COVID-19 has affected businesses all around the world. While certain industries have struggled to cope, others have thrived, but how has that affected business’ technology spending habits?

We spoke to our Managing Director, Martin Roberts, to see how he thinks the pandemic has, and should, change the technology spending habits of UK businesses.

Business technology spend

“So, has there been a change in business technology spend due to COVID-19? Yes, there has. It is primarily due to people trying to achieve working from home overnight, as soon as lockdowns were announced. A lot of people accelerated their move towards online productivity tools, such as Microsoft 365 and the use of Microsoft Teams.

“People were considering that spend for their future budgets but COVID has brought that spending forward because they simply had to, to enable their businesses to function. On the whole, it’s been a very positive move for our customers and users, because Microsoft Teams really stepped up during this time.”

So, while the switch to working from home hasn’t been an issue for some businesses, it has caught the attention of cyber criminals. Now more than ever, they are sensing the opportunity to take advantage of businesses with employees who’ve left the safety of the work office for their home space.

As Martin describes, it is a delicate balancing act for businesses to protect themselves against criminals, who’ve had to make no adjustment at all:

business technology spending

“Consequently, the move to working from home has increased the risk from cyber criminality and we have seen an increase in people investing in cybersecurity to enable safe working from home. The amount spent on securing systems and data hasn’t been as much as should’ve been spent, but given all the pressures on businesses during this time, it has been a tough call to make.

At one point, we thought COVID-19 would be over within three months, now it looks as though it is here to stay. While we see no end to COVID-19 yet, hackers and criminals have always worked from home, so they are working extra hard to get people’s data and login credentials, with phishing emails increasing hugely.”

IT has changed hugely over the past decade, with IT services going from being a novelty for some businesses, to quickly becoming a critical function for most, if not all businesses. Indeed, without it, businesses wouldn’t be able to function in the current climate. But, for some companies, they are having to weigh up several areas that they might have to make financial cuts to, in order to continue existing, should IT security be one of those? Martin thinks not:

“If businesses are struggling to put more money towards IT security during the pandemic, I’d say review your security stance. If you have to spend money on anything, improving security is the most important area to focus on. We’ve seen a staggering increase in the amount of criminality going on – it has never been easier to carry out phishing email scams.

It’s remarkable how much has changed in such a short space of time. An employee sitting at a desk earlier this year could say to a colleague, ‘Hey, I’ve got this email here that looks a bit odd to me’, and recognise they’re being phished. But now, if you’re sitting at home alone, you haven’t got the ability to communicate, and have that social opportunity to prevent phishing.

At this point, if you had £100 to spend and you could spend it on productivity or on security, I’d suggest spending it on security, to safeguard your business’ future.

If you were writing a 10-year plan, a decade ago, there’d have been a small amount for cyber security. Now, you should be allocating a large percentage of your IT budget to it, and you do need a multi-layered security approach just to survive.”

It’s a point Martin can’t make strongly enough. Between strains of ransomware, email phishing and DDoS attacks, businesses have never been more at risk from cyber criminals. There are tactics, strategies and even hacking kits sold, to make it easier than ever for crimes to be committed online. Not to mention the increased social fears of a community whose communication habits have changed dramatically which are leaving huge vulnerabilities that even the most novice of criminals can exploit.

business technology spending“Security is now as important as paying your electric bill, it’s not an optional extra, you’ve simply got to have it. If you don’t, your business is at risk, and a cyber-attack is a terrible thing to have to deal with.

The real problem is that some of these things aren’t ‘hacking’, in terms of technically breaking into systems. A lot of it is about social engineering and emailing a huge amount of people to trick them into clicking a link and downloading something malicious – it’s not technically sophisticated.”

But, while we are living in unprecedented times in the digital era, Martin wants businesses to continue to look forward, not backwards.

“Businesses need to stop looking at IT spend as one large sum of money, it should be broken down into three main areas.

Starting with productivity, Microsoft 365 and Teams have allowed businesses to work more dynamically, successfully replicating how we worked in offices, making it a must-have spend.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery is another must-have, as it prepares a business for what to do if a cyber-attack does strike. But a robust, multi-layered continuity plan provides insurance against ANY threat, not just a cyber-attack. No one saw this pandemic coming and predicting the future of the economy and the way we live and work is impossible. But with a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan invested in, the certainty is there.

Finally, innovation should not be forgotten about, it is one of the key elements that can differentiate and make a business special. Innovation keeps a business moving forward rather than standing still, if you don’t invest in productivity software and security, then you run the risk of falling backwards.”

The benefits of an IT security-focused spending strategy in these uncertain times are clear to see. With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, investing in the right technology to keep your business safe has never been more important than in 2020 and beyond – the greater the investment now, the better prepared your business is to survive and thrive now, and into 2021.

If your business needs advice to get your IT security and systems in order, call Neuways on 01283 753333 or email hello@neuways.com and one of our consultants will arrange a call with you to discuss your business’s needs.