In today's always-on world, productivity and security go hand in hand for small to medium sized businesses (SMBs). You won't be productive if your business isn't secure. Bryan Goode, General Manager, Microsoft 365 Business, discusses technology trends and tips for adopting a holistic solution that will give employees the tools they need while protecting your business.    

What are the most important trends driving changes in the way small businesses work today?

There is an increased focus on teamwork--we have 50 percent more teams now than just a few years ago--and mobility, this hunger to be able to work from anywhere you want. As a result, we see the growing importance of security.

SMBs are front and center in these changes. More than 99 percent of all businesses are small businesses. A lot of times, people don't realize that. Small businesses power job growth and innovation, so these changes are applicable whether you are a small business or a large one.

There have been many great technology advances over the last 10 years--advances in things like productivity, mobility, and artificial intelligence. These are promising capabilities, but they are also complex. Small businesses don't always have the time or the resources to determine how to take advantage of these capabilities, or how to use them to grow their business in a way that also protects their data.

What are the biggest opportunities, especially for businesses that don't have the budgets of larger enterprises?

The technologies we just talked about can be critical to business growth. The best way for SMBs to leverage them is by taking advantage of integrated solutions. Microsoft 365 is our flagship solution in this space. It delivers a complete, intelligent set of tools that give small businesses everything they need, all in one package, across productivity as well as security. This is a great opportunity for small businesses because the solution is also designed to address their concerns around cost and simplicity. Microsoft 365 is cloud-powered, which means we roll out updates all the time. Small businesses don't have to worry about keeping their tools and security measures up to date.

What's the relationship between productivity and security, and why should SMBs think about them in a comprehensive way when it comes to technology?

There are two things that are worth keeping in mind. First is that productivity is becoming more important to overall business success, and second is that the security landscape is evolving quickly and becoming increasingly sophisticated. Time lost to security issues means less productivity. If you think about that, it helps you understand why you have to couple your productivity approach with security. By doing so, you are able to bring together the tools employees need to be productive in a way that is not obtrusive, while also enabling your business to stay secure.

What are the most important considerations for business owners who want to ensure they have the right technology in place?

Start by thinking strategically about how the right technology can address specific business needs. Don't think about technology in a vacuum. Think about what it can do for your business. Secondly, think about how you can take advantage of a complete solution so you avoid using a patchwork quilt of tools that don't really work with one another and aren't secure. Lastly, consider how you are going to address critical security needs and protect against threats like ransomware and phishing attacks.

Let's talk about those threats. How can SMBs protect against them?

Ransomware and phishing attacks are top of mind, not just for small businesses, but for any kind of business. We did a study recently with YouGov that found 72 percent of small businesses feel vulnerable to these types of attacks. They're right to feel that way, because the majority of data breaches affect SMBs. Even though small businesses recognize they are at risk, many of them don't feel like they have the tools to be successful addressing these threats. That is one of the reasons we are including new security and compliance capabilities in our Microsoft 365 solution.

Many small businesses make do with free apps and services to run their business. What are the risks of doing it that way?

When employees use different free apps and tools, it's just inefficient having to manage multiple accounts, and data sources and creates gaps from a security perspective. That is part of the reason we counsel small businesses to think holistically and look for a complete solution that addresses their range of needs. A purpose-built solution can address a small business's unique needs and help it run and grow securely.

The more a small business can rely on a single solution to address their needs, the more likely it is going to spend less time thinking about technology and more time being productive, staying secure and growing its business. 

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