordinated and systematic processes for governance and risk management. Also, most businesses have compliance obligations: protecting PII from credit card transactions, safekeeping PHI under HIPAA regulations, proving workplace safety measures for OSHA. Increasingly, even businesses without much regulatory burden must pass risk and security assessments in order to pass muster with clients and partners.
 
Integrate, automate, collaborate
Governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) activities are an essential component of an overall cybersecurity program, and should be tightly integrated with network and endpoint security measures. This approach, known as integrated risk management, is the most effective way to protect data and assets, enforce policy, increase risk visibility, and strengthen incident response.

MSPs that offer GRC solutions can provide SMBs with the tools and expertise required to assess cyber risks, centralize data and documentation, and map policies to controls. These platforms are cloud-based, so they don’t require upfront CapEx investment, and can scale and flex to the particular needs and business model of an individual business.

Streamlining and automating security-related workflows, systems monitoring, and remediation activities allows SMBs to make the best use of the information security tools and staff they do have, while ensuring that fewer important processes (patching, configuration, privileged access, etc.) fall through the cracks.
 
Integrated risk management and GRC solutions are designed to centralize data, tracking, and documentation. This breaks down siloed record-keeping, reduces duplicated efforts, and ensures that all data and technology assets are visible to all stakeholders. It also encourages interdepartmental collaboration and reinforces accountability.
 
MSP advantage
When SMBs subscribe to these solutions through a managed service provider, they gain access to more and better tools than they could purchase (let alone install and manage) separately. They can leverage the MSP’s network of resources and call on their dedicated experts for technical support, help with risk assessments, employee training, and GRC advice.

SMB executives can work with the MSP to ensure that individual risk areas have been thoroughly addressed — vendor, policy, incident, cybersecurity, regulatory compliance, and more.
 
As businesses of all sizes and types become increasingly reliant on data and digital processes to run their businesses, operations become more complex, more interdependent — and more vulnerable. Cybersecurity and risk management tools should no longer be considered an add-on: no one runs a legitimate business without a bank account to store, process, and protect their money. In the digital era, no one should try to run a business without services that intelligently store, process, and protect their data. 
 
Just as an astute financial advisor can be a competitive advantage, having access to an MSP’s experts and resources can help smaller businesses stay on the leading edge. Security and GRC solutions, when implemented strategically, can help SMBs build resilience, prepare for growth opportunities, and win deals. Most importantly, engaging with an MSP to implement security and risk management solutions that fit your model, budget, and capabilities is the best way to steer clear of downtime, data loss, and other disasters that could break your business.

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