TL; DR: With secure UK-based datacenters and 24/7 support, Fasthosts has provided businesses worldwide with the tools they need to power and maintain online presence since 1999. Today, with the help of research firm YouGov, Fasthosts has uncovered key misconceptions on the part of microbusinesses when it comes to online threats. In response, the host is ramping up educational efforts to protect its SMB clients from risks they appear to overlook.
According to a recent study intended to gauge site security awareness among small business owners, what you don’t know can hurt you.
An alarming 89% of UK businesses with 10 or fewer employees claim to have never been affected by an online security breach, despite the fact that a mere 14% have intrusion detection systems. The results likely reflect a lack of awareness — especially considering previous reports that two-thirds of small businesses in the UK have fallen victim to online crime.
Perhaps more disturbing is that 79% of the microbusinesses surveyed do not consider site security a high priority. The research, commissioned by Fasthosts and conducted by YouGov, highlighted the importance of treating security risks seriously and taking precautions to protect online assets.
CEO Simon Yeoman said Fasthosts invested in the research after realizing it could benefit customers. “We have many small business customers who look to us for thought leadership, and we detected a bit of a knowledge gap and a lack of awareness in terms of online risk,” he said.
The research confirmed the company’s suspicions. “It’s clear that many small businesses underestimate the seriousness of this topic,” Simon said. “In reality, the small businesses that claim they’ve never been affected by security breaches most likely have been. We see the same story with customers who reach out to our support teams — they’re simply unaware that anyone attacked them.”
Closing the Knowledge Gap Around Online Threats Facing SMBs
The findings, while concerning, present Fasthosts with an opportunity to ramp up educational efforts to protect its SMB clients from online security threats. While 84% of the microbusinesses surveyed claim to have “some form of cybersecurity protection in place,” only 63% reported having a firewall, and only 53% update their systems and programs on a regular basis.
“Our datacenters are secure, and the way that we manage our systems is very secure, but we need to do a better job of highlighting the risks involved with the software customers run,” Simon said. “Many microbusinesses think that since our platform is alright, they’re going to be fine, and they don’t necessarily keep their software and operating systems up to date.”
Simon told us many customers skip time-consuming software updates assuming they’re only missing out on new features. In reality, they’re passing up important protection from security threats. He’s especially concerned for small businesses in shared hosting environments set up by a fleeting design provider or web agency. Typically, these partnerships end once the site is up — and once the relationship stops, so do the updates.
That’s where Fasthosts hopes to take the educational reins. “We want to help them realize that when they’re working with a web designer and we’re not completely familiar with the software or the WordPress plugins they’re using, it’s a lot more difficult for us to keep the environment secure,” Simon said. “They either need to retain an ongoing relationship with the designer or find a solution within our portfolio.”
Resiliency and Redundancy: The Role of the Cloud in Mitigating Risk
The research also shed light on the way microbusinesses view the cloud in terms of security. Most respondents stated that they do not necessarily think the cloud is more secure when compared with on-premises dedicated servers for storing data. In fact, a third of the microbusinesses surveyed said they believe in-house servers are more secure than the cloud.
The report argues that the problem lies in the industry’s use of the term ‘cloud,’ which lumps together a range of different providers with varying security protection. The report cites Dropbox and Google Drive as “vanilla services” with basic functionality and security features. As companies grow in technical complexity, they may need to graduate from these services — but that doesn’t mean other cloud services can’t provide the protection businesses need.
“It is at this point that a business will look to dedicated cloud hosting services, which offer the enterprise-level security features they need such as firewalls and VPNs,” the report’s authors stated. “It is here that the term ‘cloud’ begins to indicate a much higher level of security than was previously the case.”
Compared to legacy systems, cloud services do present tangible security benefits. In terms of redundancy, most cloud providers store data on multiple servers to ensure network resiliency. Fasthosts uses a clustering system in which data are spread across a group of servers. In the case that one server fails, another will take its place to prevent disruption. The Fasthosts Cluster Platform also includes a dedicated SSL certificate and advanced protection from DDoS attacks.
“Given how affordable and accessible cloud storage is today, we would urge all businesses to move their data to the cloud to leverage the enhanced security that these services provide, not to mention the improved convenience of being able to access their data from anywhere,” Simon said.
A Trusted Partnership Based on Customer Support and Reliability
Simon told us it’s his goal to ensure Fasthosts maintains its status as a reliable, trusted business partner. Although statistics on the company’s website reveal that fewer than 10% of customers find the need to contact customer support to resolve technical issues, Fasthosts keeps knowledgeable team members on hand at all times.
“We have a very robust operation,” Simon said. “We’ve been going for 20 years now, and I feel very confident that we are able to provide a reliable service, whether it’s email, web hosting, or application hosting — and the need for such services to be available 24/7/365 is increasingly important.”
To that end, Fasthosts is armed with a determined customer care team set on providing high levels of support. “We’re happy to go the extra mile, not just with the infrastructure that we’re providing, but helping customers find the solutions they need beyond the normal levels of support a host typically provides,” Simon said. “I see it as more of a partnership.”
To further build customer trust, the company underwent an ISO 27001 datacenter audit to ensure it met industry standards in terms of security. It was a success, and Fasthosts received an ISO 27001 certificate in June 2017.
“We do a lot from an infrastructure perspective — we feature ISO-compliant datacenters, and we’re currently going through the accreditation process for all of our IT operations,” Simon said. “We take the process very seriously.”
Coming Soon: Fully-Managed WordPress Hosting Packages
In addition to striving to keep up with industry standards, Fasthosts is constantly on the lookout for potential gaps in its product portfolio. Simon told us that although the team has focused largely on its flexible managed CloudNX infrastructure platform lately, its attention will soon turn toward providing managed WordPress solutions.
“The intention is to increase our WordPress product portfolio in Q1 of next year,” he said. “We recognize that some customers are frustrated by the time and skills required to manage certain services.”
Fasthosts plans to provide managed WordPress hosting services that will ensure the platform is up to date at all times — helping mitigate the vulnerabilities hackers often exploit in out-of-date software. “We want to provide a managed, bespoke solution that we will maintain and keep up to date,” he said.
Considering that nearly half of microbusinesses do not update their software regularly, these services could help customers more than they realize.