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SMB Concerns and Planned IT Investments

The vast majority of businesses in the US are SMBs. Many of the United States' 30+ million small and medium businesses (SMBs) are just as much, if not more, a target of cybercriminals as larger firms.

The pandemic continues to drive a shared learning experiment testing the viability of remote work on a mass scale, with approximately 38 million households having at least one member working remotely in 2021. For the first time in decades, US workers control a tight labor market and can dictate the terms under which they will work; the Great Resignation narrative reflects employees' re-evaluation of works roles in their lives as they prioritize the flexibility and autonomy of new models provide.

Two of the top three worries surrounding remote work identified by SMB owners relate to cybersecurity; the rate is higher than concern for employee productivity and team collaboration, according to Parks Associates' "SMB Landscape" study. These concerns are even more pronounced amongst firms who self-identify as being at risk of shutting down due to the pandemic, with owners acknowledging the criticality of avoiding further damages in already precarious times.

Although lacking in enterprise-level resources to combat cybercrime, roughly one-third of SMBs are likely to invest in cybersecurity solutions and virtual private networks during the next six months. Internet providers and cybersecurity vendors like Norton, McAfee, or Alien Vault (now AT&T Cybersecurity) are expected to capture the majority of category spending, with SMB owners indicating price competitiveness (45%), customer service (34%), and company reputation (29%) as their leading criteria when selecting between firms.

Cybersecurity and technical support/monitoring are leading value-added services supporting remote productivity. While remote working households utilize these applications at slightly higher rates than average, those receiving stipends have even greater uptake, suggesting employer payments are properly applied toward their intended use cases.

As these services offer broad benefits, it is difficult to attribute precisely how much remote work itself contributes to uptake vs. the generally more connected, affluent lives of remote workers. Nonetheless, modest employee stipends for connectivity expenses may reap firms cost-effective ROI, especially compared to typical spending for their overall IT budgets.

This is an excerpt from Parks Associates study, Work Transformed: Impact on Communications and Technology Markets. This report outlines how different industries have adjusted their work environments and processes to accommodate social distancing guidelines, the technologies that businesses have adopted to accommodate new work processes, and the emerging support needs driven by the adoption of these new technologies.

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