Business Resource Center

Technology Tip

Technology Tip
Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.

Don't Risk Your Small Business With Outdated Tech

Don't Risk Your Small Business With Outdated Tech

Despite the growing importance of technology to most small and medium businesses, a surprising number of companies are bearing needless risk by continuing to rely on outdated software and hardware.

While many small business owners are understandably reluctant to replace technology that seems to be working effectively, relying on older devices or applications can expose a company and its vital data to security risks, compliance challenges and reduced productivity.

Many small businesses believe their size and regional focus reduces their risk for online fraud as hackers target larger organizations, but most smaller companies actually carry a higher security risk because many lack the sophisticated defenses used by large companies.

Danger in Delay

The most important argument against relying on technology that is past its prime is the security risks that outdated hardware and software represent. In the case of software, publishers issue updates, known as patches, on a consistent basis to repair security-related vulnerabilities that have been discovered since the software was released.

By failing to update software routinely, you can expose your company to the exploitation of those vulnerabilities by hackers using automated tools that scan company networks to discover unpatched and vulnerable software.

The failure to patch software and correct potential security risks is surprisingly common, even among larger companies with enough resources and talent to know better. As major data breaches continue to generate news coverage, the failure to patch known vulnerabilities is a consistent theme.

Another danger associated with outdated software is that, at some point, the software publisher is likely to stop providing security updates altogether. For instance, Microsoft stopped issuing updates in 2014 for its Windows XP operating system, which was introduced in 2001. But companies continue to use computers that rely on Windows XP, despite the potential security risks.

A related problem with outdated software is that, should a computer become compromised, obtaining tech support to try to recover data or repair the damage is very difficult for older software and equipment. Data recovery services are expensive, with most unable to offer a guarantee they’ll be able to restore compromised data or equipment.

Having an online backup of your data can at least restore data to just before you were compromised, but backing up company data is another area that many companies don’t get around to until it’s too late.

Compliance Matters

Keeping your company’s technology gear up to date is also an important component of security standards such as those issued by the Payment Card Industry. If you accept credit or debit cards, PCI compliance standards require your company to, among other steps: Make sure your card readers and software are updated, and to install and update firewalls on your network and computers.

Failure to meet these standards can lead to sanctions including losing your ability to accept payment cards.

Avoid Downtime

Another, and potentially more mundane, reason to update your equipment periodically is that, over time, tech gear starts to run less efficiently and becomes subject to outages or bugs that can decrease your company’s productivity.

With the growing number of cloud and mobile tools that can help you increase your operational speed and effectiveness, there’s little reason to be frustrated by slow or outdated technology that hinders your company’s performance and results.

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