2015 is barely a few weeks old yet already the news headlines have been buzzing with data breach stories affecting companies of all sizes. Sadly there’s no sign of cyber criminal activity abating. The potential rewards far outweigh the risks. These risks are set to grow as the IT industry prepares for the arrival of the Internet of Things as the next big technology trend. Businesses are responding enthusiastically with plans to use it to make more money while simultaneously recognising the need for extra security.

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What makes the Internet of Things (IoT) so exciting is its potential to change the business world beyond all recognition. It will inflict seismic changes on many of the traditional business models we accept as normal today – much as when downloads first disrupted the music industry. Suddenly companies of all sizes, from major manufacturers to small-and medium-sized IT services providers, will gain new revenue streams from managing, servicing and securing their customers’ equipment remotely. In a recent worldwide study, AVG spoke with more than 1500 small businesses across the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Germany and asked them what they thought of the Internet of Things in respect of their readiness to invest, their plans for new products and services, and the attendant security ramifications.

New business opportunities

Nearly half (46%) of all respondents are planning to expand their product or services portfolio a lot because of the Internet of Things. The reason for this is that more and more devices with built-in sensors are being connected to the Internet. And thanks to cloud services that can remotely monitor these devices, small businesses no longer have to make a large up-front investment before reaping the efficiency, productivity and cost benefits that can arise from interpreting the data from Internet-connected things. Britain and Canada are leading the way with 63% of their small businesses intending to expand their product or services portfolio significantly or a lot, compared with just 33% in the US.

Small businesses are equally confident that the Internet of Things will help them to make more money. Around two-thirds (66%) of British small businesses believe it will, compared with just 49% of Americans and an international average of 57%.

Budgets confirmed

Just how much small business is looking forward to exploiting the potential of the Internet of Things is indicated by their willingness to invest in it. In our survey, around three-fifths of small business respondents (62%) confirmed their organization has specifically assigned budget over the next 12 months for the development of Internet of Things solutions, including 49% who have assigned a moderate or substantial budget.

Once again, the British and Canadians are the most upbeat. Asked if they had substantial or moderate budgets for developing Internet of Things solutions over the next 12 months, 65% of UK and 64% of Canadian small businesses say they have, compared with just 34% of Americans and an international average of 49%.

Security concerns

The comparative reticence of the US can perhaps be explained by their security concerns. Three-quarters (75%) of American small businesses believe they will need to take extra steps to secure and protect data – the largest proportion of any country surveyed. They are right to be cautious. Many connected devices use the Linux operating system which has its own set of vulnerabilities as highlighted by the recent Shellshock­ event.

Interestingly, it was not just security fears over static devices that troubled small business. The hidden cost of mobile devices (including security, recovery of lost devices/data) was also a concern. It emerged that small businesses calculate they spend an average of $4,300 on such costs. In Canada this figure was over $5,000 while Germany had the highest proportion (26%) spending between $1500 and $4500 on average.

From my time running my own small business in the early 2000s I am completely familiar with the suspicion that greets any new technology. We want to be sure it will help our business grow with minimal risk. From our survey there is plenty of evidence to suggest small businesses are confident that the Internet of Things will help them increase profits and are already planning to introduce new products and services to capitalize on it. And so long as they approach Internet of Things security in the same way as the rest of their IT – by continuously monitoring, updating and protecting them through identity management and user authentication – there is no reason why they should not embrace the benefits from the Internet of Things with confidence.

By Mike Foreman, General Manager, Business, AVG Technologies

AVG Technologies

avg technologiesAVG is the online security company providing leading software and services to secure devices, data and people. AVG has over 188 million active users, as of September 30, 2014, using AVG´s products and services including Internet security, performance optimization, and personal privacy and identity protection. By choosing AVG´s products, users become part of a trusted global community that engages directly with AVG to provide feedback and offer mutual support to other customers. ​

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