The internet is an incredible and incomparable business resource. It is so easy to use and seemingly so ubiquitous that is is a great way to reach potential customers. These assertions are backed up by facts. For instance, the global e-commerce market is now worth an estimated $22 trillion. The m-commerce market (which refers to purchases conducted on customers’ mobile devices) is expected to be worth over $467 billion by 2019. If your business does not have a website or an online presence at all, you will not make a single cent of that potential revenue. The shocking thing is that as of last year, 46% of small businesses did not have a website. Of the 56% that did, 23% were not mobile friendly, and 9% had unknown mobile capabilities. Every part of your business will necessarily be an investment. Whenever you spend any money at all, it should be with the hope and expectation that it will show a return in your profits. Getting a website may be the best investment that you could make if you do not already have one. If you sell services, your website will be a permanently reachable advertisement for your business that people can access all over the world. If you sell products, there is no better way to reach lots of people and dramatically expand the scope of your business.
However, the internet is not just a corporate utopia. It can be a threat to your business, and unless you adequately protect yourself, you could end up losing money. The risk of a cyber attack is real. In the UK in 2016 alone, half of all businesses were subject to an attack. This is serious because many businesses now rely, perhaps to too great a degree, on the internet and computers. If your infrastructure is compromised, you may have to stop trading completely until it is fixed. This not only costs you money in lost productivity, it is a threat because it can shut down your business. A study in America found that 60% of small businesses that are hit with a cyber attack are out of business within six months. Part of the reason for this is that a lot of businesses are now overly dependent on computers. Company culture is important in this instance. If you run your own business and you notice that one of your employees is sending an email to someone in the same room as them, or in another part of the building, you may have a problem. They may claim that it is easier, but with office workers now receiving an average of 121 emails a day, the novelty of actually speaking to your colleagues may just improve morale. Besides, if a company becomes too reliant on sending information digitally, it will be unprepared in the event that that resource is no longer available.
Besides, the cumulative effect of using a computer can be draining for a lot of people. Not only is staring at a computer all day not good for a person’s eyes, it can be psychologically exhausting too. A lot of people use their email account for work all the time. It has become a major way in which people communicate. However, the anxiety of constantly checking it can be too much. This is why the French government introduced a law last year which came into effect on January 1st this year which gives French workers the ‘right to disconnect’. You may think that checking your email is not be that bad, and that being protected from having to do it outside of work hours is a silly overreaction, but if you want your employees to be as productive as possible, you need to make sure that they are happy. A study has found that workers who are happy are 12% more productive. You should, therefore, try to make sure that your employees are not bombarded with unnecessary information when they do not need to be. One of the ways of doing this is by getting help combating spam. If you streamline your employees’ work so that they can better concentrate and not be distracted as much, they will be more content, which is good for you. One of the other things that contributes to work satisfaction is being able to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Being constantly switched on at all hours of the day so that you can respond to the demands of your job is a great way to be burnt out pretty quickly. As an employer, it is not in your best interests for your workers to be thinking about the job all the time. They need to be able to relax so that they can come back the next day better prepared and fresh.
However, there are more malicious threats to your business besides your employees being exhausted. Cyber-attacks that target your hard drives in search of your customers’ sensitive personal and financial information can quickly exhaust the patience and trust of your clients. The number of major companies that have lost their customers’ data is astounding. You may not have heard about all of them, but they are all serious. Breaches at companies like Ashley Madison made the news because that information was private in so far as releasing it could feasibly end a lot of marriages, but the risk of identity fraud is quite pervasive too. A survey conducted in the UK found that 51% of people had been subject to identity theft, hacking, or abuse on social media and that it cost a collective £670 million (or about $854 million) each year. If your company is responsible for allowing these sorts of things to happen, it will severely damage your reputation. If a customer has to go through the trouble of contacting their bank and proving that they are not the one spending their own money, they will not trust you with their financial information again. Protecting yourself is not simple or cheap, but it is worth it. Looking into encrypting your databases is a good idea. Attacking a website is not altogether dissimilar to stealing a car. If a thief is standing in a parking lot and needs to choose a car to steal, they are going to pick the one with the most value and therefore the greatest return, but they are also going to try to take the one that will present the fewest problems. If your website has more security compared with other sites, the chances are that those which are easier to hack will be targeted more often. Deterrence is obviously pretty useful.
If you invest in lots of cyber security software and other protective measures though, you will not always guarantee that you will not be attacked. In fact, you may find that your website is pretty hard to crack, but that it is still quite vulnerable. The reason for this is that if your employees are not cognizant about the threats that are out there, they may inadvertently invite a threat. For instance, the recent Ransomware attack that struck 99 countries around the world (including major civil government programs like the NHS in the UK) was probably spread in Word documents and PDFs attached to emails. If your employees are not able to spot a malicious email from a benign one, the chances of your computer system being compromised go up. Spending time and money educating your workers on the potential dangers is another investment, but it is an important one because it could save you lots of money in the long run. Besides, some Ransomware attacks include a timer which stipulates that when it reaches zero, it will destroy your affected data and information. If your hard drives are wiped in this way, you could lose lots of the work that your company does, as well as all of your financial records and tax documents. When protecting yourself is as simple as hosting an employee training day, it suddenly starts to seem more reasonable.
Finally, another threat that could manifest itself inside your business comes in the form of a type of hacking that preys on the tendency of people to offer up sensitive information when they believe that they are providing it to a reliable and secure source. Social engineering is becoming more prevalent. An example might be someone getting one of your publicly listed phone numbers and calling one of your employees. If the hacker poses as someone from your company’s bank, your employee may be tricked into giving up confidential information such as your account numbers. Once they have this, they can obviously try to compromise the security of your business assets. However, they may also pose to be from a security company and ask for passwords. Protecting yourself in this instance once again involves educating your employees. They should understand that they should never give any kind of information over the phone or in an email. If you make the decision to conduct all of your business by going to your local bank branch and speaking to someone, you can reduce the chance of being compromised in this way.