IT: FIRST SECURITY, THEN IMAGINATION
By JIM KENDALL
This material originally appeared as part of Jim’s Daily Herald column
Talk to Dave Davenport or Jason Burton and marvel at the ways technology will make your business more efficient, more productive, more consumer friendly – way more cool in many ways.
At the same time, however, pay attention to their concerns about protecting your IT system from the types of attacks that hit so many countries earlier this month and from issues caused by what Davenport calls “legacy” systems. (In the IT world, “legacy” is polite for old, slow, essentially obsolete and easy to attack computer systems.)
Davenport is CEO at MotherG, an Itasca-based IT managed services provider that serves businesses with 10-150 users (www.motherg.com). Burton is president of Chicago (IL) Technology Consulting, where clients are more likely to have 10 users. (email@example.com). Although I’ve divvied up their comments, both know how to protect business data – and how to take advantage of IT power that will be affordable for even the smallest companies in the next year or so.
“As I’ve said before, the (IT) threats are real because people pay the ransom demanded,” Davenport says. That’s understandable: The amount data kidnappers demand may not look so daunting when compared to the potential of never seeing your IT data again.
Yet when it’s time to spend money on security, there often is a reluctance. For example, “There’s this feeling that ‘I’m just a little accounting firm,’” Davenport says. “Or ‘I just have a little job shop in Elk Grove Village. No one will find me.’”
But the bad guys “are not shooting at specific targets,” Davenport explains. “They’re searching for system vulnerabilities.” The cyber attack earlier this month seemed to focus on Microsoft XP systems, which Microsoft hasn’t supported in several years – although the company did issue an emergency patch when the attack became known.
Writing in an early May MotherG blog, Davenport said that “Old systems harbor few mysteries for cyber criminals. Applications built on platforms dating back to the ‘90s or earlier sit around waiting for an attack with little more than a deadbolt and barking dog for protection.
“Cloud-based applications enjoy far superior security and could make the financial case to update. . .on those merits alone.”
Staff training also plays an IT security role. Davenport points out that employees need to know – and be reminded – when not to click on a message, because clicking may unleash an unpleasant series of events.
Cyber criminals, he adds “are looking for new ways to get people to click. Next time, maybe it’s your family pictures.”
Security isn’t the only issue. Davenport says websites need to be mobile-friendly so customers and prospects can find us quickly on their phones and make sense of what appears on their smaller screens.
There’s nothing wrong with a little fantasy, especially when it comes to exploring where you and your business’ IT system might go in the next 12-24 months.
First, make certain you’ve taken whatever steps you think are necessary to protect your computer system from cyber attacks. Have a real conversation with your IT people, in-house or outside.
Then peruse the increasingly affordable ideas from Jason Burton, Chicago (IL) Technology Consulting (firstname.lastname@example.org), and let them simmer. Adapt them to your business’ strengths, weaknesses and budget. Let your mind wander. Play.
Here are some Burton ideas:
* The same type of analytics that allow Amazon to offer suggestions based upon a customer’s previous visits “can trickle down to smaller sites,” Burton says. Selling clothes? A tie to go with the shirt the web visitor came to buy.
Selling ideas? Sales training to go with your suggested strategic plan.
* Make the chat box that appears on your site talk. The right combination of artificial intelligence and voice recognition technology could make your website a much friendlier place for customers by answering questions and offering suggestions.
* Considering mapping? “Tell your device you want to go to Burger King,” Burton says. “And your device responds that ‘There’s this place that’s closer with good burgers and a lower price. Shall we try it?’”
Try the idea if not the burger.
* Google ad words have been the Holy Grail for web advertisers since almost forever. “But think about product placement – your product – on YouTube,” Burton suggests.
“Program hosts are always looking for content. Think about Jason’s Tech Corner (a fictitious example). I need new content. You watch the show, think maybe your widget fits my format and you send me your product.
“There’s no guarantee (unless you talk to the program host first), but for the cost of some shipping you just may get your widget in front of thousands of potential buyers.”
Burton says viewership of the more popular YouTube programs starts about 50,000, but smaller audiences work if the viewers are your target.
* Tweak your marketing campaign. You can do this yourself, but incorporate artificial intelligence software into your plan and your email efforts become more efficient more quickly.
Burton’s thinking plays off traditional A-B testing.
Assume your email list is 15,000 names. Using adaptable artificial intelligence, your software sends 1,000 blasts, each with the same 1-2-3 product ideas, every hour. Your software notes that most recipients are clicking number 3 and rearranges the list so that 3 becomes the first choice email recipients see – because analysis indicates that item 3 is what they want.
Yep. Definitely time to play.
© 2017 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com. Listen to Jim’s Business Owners’ Pod Talk at www.kendallcom.com/podcast.