Adopting AI in Small Businesses: Best Practices and Security Measures in the New Normal

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The adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) by small businesses was already on the rise but the COVID-19 pandemic has only seen it skyrocket in recent times. To have operations running as usual, businesses have had to rely on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies.

Not only does Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning allow for business continuity, it also gives small businesses a competitive advantage over their competitors. However, small businesses have a disadvantage when it comes to implementing Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in their everyday operations — from lack of skilled workers to low budgets, lack of tools, and little or no understanding of newer technologies.

Even with such disadvantages, there are a ton of ways companies can implement Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to effectively boost productivity.

Strategic Planning

To maximize the potential benefits of Artificial Intelligence and how it could potentially transform small businesses for the better, businesses must plan their approach towards AI concisely and strategically, defining their goals and objectives, and their path to achieving such goals.

Only a few companies have been able to create a clear strategy in the implementation of everyday business practices with a survey showing only 17 percent of respondents saying their company has been able to map out the potential of artificial Intelligence and only 18 percent claiming their company had a clear strategy in place.

With 85% of artificial intelligence-based projects failing due to the lack of skilled personnel, which determines a company’s ability to deploy newer technologies, it is important for companies to work hard to fill these skill gaps. Business leaders need to empower themselves with data literacy as well as train employees with data literacy programs in which every member gains basic knowledge on the concepts of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Company Culture

Leadership is very important in the making or breaking of small businesses; likewise, it is also extremely important in the introduction of Artificial Intelligence in the everyday practices of small businesses. A 2018 study shows that only 26% of businesses have integrated Artificial Intelligence into their daily business operations, and only 6% of them have made it a primary resource for making business decisions.

A huge roadblock in the adoption of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is the resistance of such technological advancements by the company’s leadership or board of directors.

Company leaders and board of directors should be more open towards innovation. The adoption of new company practices is always a top-down approach, but when company leaders are too comfortable with already existing technologies it becomes detrimental to the adoption of new efficient solutions such as AI and ML.

New technologies can be introduced and old ones changed, but changing company culture is a long and tedious process. Business leaders need to create a culture that welcomes AI business models and simultaneously empower employees to make use of such technologies by making data and AI tools more accessible to all their employees to integrate into their everyday practices.

Transport Layer Security

Transport layers are responsible for end-to-end communication over a network, thereby enabling communication between application processes on different hosts to take place; they could help in the effective implementation of Artificial Intelligence for small businesses as they ensure that only secure and authenticated data flows between the systems.

Because transport layers prevent the inputs to the neural network from being altered, it guarantees that AI models are not altered. They are also used to manage error correction, allowing the host to receive error-corrected data, thereby providing accuracy and excellence to the end-user.

Apart from securing your AI project, transport layer security protocol is well-adapted to provide several other services including flow and traffic control, same order delivery, data integrity, byte orientation, connection-oriented communication, and multiplexing.

Threat Modelling

Threat Modelling is a risk-based approach that identifies threats in order to reduce security risks. With cybersecurity risk increasing everyday day, small businesses can turn to threat modelling to improve their security.

Threat modelling should be conducted at both the component level and from an end to end perspective to ensure that security is integrated into the system at the very beginning and that security requirements are met at each point where data is stored and transferred.

Interfaces and boundaries between the different subsystems should be scrutinized to perfectly verify assumptions made by those interfaces. Most importantly, all workflows should be inspected in the threat models to ensure that nothing is left out that can potentially harm the security of the system in any way.

Regular System Checks

A crucial step in making sure the system remains safe and secure is by consistently checking the system and confirming all the software components are at their latest security patch level to ensure that it is secure.

Constant key rotation is important for securing data from hackers who may try to compromise the security of your system. It’s also important to conduct periodic access reviews to ensure no particular person has access to much information for a long time.

Finally, make sure that you are well-prepared and have a dependable response plan in case of a security breach of your AI project.

Prioritize Data Security

With more than half of all small businesses reportedly having experienced one form of cyber security attack or the other within the past year, it is in the best interest of businesses to take the security of their customers’ data seriously.

Small businesses have a particular disadvantage as they lack crucial teams like IT and Cybersecurity staffs which are readily at the disposal of much larger organizations.

Companies that provide “free” services and apps are notorious for harvesting huge amounts of data from their customers. Hence, the use of VPN platforms like ProtonVPN that have been reviewed and rated high are a great way to keep the data of small-companies private as they take care of the digital footprint masking your identity and reducing the chances of your AI system being compromised.

System Updates

Artificial Intelligence is a technology that is ever-growing and evolving, getting more sophisticated and powerful with time. AI data, models, and systems should be updated regularly while new models should be protected with end to end security.

To maintain the security of your Artificial Intelligence system, it is necessary to update it in order to keep it free from glitches and security vulnerabilities. Regular updates ensures your system is running as efficiently as possible and is at the latest security patch level.

In Conclusion

Gone are the days when we, humans, needed to resolve all our problems and perform all of our everyday tasks; the advent of Artificial Intelligence and its innovative techniques used to increase efficiency and productivity has made it easier to use AI to increase organizational agility, improve customer experience, and also reduce costs.

Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool in the growth and automation of small businesses. Although small businesses are far more disadvantaged than their larger counterparts, the benefits of implementing AI and ML are too many to be ignored because of the inability of small businesses to successfully implement and secure them.

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