Ensure your business has what it needs to keep up with the competition

As the year comes to an end, many people are preparing for the holidays and tend to focus on looking back over the past 12 months. While this is good, the end of this year is also a great time to start planning ahead for the next, especially for businesses.

One of the most important steps every business should take in preparing for the year ahead is to perform an annual technology assessment. This annual examination of your business’s systems can address threats, data protection and security tools, and how to bounce back in the event of a cyberattack or data loss. Here’s what you need to know about technology assessments to plan ahead for the coming year.

What is a Technology Assessment?

A technology assessment is a highly-specialized review and evaluation of your network and technology systems. Technology assessments should be completed annually due to the ever-changing worlds of technology and cybersecurity. The assessment covers everything from hardware and software to backup, recovery, and a business’s overall cybersecurity. Think of it as an annual checkup for your business’s digital health to ensure cybersecurity in the workplace.

During the assessment, cybersecurity information unique to your company is examined along with the protections you have in place to secure your important business information. Personally identifiable information (PII), customer data, and industry secrets are among some of the data your business needs to protect to prevent loss of business and potential litigation.

What Does a Technology Assessment Include?

An annual technology assessment will include multiple steps from analysis of threats to your systems to ensuring you have a cybersecurity response and recovery plan in place. Here are just a few items that will be completed during your assessment:

  • Analysis of threat information from several sources across your network and the intelligence community to determine where you are most likely to be attacked.
  • Examination of information to identify vulnerabilities unique to your business and the potential they could be exploited.
  • Evaluation of security measures you currently employ and recommendations, as necessary, for additional security measures for implementation.
  • Consideration of why your business may be targeted and by whom.
  • Study of your business’s cybersecurity backup and recovery plan for ensuring a complete and quick recovery should your business experience an attack.

Why Conduct an Annual Technology Assessment?

According to a recent online article by CNBC, “43 percent of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses but only 14 percent are prepared to defend themselves.” The piece goes on to explain that these incidents now cost businesses of all sizes an average of $200,000 and that to address cyber threats, small businesses must adopt strategies for fighting them. As a matter of fact, cybercrime is quickly becoming the fastest growing form of crime in the world, according to another CNBC article.

Accenture, an innovation company supporting cybersecurity, explains that there are three steps to unlocking value in cybersecurity. The first is prioritizing protections against people-based attacks while the second is investing in limiting information loss and business disruption. Finally, businesses also need to target technologies that reduce rising costs. By taking these three steps, a business could benefit from more than $5 trillion in estimated revenue in the next five years.

What’s more, security breaches increased by 11 percent from 2018 to 2019 and a whopping 67 percent since 2014, according to Accenture. A study by IBM shows that the average time it took a business to identify a breach was 206 days. The University of Maryland reports that an attack occurs every 39 seconds for an average of 2,244 times a day. In addition to such staggering statistics, keep reading for more reasons to ensure you conduct your annual technology assessment.

Technology End of Life

One of the reasons it’s imperative for businesses to undergo an annual technology assessment is to update software and apps that may be coming to their end of life. For example, Windows 7 is reaching its end Jan. 14, 2019. Microsoft will stop providing free Windows 7 support including security updates as of that date. ORAM recommends updating to a new operating system to prevent security risks and malfunctions that could be extremely detrimental to your business. Like Windows 7, there are a plethora of other software programs and applications that achieve end of life each year so businesses should prepare accordingly and an annual technology assessment is an ideal time to do so.

In addition to software aging out, your hardware will do so as well over time. Mobile devices, laptops, desktops, scanners, printers, and other hardware only last for so long. According to Statista, the average lifespan of a desktop PC is now just 5.2 years. A mid-range laptop should last four to five years, according to TechGuided.

It is often less expensive for businesses to purchase new software and hardware than continue upgrading the old. This is due to the lower cost of migrating data and installing new technology versus upgrading old technology on each computer system and network. The cost of continuing to utilize old software and paying for regular security updates can be extremely prohibitive.

Addressing the Future

An annual technology assessment can help you develop or update a cybersecurity plan. Despite the size of your business, it should have a cybersecurity plan in place. A solid cybersecurity plan can assist you in preventing a breach in the first place but also helps you in addressing one if, and when, it occurs. Employees need to know who to contact as soon as it occurs, who should respond, and how.

A cybersecurity plan will also address backup and recovery so your business doesn’t lose out on valuable operational time. There are actually many mistakes that businesses tend to make when it comes to backup that are totally preventable. Having the right cybersecurity plan in place for your business is especially important for contractors such as those in the defense and utility industries. This is due to government regulations that typically require such industries to have a cybersecurity plan in place.

Updating Your Tools

There are certain cybersecurity tools that every business should have in place. Those include firewalls and antivirus programs. Just as your other software eventually achieves its end of life, the same is true of your firewall and antivirus programs. Cybersecurity is constantly being upgraded to match ever-evolving cyber threats.

Though your anti-virus and firewall protections may be only a year or two old, they are that far behind the cybersecurity threats being developed today. An annual technology assessment can evaluate those tools and determine if your business is in need of an updated version. A technology assessment can also help you properly budget for technology in the coming year.

When to Schedule Your Assessment

Now is the perfect time to schedule your annual technology assessment. The end of the calendar year is a great time to begin planning ahead. By scheduling your business’s technology assessment now, you can get your business off on the right foot for the coming year. If you wait until after the New Year, it may take longer to get an appointment with a third-party vendor such as ORAM since others tend to wait until January to schedule theirs.

If you have questions about annual technology assessments or would like to schedule one for your business, contact ORAM online or call ORAM Corporate Advisors now at (617) 933-5060.