Brexit and your business website: How could you be affected?

The economic implications of Brexit have been well and truly chewed over by commentators since the vote to leave the EU but there has been little mention so far of the potential implications for companies in relation to their digital activity and business website.

How it affects your data
UK data is covered by the Data Protection Act 1998 but CTOs up and down the country were preparing for a whole new level of governance before the Brexit vote. The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) may not have been on the minds of many SME business owners but the IT departments of large corporates were steeling themselves for a raft of new legislation aimed at toughening cybersecurity across Europe.

Brexit poses a data dilemma. Will the information held by UK companies continue to be governed by British data laws or will we choose to step up our online security to meet the new EU standards? Failing to keep pace with our European neighbours could leave us vulnerable to cyber attacks. This has led to calls from some tech industry leaders for an urgent review of the UK’s data privacy laws.

There is a general feeling in the tech community that UK based organisations will choose to adopt the principles of GDPR whether or not these are legally enforced within our borders. Data breaches are considered far too much of a threat to business survival to be ignored and most companies would rather invest in cybersecurity than fall foul of hackers.

What it means for your IT department
One of the biggest Brexit bombshells is the impact it could have on the free movement of people. Most large British corporates employ staff from across the EU and this is particularly true when it comes to their IT teams. Although we have a good deal of home grown digital talent, our biggest employers draw on the technical and programming knowledge of bright and creative individuals in Europe and beyond. If companies can’t recruit easily from the European talent pool, business growth could be hampered with many organisations lacking the skills they need to develop.

In the long term, the government will hopefully invest in more digital and IT skills training to plug the gap that Brexit could create. Politicians may yet thrash out a deal on economic migration.  For now, though, businesses ought to be checking that they have adequate technical support in place, whether that’s in house or outsourced.

The key website support essentials for most businesses – and that includes SMEs – are to have UK based encrypted data storage and backup, a hosting package with technical support included and automatic monitoring to check that the site is working properly at all times.

Coping with more economic uncertainty
The headlines about Brexit’s economic impact started as soon as the referendum was announced. The vote to leave has intensified concerns about the falling pound, nervous markets and economic slowdown, with many businesses feeling understandably hesitant about the future.

During the recession we saw an upsurge in the number of budget website tools and services being launched into the market and whilst some of these products merit a closer look, most turned out to be grossly inadequate for commercial websites. It’s understandable that businesses look for cheap options when times are tough and money is tight but the real cost to the business could be far greater than the few hundred pounds that have been saved, especially when it comes to maintaining a secure and efficient online presence. Far too many companies fell foul of this during the last recession and most CTOs and business owners will now be extremely reluctant to jeopardise their website for the sake of saving a few pounds on discount website services.

How digital agencies are preparing for Brexit
Digital agencies tend to look after tens, if not hundreds, of websites for their clients. Most will outsource hosting services and data storage to a trusted provider and the costs associated with managing and maintaining a server can vary widely. As already discussed, economic uncertainty can lead to a temptation to cut costs – and corners. What this mustn’t mean is an increase in risk. Clients pay for a certain level of service and reliability is a core part of this. For digital agencies, therefore, the priority has to be a server package with maintenance included in the price. This has two business protection benefits. Firstly, it ensures clients are not let down by server failure, which could have a devastating impact on their business. Secondly, it means the agency knows exactly how much it has to budget for each month and isn’t suddenly faced with unexpected maintenance fees or ridiculous costs for unplanned out of hours support.

A bit more about data
We’ve mentioned the regulatory issues around data but, with stored information forming such a large part of the activity and wealth of almost every UK business, this is a topic that merits further discussion.

Service based businesses account for more than three-quarters of our GDP and most of that economic value depends on data. At the moment this data can move between EU countries as freely as the people whose information is stored. The real fallout of Brexit for the digital sector and the everyday business website could be the impact it has on how and where data is stored, who has access to it and how it is going to be protected in a new style Europe.