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Network Challenges for Small Businesses

These days Small Businesses rely on network access for many operational services, and network access is a critical business service. As such it is important that it is protected and secured for the business specific use, rather than out of the box default configuration. In today's blog we explore some of the challenges that Small Businesses need to deal with.

This is an edited transcript from a video blog recording of Sarb Sembhi, CTO and the CISO for Virtually Informed, and his co-host Nick Ioannou, Head of IT at Ratcliffe Groves, the square brackets with the initials indicate the speaker.

Introduction to Small Business Network Challenges

[SS] Today, we're going to be looking at network challenges, what are they and ways of responding to them. We'll start from getting a network connection through to day to day challenges that Small Businesses need to think about in more detail. So, Nick's going to start us off.

Commercial or Domestic ISP?

[NI] The first thing is choosing your internet service provider or ISP. A lot of Small Businesses think, Oh, we're fine with the cheaper home option. But the truth is, the business offerings have completely different service level agreements, where they come out much faster and fix things if there's a problem.

While the price may seem similar, but with VAT added, other differences including, the speed that they will come out, the installation speeds, and the kit you get as standard will be different to the home offering which might have a completely different router and modem combination than the business version.

Yeah. I've been in situations where because I've had separate firewalls, I've had to request specific routers from the service provider in order to work with my firewall. But if I didn't have a business contract, they would have just said, No, this is all you get, you don't have a choice. You have to buy your own kit.

Another side of the which service provider to select is, to look at what happens if things go wrong. If someone does dig up the road and you lose connection, what have you got to fall back on? And that can be as simple as making sure there's enough data capacity on people's mobile phone plans or looking at like a 4G router option as an emergency alternative. That can be like the desktop ones or even the pocketable Wi-Fi routers that you can buy which are battery powered, some that even come with a network connection. So, even though they are battery powered Wi-Fi routers, they will run an entire business quite comfortably for a week.

Don't Use a Shared Network Get Your Own!

[SS]: My first point is related to your point, in some cases Small Businesses think they don't need to a use their own ISP. This happens mostly in serviced or shared offices. We always recommend, Get your own network. The importance of this is that you're responsible for your own devices and the hardware, and that you configure it for your security as opposed to the serviced office provider configuring it for open access. And often when you have got share offices, most of the configurations are not that secure, because they are configured for everyone to do anything rather than for your security; and that's how they need to be in those environments.

So, the first thing we say is, if you're in an environment where internet access is offered as part of your contract and it's free, get away from using that access as soon as possible. Make sure that when you move into the office, you have the option of getting your own networking equipment installed for yourself even if you have to pay extra for it, so that you're not using the free unsecured network everyone else in the building may be using. 

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