Shifts in the security landscape are fundamentally changing how the small to medium enterprise approaches security, says Henk Olivier, MD, Ozone Information Technology Distribution

Did you know that Amazon’s artificial intelligence (AI) powered Alexa told just over 100 million jokes in 2018? She also learned 70,000 new skills, used algorithms and intelligence to learn how to make suggestions that changed how people lived their lives, and become increasingly personal and conversational. These are the statistics released by Amazon in 2018 and they are more than just a remarkable list of impressive achievements, they are also a reminder that data is inexorable and endlessly useful. And that data security is critical.

Of course, data isn’t the only thing that the small to medium enterprise (SME) needs to secure in 2019, but it is one of the golden threads that can’t be tugged by cybercrime. For the average SME, a breach or a hack results in such severe loss of reputation and business that often they never recover. This isn’t something that happens to the other guy. From now on, everybody is the other guy.

Of course, there have been some significant shifts in the security industry over the past few years. Not only have solutions become increasingly accessible, but the as-a-Service trend (more like a phenomenon) has opened the doors for the SME to use enterprise-level technology at the SME-level price tag. It has also seen most SMEs recognise that security has become so high-end and specialised that it is potentially too complex to manage in-house anymore. Fortunately, the Security-as-a-Service has meant that they don’t need to.

This trend is as much a solution as an opportunity for the SME. Entrepreneurs can invest into security solutions and provide these as managed services to enterprises of all sizes. The market is certainly ripe for the plucking. In South Africa, the market is very receptive to cloud-based, managed security solutions as they take the pressure off and deliver comprehensive security control. In addition, there are more and more vendors investing a lot of research and development into these solutions. Capabilities are expanding and accessibility models changing. Many security vendors are now looking at subscription-based licensing models as they’re cost-effective for the business and vendor retention is longer.

While the market is currently not as proactive as it once was, it is changing. One of the biggest challenges for businesses using cloud-based security offerings is to manage pricing and billing. Many of the subscription-based models use foreign currency which will see currency fluctuations impact on billing. That said, the market is adapting and, ultimately, most SMEs would rather pay a variable amount than face the fines that come with breach of compliance around POPIA and GDPR. There are still companies that aren’t taking the situation seriously enough, but that will soon change.

Ultimately, the shifts in security solution, service offering and provision model are providing the South African SME with not only peace of mind and lighter budget impact, but an opportunity to expand their service offering and grow new revenue models in a market in dire need of compliance.