Overcoming the Biggest Security Challenges Facing SMEs

All businesses face security risks when it comes to networking, the Internet, and the cloud. However, small and medium enterprises often face bigger risks than their larger counterparts do. This is largely a resource issue — most SMEs simply do not have the money or the staff to employ the same advanced security measures as large companies.

However, security challenges aren’t necessarily insurmountable. The first step, though, is identifying the biggest risks.

photo credit: Brian Klug / Flickr

Identifying risks

1. Cloud Security

Cloud technology is very attractive to SMEs, largely because of the advantages it offers in terms of scalability, flexibility, and access. However, despite major advances in security, there are still questions about how secure the cloud really is, especially in terms of who is responsible for security. Cloud services can be vulnerable to problems with encryption, data loss, data breaches, malware, and other problems — and may not even realize all of the possible dangers, never mind be able to protect against them. Cloud security has come a long way in recent years, and it’s more secure than ever, but there are still issues that SME’s need to take into account.

2. Internet of Things

The Internet of Things has undeniably made it easier and more convenient to live a busy life on the go, and improve processes and productivity. However, using Internet-connected devices in the office, including equipment like copiers and thermostats, creates the possibility of new points of entry for hackers. SMEs must learn to set their IoT devices up correctly in order to ensure that they are secure, but that often doesn’t happen because the user of the device is unaware of the risks.


Following up on the discussion of the Internet of Things, the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend presents a significant security challenge to many SMEs. There are undeniable benefits to allowing employees to use their own mobile devices for work, most notably reduced costs and improved productivity, but some of the potential security risks can quickly negate those benefits. Employees using their own devices may do things that put their employers at risk, such as using unsecured networks to access work. And of course, lost or stolen devices are always a concern; in fact, several recent major breaches were the result of employee computers falling into the wrong hands.

4. Regulation Compliance

Many small businesses are bound by industry and federal compliance regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) and HIPAA. These regulations are designed to protect consumer privacy, and come with stringent rules and processes related to security. However, proving compliance is often cumbersome for SMEs, and meeting all of the dictates uses a great deal of resources.

5. Employee Education

Almost everyone knows about the potential for data breaches and other security problems, but that knowledge hasn’t done much to change employee behavior. One of the greatest risks to security in any enterprise, regardless of size, is employee behavior. Every day, employees fall victim to phishing scams, fail to properly secure their computers, download potentially harmful applications, and engage in a number of other behaviors that put their employers at risk.

Cloud security

Mitigating the Risks

With so many security challenges, it might be tempting for an SME to go back to paper and forgo networks altogether. That’s clearly not practical, but even small businesses reduce risk by:

  • Employing cloud security solutions. Instead of relying entirely on cloud service providers to handle security, implement your own solutions for shared responsibility. An advanced security solution will not only protect your business from risk, but also help ensure compliance with industry and governmental compliance regulations.
  • Considering a data center. Colocating in a data center allows SMEs to take advantage of higher levels of security, both physical and network. Any data centers provide security measures that meet or exceed compliance regulations as well, allowing businesses to feel more confident in their regulatory compliance efforts.
  • Improving mobile device management. BYOD can work, but only if you protect your interests. Employ a mobile device management solution, or at the very least, insist upon antivirus software on mobile devices and have a plan in place to wipe or lock devices that are lost or stolen.
  • Improving education. Educating employees about security risks requires more than just a policy statement or a presentation during a staff meeting. It needs to be meaningful and ongoing, with regular tests and updates. When you make security a priority, and include the staff, they will make it a priority as well.

Overcoming security challenges requires first identifying those that most affect your businesses and then looking for solutions to mitigate them. The worst thing to do is nothing, though, so look closely at your business’s security efforts, and make changes where necessary to protect your business and your customers.