You can ask other business executives to what they attribute their success and likely receive a myriad of responses ranging from strategic planning to operations and people. While there’s no right or wrong answer, budget allocation is one of the more critical components for a strong and successful company, especially for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs).

In order to operate effectively, SMBs need to invest wisely. However, until recently, an area that has long been overlooked is IT and security. As cyberattacks continue to rise, causing reputational and bottom line damage, businesses of all sizes are taking note and beginning to prioritize IT and security when budgeting.

How Companies Prioritize IT & Security

As companies become more connected with their customers and rely on data to expand business, it makes sense to allocate proper funding to secure this valuable information. However, a recent survey from Tech Pro Research showed that 61% of SMBs allocate less than 10% of overall budget to IT. Although this number seems low, every organization and its needs are different. While sales and marketing are essential functions of a business and understandably receive a decent portion of the overall budget, you can’t build an empire on a foundation of sand. Solid IT fundamentals and security practices will set your business up for continual growth.

Despite the almost alarming number of organizations not prioritizing IT spending, a new and positive trend toward increasing IT and security budgets has come to fruition this year. With breaches making front page headlines, it’s no surprise recent data indicates a greater focus on IT for SMBs in 2018. The aforementioned survey notes that 53% of respondents said security will be a top-priority in 2018 budgets.

Additionally, prospects we speak with are becoming more technology savvy, which is reflected in the survey results. Respondents reported their companies are also prioritizing spending on hardware and software, as well as cloud services. With today’s fast paced business world, it’s essential for owners to invest in and be more aware of technology advancements in cloud, new business-enabling software and other new trends to compete.

Security as a Business Driver

SMBs are uniquely susceptible to business-ending data breaches, often lacking capital resources to react to and endure a cyberattack. What most don’t realize is that many large-scale data breaches are actually the result of SMBs being targeted and hacked, ultimately leading threat actors to a goldmine.

Instances such as that one and many others are what make SMBs an attractive target for cybercriminals – they are a gateway to enterprises. Because of this, many larger companies are demanding SMBs complete lengthy questionnaires and have a substantial security program in place prior to becoming business partners.

Unlike larger enterprises, however, many SMBs don’t have the customer loyalty, reputation or funding to absorb the ramifications of a cyberattack and return to business as usual. There’s much more riding on SMBs to implement adequate security measures than protecting customer data – one breach can ultimately bring down the entire company. Implementing and investing in security controls is a requirement for SMBs to maintain operations.

Developing A Security-First Mindset

As executives build out company budgets, how do they know the best IT and security investments for their companies? Every organization is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but IT and business leaders should consider the following:

Pay for a risk assessment

  • It’s impossible to fix something if you don’t know it’s there. Bring in an outside consulting firm that specializes in security to evaluate your processes and current security standing. You’ll be able to make informed decisions on the proper tools, people and technologies that you need to implement an effective security posture. Without this type of assessment, you will be guessing and potentially wasting thousands of dollars on the latest and greatest tool when it has no value for your particular situation.

Evaluate a managed service provider (MSP) or Security-as-a-Service (SECaaS)

  • If you are going to build your own environment in a public cloud or host your information that is publicly accessible to the internet, evaluate a security service such as an MSP or SECaaS provider that can deliver value beyond just the tool itself. A specialized MSP can monitor and manage your environment, and a SECaaS provider allows you to leverage expertise that is out of reach for most SMBs.

Attend cybersecurity meetups in your area

  • I’ve found that security professionals are extremely welcoming and enjoy sharing their knowledge – and there’s a wealth of it being exchanged on a weekly basis. Best of all, this is a no cost activity that could pay dividends by learning some of the strategies you can use to protect your business.

While certainly every department within an organization plays an integral role in operations, IT and security are continuing to grow as a business driver and should be considered a priority in overall spending. As IT systems become more sophisticated, so do the potentially business-ending threats facing them, which is why now is the time to allocate additional resources to protect your company.