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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

SMB and Midmarket mobility security risk sources

Techaisle’s global SMB survey shows that mobility security is the 2nd top IT challenge for small businesses and 4th top IT challenge for midmarket businesses. To delve deeper, during the course of the Techaisle SMB 2015 Mobility Adoption & Trends survey, respondents were asked “When it comes to security risk in the mobile computing context, which of the following represents a source of exposure or uncertainty within your organization?” To a surprisingly high degree of candidness SMB concerns with mobility security revolved around users. As figure below demonstrates, SMB IT respondents ranked three user-attributable issues

  1. User neglect/irresponsibility,
  2. Lack of user knowledge/awareness, and
  3. User mishap

amongst their top five concerns, trailing only “general malware infection” as a mobility security threat. Data is where the user is and to say that the enemy is inside the tent would be an understatement.

SMBs recognize the exposure and vulnerability but Techaisle survey shows that only 16% of SMBs worldwide are fully prepared to handle mobility security challenges. Data also shows that like manageability, security is an important constraint on mobility adoption within the SMB market. Most MSPs, channel partners and suppliers continue to focus on BDR and/or anti-malware security as they are easy to offer and deploy but they represent a very narrow approach to larger security issues within SMBs.

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SMB & Midmarket IT challenges in supporting mobile workforce

If the “office” is defined by devices then “workplace” is defined by the ability to work from wherever those devices (and their users) are located. In this vein, “work” typically includes a requirement to access corporate data with mobile devices.

Data from the Techaisle 2015 SMB Mobility Adoption and Trends survey finds that more than 80% of small business employees and 55% of workers in midmarket firms require mobile access to company data. Providing this access and the applications, devices and solutions represents an enormous investment for SMBs that are typically very conservative in their IT budget allocations.

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By more than a 2:1 ratio, SMB respondents believe that mobility is a means of driving growth in the business. But mobility does not deliver business benefits painlessly. The introduction of mobility solutions has created new issues for IT management, and suppliers who can help to address these issues will gain favor in this community.

Addressing the needs of the “dual mode” user is a non-trivial issue. In the Techaisle survey, both small and midmarket firms report that users access a combination of business and personal resources via their business-connected (both corporate-owned and BYOD) mobile devices. This reinforces the importance of some of the solutions being currently used or planning to be used by SMBs. These are solutions that help manage mobile devices that deliver access to corporate information without downloading data and applications themselves (such as thin clients and Windows-as-a-Service) and methods of securing data when it is exchanged between mobile devices and external users and where users themselves move seamlessly between corporate and personal usage modes on devices that are connected to corporate networks.

Mobile devices are an essential component of mobility but mobility itself extends beyond hardware to applications, solutions and work habits. Techaisle’s 2015 SMB Mobility Adoption Trends research shows that the “dual mode” SMB user represents a specific problem for SMB IT staff and the challenges of supporting a mobile workforce go well beyond the device.

techaisle-top-5-smb-challenges-supporting-mobile-workforce-resized

Small and midsized businesses have different challenges in supporting the mobile workforce

Looking first at the small businesses, we see that managing TCO – which includes, in addition to typical IT expenses, service charges that are unique to mobile devices – is rated as the most significant challenge by small business respondents. These firms also struggle with the “on ramps” to mobility: finding appropriate suppliers and solutions and integrating multiple screens are also ranked in the top five challenges encountered by 1-99 employee firms in support of the mobile workforce.

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Midmarket firms also count TCO as their most significant challenge. Rather than struggling with mobility on ramps, though, midmarket firms are more concerned with security/data protection and mobile management. Network security, protecting corporate data on mobile devices and managing these devices are all top-five mobility challenges for midmarket IT – and further evidence of why mobility solutions addressing these issues are essential to this community.

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SMB Mobility Security preparedness and threat sources

Techaisle’s recently completely study US SMB Mobility Solutions Adoption Trends shows that SMBs are more optimistic than they ought to be about their current mobility security profiles, but even so, less than 20% of US SMBs believe that they are “fully prepared” today. Like manageability, security is an important constraint on mobility adoption within the SMB market. Suppliers need to help SMB clients to establish frameworks that protect against both external and employee threats to information security.

In many ways, it is difficult or impossible to isolate security as an issue in mobility. Security is intrinsic to the devices, applications and solutions used by SMB firms that have adopted mobility, and security is an essential factor in supporting the mobile workforce. Techaisle wants to highlight two findings from the US SMB 2015 mobility survey that are specific to security, and which are important to understanding and supporting the SMB mobility market.

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Current mobility security posture within SMBs
The first of these data points concerns the current mobility security posture within US SMBs. As the data shows, SMBs are cognizant of the challenges associated with securing mobility-dependent workspaces and work patterns. Fully 45% believe that they are “as prepared as we can be,” but acknowledge that “requirements will change.” Nearly 20% state that they are “partially prepared” but have “known gaps and shortfalls,” and other 5% confess to being “not very well prepared.” In reality, it is likely that “partially prepared” describes a much greater swath of the SMB market than these figures suggest: requirements do indeed change continuously, and even firms that are confident that they are “fully prepared” (19%) may find that the threat landscape is more extensive and pernicious than they had imagined. Techaisle is aware that it is hard for suppliers to persuade potential customers that they “ought to want to” be more proactive with security – but with increasing frequency and severity of breaches and attacks, and the exposure that mobility’s flexible perimeter incurs, it is important for suppliers to position their solutions against the reality of the threat landscape rather than the SMB perception of exposure and preparedness.

SMB perception of mobile threat sources: the enemy is inside the tent
Second data point has to do with mobile threat sources. Techaisle survey data shows that the enemy is inside the tent. During the course of the Techaisle SMB 2015 survey, respondents were asked “When it comes to security risk in the mobile computing context, which of the following represents a source of exposure or uncertainty within your organization?” To a (surprisingly) high degree, SMB concerns with mobility security revolve around users. SMB IT respondents ranked three user-attributable issues – user neglect/irresponsibility, lack of user knowledge and awareness, and user mishap/thoughtlessness – amongst their top four concerns, trailing only “general malware infection” as a mobility security threat.

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Increasing role of BDMs in SMB Cloud and Mobility Security Management

Techaisle’s recently completed study on SMB IT Decision Making Authority: ITDM vs. BDM, examining the balance in SMB IT decision making authority between IT decision makers (ITDMs) and business decision makers (BDMs)  shows that BDMs are becoming increasingly involved in SMB cloud and security management processes. In 76 percent of SMBs BDMs have active roles in cloud security and in a whopping 87 percent of SMBs they are active in mobility security management.

Techaisle’s SMB IT Decision Making Authority: ITDM vs. BDM report provides data to substantiate a common theme: business management is taking a more active role in IT acquisition, deployment and management. This is especially true in cloud and mobility as BDMs are able to directly procure systems that support their business needs (such as CRM systems used by sales management) – avoiding IT’s processes and timeframe for deployment, and in some cases, avoiding input from IT altogether.

When we speak to ITDMs or IT suppliers who work with IT managers we are often exposed to the counter-argument against this newfound BDM freedom: that without effective IT oversight, cloud systems can become disconnected from the corporate IT infrastructure, creating silos of data, and potentially, security, audit, compliance and privacy risks.

To obtain insight into this issue, Techaisle asked survey respondents to identify who (by area of responsibility) has primary responsibility in each of 10 cloud security areas and 12 mobility security areas. Looking across both groups, we see at a glance that in both the small and mid-sized businesses business management is viewed as a source of access policy but the management of the security process is largely the preserve of IT.

Comparing Cloud and Mobility Security Management

The study shows that there are three key players in managing cloud and mobility security within SMB organizations – Business Management, IT Management and Service Providers. Business management involvement is higher than IT management in mobility security, 87 percent vs. 68 percent. Drilling down into the data we find that SMB BDMs take an active role in five out of twelve mobility security areas and have primary responsibility in seven security areas.

On the other hand, SMB BDM involvement in cloud security management is 76 percent which is almost same as ITDM at 78 percent. But unlike mobility security management, BDMs are actively involved in three cloud security areas and have primary responsibility in only one security area.

Within the mid-market businesses, IT management has a higher percent of involvement than business management for both mobility and cloud security administration. ITDMs actively participate in five of twelve mobility security areas and five of ten cloud security areas.

The above data does not imply that BDMs and ITDMs are not involved in all security management areas; in fact, they are but the roles and responsibilities shuttle between the two principle SMB custodians.

Comparing Small and Mid-market Businesses for Cloud security management

Drilling down into the cloud security management process only, the data reveals that BDMs are responsible for setting access policy in over 60 percent of cases – but all other steps in the process are primarily the responsibility of IT but with involvement from BDMs, from user authentication to ensuring consistency with audit, regulatory and compliance requirements and to ensuring that backup is regular, effective and testing.

When we turn our attention to the mid-market businesses, the first finding that leaps out at us is the more prominent role played by business management. In nine of the ten cloud security activities covered in the survey, medium business respondents report more non-IT management involvement than their small business peers – and in one step in the cloud security process (ensuring consistency with audit, regulatory and compliance requirements) medium business BDMs have similar level of responsibility as ITDMs.

Role of Service Provider in Securing SMB Cloud and Mobility solution deployments

Survey data presents a very interesting dichotomy about the role of service providers in securing SMB cloud and mobility solution deployments. Service providers are involved in 47 percent of SMBs for cloud security which is 35 percent higher than their involvement in mobility security. But for mid-market businesses they are 50 percent more involved in mobility security than cloud security. Out of the twelve areas, key roles played by service providers for mobility security are “Authenticating user identities” and “Deploying and updating malware and other security technologies on corporate-owned endpoint devices”. Within the ten different cloud security areas, service providers are most involved in “Safeguarding against unauthorized access” and “Authenticating user identities”.

It is interesting to note that both small and mid-sized businesses rely on cloud suppliers through the security process – interesting primarily because (as the saying goes) “you can’t outsource responsibility”. SMBs are free to rely on cloud suppliers for assistance through the cloud security process, but if/where there are breaches or other issues, the responsibility still rests with the business, not with the supplier. Techaisle believes that the proportion of SMBs –both small and medium businesses – who report that their cloud suppliers have responsibility for one or more cloud security activities should take a closer look at whether and how they might separate responsibility (which is a management requirement) from delivery (which may well be best outsourced to a cloud vendor). Here again, SMBs require guidance from security specialists to align practices with requirements.

Details about the report can be found here

Related research:

2014 SMB & Mid-Market Cloud Computing Adoption Trends

2014 SMB & Mid-Market Mobility Solutions Adoption & Trends

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