Securing the Hybrid Workforce: Can UK SMBs Kickstart Modernization with Limited Budgets?

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A spate of Covid-19-related lockdowns in the UK between 2020 and 2021 forced many small businesses to implement remote work strategies with little time to plan. Hybrid work models gained prominence as social distancing requirements eased and employees recognized the value of this new way of work for them. For workers, hybrid work introduced greater work-life balance and improved well-being. For SMBs, however, it meant a total reevaluation and reinvention of their technology infrastructure to accommodate new hybrid architectures. The challenge remains on how to optimise the productivity of today’s hybrid workforce while still achieving long business goals at the same time.

Hybrid work is not transitory

As companies of every size chose the new remote work paradigm to ensure the safety of their workforce during the pandemic, many saw the new paradigm as a temporary measure. A recent study conducted by Aberdeen Strategy & ResearchOpens a new window proves otherwise. The study involved 301 IT and business decision-makers at UK-based SMBs with less than a hundred employees. These organizations were categorized into smaller SMBs (1-9 employees), mid-size SMBs (10-49 employees) and larger SMBs (50-99 employees). For smaller SMBs, remote work was an all-or-nothing strategy, as 41% of them said that all employees have the option to work remotely, while 35% said that they did not offer remote work options at all anymore. Larger SMBs, however, found more middle ground on this issue:

  • Only 6% of larger SMBs offered remote work to everyone, and 9% offered no options
  • Nearly one in four offered remote work to at least 50% of their employees, while 35% offered remote work to less than half.
  • 20% offered remote work to fewer than 25% of workers.

While the percentage of employees that can work remotely varies according to the organisation’s size, one fact remains. Barely a third of SMBs that participated in the study plan on a full return to the office. For two out of three SMBs, hybrid work is here to stay, meaning that the challenges it creates are lasting and must be addressed.

Security is the greatest concern

Aberdeen Study asked IT and business decision-makers at UK SMBs to list the top challenges for supporting and securing a remote workforce. As expected, these included concerns over supporting video conferencing, greater strain on help desks, inadequate backup and recovery systems as well as VPN and MFA system implementations. However, these were at the bottom of the list. Four out of the top five concerns shared by the decision-makers were as below: 

  • Keeping up with new threats and tactics (30%)
  • Lack of security awareness among remote workforce (26%)
  • Difficulty tracking and managing assets on the cloud (25%)
  • Concern over physical security with so many distributed assets (24%)
  • Complications with unsecured wireless connections (24%)

SMB decision-makers expressed great concern over increasing attack surfaces and increased susceptibility to phishing attacks. At least 21% of all SMBs witnessed a lack of security awareness amongst their remote workforces. One in four survey participants also worried about the physical security of many distributed assets. Overall, larger SMBs expressed greater security concerns than those with fewer than ten employees.

How a Best-in-Class Infrastructure Solutions Provider Helps SMBs Address Key Security Concerns

It is evident that SMBs in the UK today recognize the challenges of accommodating the new hybrid workforce from a technology perspective. While SMBs may have greater agility than larger companies with multiple personnel layers and infrastructure investments that aren’t fully depreciated, their smaller size can also prove restrictive. They typically lack the knowledge base or experienced personnel to evaluate or implement modern technologies rigorously. For instance, limited expertise was the second-most pressing challenge voiced by SMBs concerning cloud migrations.

According to the study, one in five SMBs struggle with understanding the scope and complexity of requirements. They lack the understanding of emerging technologies and the expertise to implement them.

So where do they go to learn more available solution alternatives? According to the study:

  • More than 40% of SMBs rely on web research that includes tech company web
  • 26% utilize product review sites
  • 24% take advantage of training and educational channels
  • Nearly one in four refer to industry publications
  • 23% visit industry events and trade shows

Best-in-class infrastructure solution providers typically offer support services and solutions today, and many of these target SMBs. While these offerings potentially provide immense value to the end customer, at least 22% of SMBs are unaware that vendors offer services that can assist them in migrating to modernized technology solutions. The challenge then becomes how to match these vendor services with the emerging needs of SMBs.

SMBs are sensitive to cost structures

Let us face it. Costs always come into play for every company, regardless of size. But for SMBs, costs not only play a determining factor when seeking new modernized technology options but can also be prohibitive. While upfront cost was the #1 factor when evaluating new solutions and new providers, it played a greater role for smaller SMBs with ten employees or fewer (47% vs. 23% for larger SMBs). The pattern was similar for ongoing cost, the second-most important factor. In terms of deployment cost, the trend reversed as deployment cost was a concern for 19% of smaller SMBs, 26% for midsize and 24% for larger SMBs. SMBs need solutions that have predictable pricing models that require little upfront capital.

The good news

While SMBs may not be aware of their available options today, there are providers of best-in-class IT infrastructure solutions, such as Dell Technologies UK, that can help kickstart the modernisation processes that SMBs need to succeed in today’s environment. Dell is focusing on the challenges of SMBs by offering much-needed industry expertise in key technologies and competitive pricing suited for the SMB budget. Dell UK is transforming the way SMBs gain access to the right technologies they need to achieve their business strategies.

It starts with the right PC

Hybrid workers need a single computer that provides complete functionality whether they come into the office for a day or operate from a remote workspace. Dell UK’s PC as a ServiceOpens a new window (PCaaS) solution helps SMBs ensure that every employee has a modernized user experience no matter where they are located. This is not about purchasing PCs alone. Dell UK’s PCaaS solution includes a whole gamut of services that cover the complete lifecycle of every unit. That includes deployment, support, managed services, asset recovery, security management and retirement. With no upfront investment required, SMBs can onboard fully pre-configured PCs that are secured and supported for one monthly price. This alleviates the burden of ownership for SMBs, allowing them to have a predictable pricing model that frees up capital.

Tackling endpoint security threats

Hybrid work architectures create security gaps that SMBs must deal with. The Dell SafeGuard and ResponseOpens a new window portfolio is designed to address these gaps. This innovative suite of endpoint security solutions alleviates the pain points that remote work strategies create. It also employs behaviour-based threat detection that extends below the OS layer into the BIOS itself. It leverages the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect and block endpoint attacks and remediate identified threats, allowing remote users to work safely, smartly, and collaboratively with their teams, customers, and vendors.

Dell further emphasizes data and user credential security with Dell SafeID with Dell ControlVaultOpens a new window . This proprietary hardware-based solution secures user credentials and passwords in a dedicated security chip where it can’t be accessed by intruders or malicious code. By storing and processing highly-sensitive data separately from the operating system environment and memory, SMBs can secure data and ensure compliance regardless of where users work.

Financial services

Dell UK is sensitive to the cost anxieties and challenges expressed by SMBs. The Dell Financial Services portfolio includes small business payment solutionsOpens a new window that help SMBs preserve their credit lines for their core business investments. This gives SMBs access to the modernized technology solutions they desperately need to keep up with their larger competitors. 

Conclusion

Adopting modernized technology platforms is essential for all businesses to survive in today’s competitive business landscape. A leading infrastructure solutions provider like Dell UK makes them attainable for SMBs by offering deep industry expertise and cost-effective solutions. Take a closer look at Dell’s security solutions for small businesses hereOpens a new window , or connect with a Dell Technologies advisorOpens a new window .

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