A person holding a holographic AI symbol

Is AI for your business?

During Focus Data Solutions’ July All Staff Week, our team conducted a roundtable about the hottest topic in IT, artificial intelligence (AI). What are the benefits of AI for our small and medium sized (SMB) clients? Are there potential security risks involved? We’re sharing our insights here to offer you an introduction to AI for small businesses.

What is artificial intelligence (AI)? What is machine learning (ML)?

AI is a broad field that encompasses the goal of creating intelligence machines, while machine learning (ML) is a subset of AI that specifically focuses on algorithms and techniques for learning from data and making predictions or decisions based on that learning.

You may have already interacted with a form of machine learning (ML). Many business systems and applications utilize machine learning, such as image recognition (FaceID) spam filtering, or recommendation systems (Netflix, YouTube, Amazon). A hot topic in the SMB world, ChatGPT, is an application of machine learning within the field of AI.


How can SMBs use AI, or machine learning, in their businesses?

AI and its use in the SMB world are in its infancy. However, AI adoption and advancements are moving at lightning speed. Many of the business processes you use may be adapted to some form of AI. Consider your business model while reviewing these AI capabilities.

Automating tasks: AI powered software can manage routine customer inquiries, freeing employees to focus on more complex or strategic work.

Improved efficiency and productivity: AI can streamline operations through process automation and optimization, reducing human error and accelerating tasks that would otherwise take significant time and effort.

Personalize customer experiences: Through analysis, AI can offer product recommendations, create customized marketing campaigns, or develop chat bots that provide personalized assistance.

Enhanced decision making: AI can provide accurate and timely information. AI algorithms can analyze market trends and competitor data to help make decisions about pricing, inventory management or marketing strategies.

Predictive analytics: AI will be useful for sales forecasting, financial planning, inventory management or proactive decision making by analyzing historical data to make predictions about future trends or outcomes.


What are the security risks and challenges of AI and ML for business?

Consider these AI and machine learning security risks before adopting new technologies.

Data breaches: Protect AI systems that rely on data. Your company and client information could be vulnerable to breaches. Encryption, access controls and secure data storage are key to mitigating data breaches.

Adversarial attacks: Bad actors can manipulate data to deceive or mislead AI algorithms. Cybercriminals use these algorithms to create persuasive phishing emails or to launch sophisticated social engineering schemes. Email filtering, anti-malware software and security awareness training are essential to combating these AI supported threats.

Privacy concerns: Handle customer data in compliance with privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). As an SMB, you should only collect necessary data, obtain proper consent, and implement privacy policies to protect your clients.

Lack of explain-ability and accountability: AI systems can make mistakes! Be careful about the potential impact of biased or flawed AI decisions. Practice transparency and accountability by sharing when systems or processes involve AI.

Vendor risks: If you are using third party vendor AI solutions, assess their security protocols before moving forward. As with any IT related decisions, work with reputable and trusted providers who prioritize security and regular updates and patch/vulnerability support.

Artificial intelligence is a rapidly developing technology field. Working with a professional managed services provider is one way to ensure that you implement AI in a strategic, secure manner that benefits your company, clients, and employees.