The Internet of Things. Sounds so ambiguous and intriguing, doesn’t it? Perhaps it conjures up mental images of playthings joyfully prancing around The Island of Misfit Toys, or helpful robots zipping around a la Pixar’s Wall-E. Just what is the Internet of Things (IoT)? Is this blossoming industry only relevant to big business? Hardly. Here are the basics on how IoT tech can both help and hurt your business, courtesy of the helpful experts here at Frontier IT in Colorado Springs.

 

 

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

There are many definitions out there, some of them more complex than others. “The ‘Internet of Things’ is one of those nebulous bits of jargon invented by the IT industry and many people I meet are confused as to what it actually means,” said Mike Foreman, of security company AVG, in a press release.

Here’s a fantastic definition that’s easy to digest: “Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other),” writes Forbes contributor Jacob Morgan. “This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig.”

 

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How might the IoT might help small businesses?

What about the IoT isn’t helpful? Not much. From providing individualized, actionable data to pinpointing new business opportunities, the possibilities for IoT tech to improve business operations are nearly endless.

Here are a couple of major benefits your business might reap by incorporating IoT tech.

A slimmer, trimmer bottom line.
The majority of U.S. businesses believe that the IoT has the potential to reduce their bottom lines, according to a 2014 study by AVG. “The simple, but potentially very useful, information that these kinds of applications generate can make a difference,” wrote Bob O’Donnell last year in a USA Today article titled Small businesses will be big winners from IoT. “Whether that’s accurately knowing how much water is available in a well, or measuring temperature fluctuations in a greenhouse, the type of data that a simple network of sensors can generate helps small businesses make better decisions. That, in turn, translates into sustainable, real-world savings.”

Employees who work smarter, not harder.
Increased productivity may, of course, enable your business to cut its bottom line. It may also free up current staff to accomplish more, work smarter and perform better. O’Donnell wrote about the IoT reducing paperwork for local fishermen and allowing local vinters to better care for vines via “tiny weather stations.” Andrew Meola, of Business Insider, wrote about a California company that produces solar-powered garbage cans equipped with sensors that signal when they’re full, allowing trash collectors to tailor their routes.

 

A blessing and a curse

IoT tech has the power to grow businesses exponentially and crush them remorselessly. As with all technologies, the IoT can be leveraged by those with ill intent. Small business owners who implement IoT tech would be wise to mitigate against the added vulnerabilities it brings.

Here are a few to be aware of.

Security breaches.
A large-scale IoT security breach will occur this year, an IT expert predicted, as reported by TechRepublic. “In 2017, I predict we’ll see at least two polymorphic worms targeting IoT will spread in the wild and be leveraged for widespread DDoS attacks,” another tech expert told TechRepublic. “One of these will be developed by North Korea and it will be used to punish the West via internet outages” making disaster recovery planning even more crucial to small business survival.

Data theft.
More than 70% of small business owners surveyed by AVG said that their business will need to take additional steps to protect its data from threats associated with IoT tech. Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power and that power should be safeguarded ruthlessly. Ensuring your data is backed up to local storage, as well as cloud storage, is crucial for small-biz IoT users.

Ransomware attacks.
A cartoon featured on geekculture.com titled Internet of Ransomware Things features a kitchen of talking, threatening objects such as a fridge that states, “Hungry? Pay up and I’ll unlock my door!” and a thermostat that says, “I’m turning off the heat until you warm up my bank account!” It’s almost funny until you realize how real the threat is. Ransomware attacks are already on the rise. The increased pervasiveness of technology via the IoT will only increase opportunities for criminals to extort and hold a countless number of things hostage from home alarm systems to your clients’ medical data and devices.

 

What’s a small-biz owner to do?

Evolve or die, right? As a small business owner you realize how crucial it is to embrace change even if doing so is a bit scary.

It doesn’t have to be.

We recommend partnering with an MSP, or managed service provider, that can offer you the tech services your business needs need — like consulting, help desk support and server/network monitoring — in an affordable, à la carte fashion.

If you’re interested in chatting about how working with an MSP can give your business a boost, give us a ring. We’d love to learn more about what it is you do and how we can help. (We come from a small business background ourselves — this stuff is interesting!)

Like what you read? Looking for additional tips and tricks to help small business owners succeed? Check out more of our blog posts here.