This doesn't necessarily mean overall IT budgets will increase, so businesses will naturally look to the most cost-effective routes to address their security concerns, which is why we expect to see an increase in the adoption of cloud services such as Office 365.
Ultimately, it all comes down to money. Even if IT budgets increase this year, most SMEs can't afford to focus all their resources on cyber-security. The IT team needs their budget to “keep the lights on” and introduce new and innovative solutions to the organisation, as well as protect against cyber-threats. Organised hacking groups make careers out of orchestrating malicious attacks – they will always have more time, money and resources for attacks than an IT manager will have for defence.
Rather than worrying about safeguarding multiple systems within your environment, it's far easier for the IT team to offload that burden to a cloud service provider. For this reason, Office 365 is expected to see significant growth in 2016. To begin with, Microsoft has made the process of setting it up very slick and intuitive. It's a good option for small businesses because it's so simple to use. You don't need particularly advanced IT skills to set it up and in many ways it takes the headache out of security because you know Microsoft has a vested interest in protecting your data. The damage to its reputation would be huge if it were to suffer a breach, after all.
Cloud-based services can obviously never be 100 percent secure, but what they can provide is the peace of mind needed that a team of skilled security specialists are working to eliminate threats. You're not just offloading all responsibility to the service provider, however. You are ultimately still responsible for the data and its security – but as an SME, by working with an expert you'll have much greater security processes in place than you could achieve in-house.
Despite the benefits, it can still be scary for organisations taking the first step into cloud services. There is still work to be done in making them more accessible for first time users. While we're used to the intuitive nature of Office 365, other more complex platforms often take time to become familiar with. They still require a “hold your hand” approach to set up which needs to be simplified in order to facilitate more widespread adoption. The other option is to use a service provider that can manage that process for you.
2016 looks to be the year that cyber-security is taken seriously not just by the IT department - who have been aware of the threats for years - but by the rest of the organisation who are becoming more conscious of the dangers. A greater focus on cyber-security, from the board level down, is going to be an essential part of organisations' strategies for 2016.
Perhaps the ‘silver lining' to the UK's growing business-wide security concerns, is the ease with which SMEs can implement cloud services or offload cyber-security pressures to service providers to protect against them. That way, more time can be spent by the in-house IT team on adding value to the organisation and increasing cyber-security awareness of employees.
Contributed by Oscar Arean, technical operations manager, Databarracks