The Sturgis Rally brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to South Dakota, bringing with them millions of dollars in business. The question is, was your business ready and able to make the most of it, or did the technology your business depended on fail when you needed it the most? Here's how managed IT can help your business prepare for the coming year.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is the largest in the world. It is estimated that more than a half-million visitors have attended the rally, bringing in close to $800 million. What is impressive about these figures is that it was only over three days. Three days for the population of a small town to grow exponentially, if only for the short-term.
As expected, many businesses, particularly smaller ones, soon became overwhelmed due to the influx of many people and the need to provide them with services. Services such as Wi-Fi, accepting credit card payments, physical security, a well-developed website, and of course, an online experience safe from cybercriminals.
Now that it is the off-season it is a good time to assess how your technology performed and whether or not you left money on the table because your technology couldn’t keep up with the demand. Take a moment to learn how managed IT can give your technology the boost it needs to be ready for next year.
Managed IT provides a wealth of services designed to help small to medium-sized businesses make the most of their technology. The support your MSP brings to your business can be invaluable, not just during the average workweek but during times of high stress, such as when a half-million people roll into town.
It is during trying times that the difference between hourly computer repair (also known as break/fix) and managed IT becomes crystallized. What good is having your computer repaired if you don’t have the bandwidth to provide your customers with fast and reliable Wi-Fi or, for that matter, a connection that is secure from cybercriminals gaining access to their credentials?
Managed IT’s benefit is that it provides your business with a strategy developed from the ground up that is unique to your business’ goals, even if it’s only for three days. If your company struggled to keep up with the demand, chances are they were due to these issues:
Lack of PCI DSS Compliance: The influx of visitors to your business most likely meant an increase in credit card use. As a side effect of the pandemic, contactless transactions came to the forefront, along with other alternatives to paying with cash, such as digital wallets and credit cards. Suppose your organization isn’t following best PCI practices regarding accepting and, most importantly, protecting your customers’ sensitive information. In that case, there is a strong possibility that the issuers will take corrective action against your business, including revoking your ability to accept credit card payments.
Insufficient Broadband or Wireless Bandwidth: Another side effect of the pandemic was the increased use of the Internet as a communication and commerce tool. As such, many businesses found themselves unprepared for the demands of a remote workforce, or patrons depending on high-quality Wi-Fi and Internet access to work outside of their office. While many businesses may have managed to limp through the event this past year, chances are, unless they contacted their ISP and updated their service in preparation for the influx, their customers may have had a less than satisfactory experience. The question you need to ask yourself is, is your broadband service business-ready?
Using a Physical Server instead of the Cloud: The sudden rush of a half-million people can place a significant demand on all your systems, requiring you to at least temporarily expand your server capacity. If you’re using a traditional server you may find that you will have to invest, perhaps considerably, in new hardware that can handle the demand. This could be your website getting substantially more traffic, or your booking or ordering software suddenly getting a rush of new customers. Either way, if your software is suddenly getting a massive spike in traffic and usage, it may require you to throw more computing resources at it to handle the load.
When applications are run virtually in the cloud, it’s usually pretty easy to scale up as needed. If you need to double your computing resources for a month to handle a spike in traffic, you can do so without making massive capital investments. Inversely, you can downgrade your computing resources after a surge (like that caused by Sturgis) is over, allowing you to better control your operating costs.
Physical Security: Unfortunately, the sudden influx of out-of-town visitors can bring with them an increased potential for criminal activity. It’s not hard to imagine how difficult it would be to monitor your business with so many people, many of whom are out and about in the early morning hours. Sturgis’ events often continue late into the night, long after many businesses have closed for the day. Despite the abundance of people, bad actors will take advantage of the distractions due to the crowds, committing crimes unnoticed.
While you may not personally stay and keep watch 24/7, you can still monitor your business by investing in a security camera. One thing to consider is that all security cameras aren’t of the same quality and you need to be mindful of which country they are made in.
If you’ve used security cameras in the past, you may have experienced analog security cameras. Fortunately, technology has evolved since those days. Today’s security cameras are digital, allowing you to record high-quality video and sound. Moreover, because they are digital, you no longer have to worry about storing tapes or have to erase tapes to make space for more recording.
Take Cybersecurity Seriously: More foot traffic means more distraction, and when businesses are at their busiest, they tend to let mistakes and threats slip through the cracks. Ensuring that your technology infrastructure is fully secure, with strong passwords, encryption, and a solid, tested backup solution is vital. Preparing your staff with cybersecurity training and ensuring that all of your I’s are dotted and your T’s are crossed will ensure fewer issues when things get hectic. Now more than ever, it is essential that you invest in cybersecurity protection for your business.
A robust cybersecurity plan requires a variety of measures if you wish to protect your data. These measures should include a spam filter because email (phishing) is the most common method cybercriminals use to access your systems. As we mentioned, suspicious websites can also pose a risk, which is why a content filter is essential as it blocks potentially compromised websites from being accessed.
Finally, you must segregate your essential systems from your publicly accessible network. One of the most common mistakes businesses make is keeping all of their sensitive data in the same directory as their public ones. The risk is that if they lose control of who can access their network, they lose control of all their data. It doesn’t take much for a cybercriminal to gain access to your sensitive information if it’s stored in the exact location as your public files.
As the next Sturgis rally is many months away, it is tempting to put off preparing for it. However doing so, doesn’t allow your business enough time to ensure all your technology is optimized to its full potential. Moreover, the longer your systems are in place, the better you will be able to determine which technologies are right for your business’ unique needs.
Sturgis is an event unique to South Dakota, as such, it makes sense to work with someone local to the area. We are South Dakota’s managed IT experts and we understand the unique business landscape here in the Black Hills. Call 888-891-4201 today for more information or to schedule an appointment.