Eight challenges facing the African SME

By Henk Olivier, MD of Ozone Information Technology Solutions

The small to medium enterprise (SME) isn’t sitting in a pretty economy right now. From one tip of Africa to the next, there’s political upheaval, economic volatility and the changing goalposts of international investment.  And these are only a few of the challenges facing the African SME. Here are the rest…

Security

Every SME is at risk of being hacked thanks to a lack of infrastructure or network protection. To resolve this, invest in a simple anti-virus or firewall solution that doesn’t cost the earth, but protects the business.

Ransom

If the security is weak or the employees poorly trained, there is a threat of being held at ransom for data. If an employee opens that ransomware email and clicks on the document or link, or if a hack gets through, the impact on your business will be both financial and reputational. A good anti-virus or firewall will go a long way towards protecting the business and its data, as will investing in ransomware protection software.

Outdated systems

SMEs that aren’t keeping up with technology may not use the best business processes to complete tasks within the business. This will impact on productivity and efficiency, which can affect customer satisfaction and engagement. Most hardware and software solutions today have an EOL (end of license) which means that vendors may not provide updates on the software and this can create worrying loopholes in security. The WannaCry ransomware is an excellent example of this.

Employees

There is always the risk that employees may leak or steal data. Unfortunately, this is a risk that is increasingly challenging for the SME as most business communication takes place via email or electronic communications. Few businesses can afford having their trade secrets or client data leaked so they should invest in tools that can monitor these actions and notify the administrator in the event of a breach.

Lost data

One of the most important mantras for any business must be ‘backup, backup, backup’. Many viruses and ransomware attacks can see your data lost forever so ensure it is backed up on a separate system that is absolutely secure and up to date.

Lack of productivity

Short of a whip, chains and some carrots on sticks, you can’t force employees to be productive and inspired. One of the best ways of reducing their distraction levels and keeping them focused, however, is to invest in tools that control their levels of internet access. Productivity will increase dramatically when social media isn’t on the To Do list.

Lack of knowledge

Most SMEs don’t have a channel through which they can receive information on the latest technologies or what investments they need to make to improve the business itself. It is the business owner’s responsibility to take initiative and delegate someone in the business to do it. Get this information, it could change the way you do business.

No strategy

The last challenge that every SME can overcome is one that requires a little foresight – IT policy and procedure. Prepare a document that trains staff around the dos and the donts of IT behaviour, it is of utmost importance as it protects both you and your employees. It will also impact cyber insurance, compliance, governance and security.

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