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Business ideas for 2006

Jan 12, 20064 mins

* Entrepreneur Magazine highlights security for businesses

I don’t like the management of Entrepreneur Magazine because they tend to sue people who dare to use the word ‘entrepreneur’ (as if the magazine invented the word), but the magazine has some good stories now and then. Like many publications, they ended 2005 with predictions for 2006. Many apply directly to small businesses, both for new business opportunities and highlighting weak points in your own data management.

Not surprisingly, Entrepreneur (the magazine, not the people) believes security will become even more critical in 2006. One of the businesses opportunities the magazine likes is document shredding because companies need help complying with new laws about keeping customer records private. Consumers may also be interested in guaranteed shredding and burning services, especially if you cater to those with enough money and paranoia.

This plays in to another consumer market idea, which is ID theft prevention and recovery (shredding helps protect data used by identity thieves). The constant news coverage certainly created a market for such services. And it would make sense for companies that already have ties to consumer credit databases to play a role in correcting personal identity disasters.

According to reports, the average identity theft victim spends over a year and well over $1,000 putting things right. If you have insight or procedures in place to handle these problems you could charge a flat fee of $395 or $495 per individual and have a potential business winner. Again, this is a consumer business, and one that could be an excellent sideline for companies already offering financial services.

Banks and credit card companies offer identity theft prevention, but the uptake has been low. And as humans, we get worried about such needs after the fact. But banks and credit card companies do not help enough after a violation, and actually make recovering from identity theft absolutely miserable. High hassle factor for the victim means opportunity for smart businesses.

Still under the consumer banner, the magazine also suggested “hosted security provider” as a business opportunity. Are enough consumers sufficiently worried to spend serious money protecting their home networks to make a business line feasible for you? Probably not, meaning the usual protection software suite vendors will get this business.

But many network services companies already make money monitoring security solutions at other businesses and the market will support more players in the future because security configurations on network devices requires experience and expertise.

If you sell network equipment of any kind, you can increase your service revenue by selling monitoring services for that equipment. Remote monitoring tools exist for almost all equipment, and third party monitoring software covers all popular network devices. Your dog’s veterinarian is a smart person (it’s harder to get into vet school than med school), but data security isn’t part of vet school coursework. Vets, and all other small businesses, need security help.

If you expand your expertise into user authentication and other directory service applications, you can provide a complete security service to customers. Far too many small businesses buy Microsoft Windows servers yet have no clue how to leverage Active Directory. Sounds like a cry for help to me.

Again under the consumer banner, Entrepreneur lists data backup as a business opportunity. When you look at the millions of digital photos and downloaded music files filling personal hard drives today, you should see valuable assets consumers must protect. Can you help them?

Small businesses rarely back up their data properly, and the products you sell to that market may be affordable enough for the consumer market. Every time you sell a network-attached storage box to a customer, you should offer offsite backup service. This can be your own service or a license to one of the national backup players, but you should offer something.

One of the magazine’s business to business suggestions, technical recycling, deserves it’s own column. I have some ideas for this, and if you have experience, please share.