The recent news about Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was a good reminder of just how dangerous our world can be and that we should not take “normal” conditions for granted.
We found out that the widely used Internet Explorer is vulnerable to such a nasty new digital bug that we all should stop using it immediately and switch to another browser – at least until Microsoft can come up with a cure.
How big was this story? How many people were affected? Well, if recent claims that more homes in the world now have access to the internet than access to clean drinking water are true, then we can reasonably estimate that somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 billion people and their businesses globally were exposed to potential economic harm by the IE bug in late April. That’s because IE is used on more than 53 percent of all computers in the world. And about 6 billion of the world’s slightly more than 7 billion people have access to clean water.
So how do they – and more importantly for the purposes of this blog, owners and managers of small and midsize businesses – protect themselves from potential calamity should IE, or any other widely used browser, be compromised again in the future? That question also leads to three even more important questions:
1. How much economic damage can a business suffer as a result of a browser being compromised in some way?
2. Does it matter which browser a business uses?
3. How do I know which browser is best, and safest for my business?
So Many Variables for SMBs to Consider
No doubt, the hardest of those three to answer is the first because there are so many variables involved. If the browser used on all a company’s desktop and laptop computers is compromised in some way for one entire day, how many sales would be lost? How many critical business functions would become impossible to do? How many customers affected by the same browser bug would be unable to find your website? Beyond that, if, as was theoretically possible with the recent IE bug, a hacker were to gain control of your computers, how much business could they redirect to your competitors? How much money could they clean out of your bank and credit accounts?
According to recent report from Forbes Insights lost revenues, downtime and the cost of restoring systems at a large company hit with only a minor disruption can accrue at a rate of $50,000 per minute. To be sure, at small and midsize businesses such costs will accrue at significantly slower rates. But small and midsize companies also typically have less financial flexibility because their more modest size prevents them from accessing capital markets with the ease of big multi-nationals. So their financial sensitivity IT failure costs likely is even greater.
The second question – “Does it matter which browser a business uses?” – is equally difficult to answer. Each of the major browsers – IE, Mozilla’s FireFox, Google’s Chrome, Opera and Apple’s Safari – have their strong supporters and vehement detractors. The problem with that for small and midsize business owners and managers is that unless they are in the IT industry themselves or happen to be really tech savvy, they’re not likely to be well-enough versed to know or understand those arguments. Thus they are in a very poor position to know which browsers – if any – are relatively better or worse for their operations.
But that points to an obvious answer to the third question posed above: How do I know which browser is best, and safest for my business?
The Only Good Answer is to Get Some Help
The answer is to get professional IT security advice; and not from just anybody who holds himself or herself out to be an IT expert. The best advice on this and other foundational IT questions concerning how small and midsize businesses can operate most efficiently and effectively – and with the least amount of IT event risk possible – comes from those with a deep understanding of both the technology world and your particular industry.
It’s true that the recent IE bug affected 100 percent of IE users. But not every IE user was exposed to the same degree of risk. Small and midsize companies, perennially constrained by tight budgets, often lack the degree of backup, security and work-around capabilities that really big companies have. They also typically lack either the numbers or the quality of IT staff that large companies have. Conversely, by virtue of being smaller, more nimble and often more innovative, many small and midsize businesses are more dependent on online revenues and services than their very large counterparts that have long-established conventional sales networks.
That’s why it it’s a good idea for small and midsize businesses to seek the help of IT experts who specialize in helping companies their size. It’s not all that different from deciding which TV weather reporter to whom you’ll pay the most attention when big storms are approaching: the local TV forecaster who is intensely focused on your city, or the national network forecaster who has to talk about the weather all around the nation in just 60 seconds?