You probably look forward to preparing a budget about as much as a root canal. The budget process pulls you away from core business activities, and it often creates stress and tension as difficult decisions are made.

The IT budget in particular adds an additional layer of complexity to an already excruciating process. Technology is such an integral part of business that the budget decisions you make can play a large part in the success or failure of the organization. However, the tools, capabilities and trends are constantly evolving, making it difficult to determine how and when to invest.

As data breaches continue to make headlines and compliance requirements become more burdensome, more and more small to midsize businesses (SMBs) are recognizing the need to beef up their defenses. A recent Capterra survey of SMBs found that security is the third highest IT budget priority for 2019 and 2020. The problem is, many SMBs aren’t sure how to allocate their security dollars.

According to new research conducted by Vanson Bourne, 90 percent of respondents are struggling with security budget allocation.

  • 53 percent are having trouble finding scalable security solutions that fit the budget.
  • 39 percent say it’s difficult to evaluate security vendors.
  • 39 percent are unable to correlate each security element with business risk.

SMBs need to gain a better understanding of IT security trends in order to make better decisions about how to focus their dollars and efforts most effectively. For example, attackers are using social engineering via email phishing scams to gain access to sensitive data and steal user credentials. Ransomware attacks, which have more than tripled in the last year, are often carried out through phishing emails.

Also, organizations must realize that regulatory compliance does not guarantee security. Organizations should not assume that their network can’t be compromised because they passed a compliance audit. At the same time, many legacy security solutions don’t meet the minimum standards of new regulatory requirements and need to be upgraded.

Here are six steps to take before deciding how to invest in IT security.

  • Conduct Risk, Threat and Vulnerability Assessments. A security risk assessment will tell you if your security tools, policies and procedures reduce the risk of a breach and compliance violation to an acceptable level. Regular assessments of email, network and endpoint threats are critical to protecting your IT environment. Vulnerability assessments and penetration testing will help you identify new vulnerabilities that modern threats can exploit.
  • Train Employees. Because humans are always the weakest link in the security chain, ongoing cybersecurity awareness training is critical to reducing risk. Consider having security professionals send phishing emails to test employees’ ability to identify malicious emails, links and content.
  • Implement Patch Management. Security patches from software vendors need to be deployed quickly and reliably. Many breaches could have been prevented if existing patches had been deployed sooner.
  • Monitor Constantly to Detect Threats Early. Modern tools make it possible to detect suspicious activity across the network, identify known and unknown threats, and take action before systems and data have been compromised.
  • Develop an Incident Response Plan. The best security strategy and tools in the world won’t stop every attack. You need to have a detailed plan for responding to security incidents in order to minimize the impact.
  • Create a Business Continuity Plan. Are you backing up your data? Do you have a disaster recovery plan? Business continuity planning can ensure that critical applications and data are quickly and reliably restored with minimal business disruption.

The ICG Managed Services Plan includes regular consulting and planning services as well as ongoing monitoring and management of your IT environment. Let us help you prepare an IT security budget that enables you to enhance your defenses and focus your spending on the right places.