By WatchGuard Technologies
The benefits of franchising your business are well documented; access to expansion capital, growth acceleration and accessing a network of franchisees who are motivated to succeed. However, there are downsides including the loss of complete control with your brand.
The risk of franchising can be mitigated by employing strict policies and procedures and most businesses do this very successfully. The operations and deployment of services is all safeguarded by robust regulation to protect the brand. However, the mobilisation of policy across the digital aspects of a franchises operations falls far behind this level of scrutiny.
Data breaches are an inevitable part of operating in the digital age and most large companies have some form of policy in place to protect against such occurrences. Multinational groups have access to in-house IT security teams whose expert staff continually monitor and respond to existing and new threats. With a franchise, things can be quite different.
Franchisees are entrepreneurs at heart and choose the way in which they operate because it offers them a degree of autonomy and control. True, this is restricted to a degree but even still there is still a lot of choice that they can exercise outside of those stringent controls that have been established. The fact is that those controls often lack any detail when it comes to the technology side of a franchise. All of the planning for brand protection has been focused on the customer facing side of operations and little attention is paid to how a franchise operates digitally.
The problem with this is obvious.
Whilst HQ is operating with robust security measures to protect the business and the brand it can only take one franchise to drop the ball and the implications can be severe. One data breach is enough to damage reputation, weaken the entire franchise estate and potentially serve as an access point to infect HQ itself.
If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then doesn’t it make sense to ensure that all franchisees employ the same level of cyber-security as head office?
The bottom line is, a centralised security policy should be as critical on the franchise agreement as things like brand protection.
Franchised businesses need to ensure that they include cyber-security within their franchise agreements and establish a minimum standard to prevent attacks. They should maintain regular communication with their franchisees to keep them updated as to potential threats and offer support to ensure that technologies and systems are kept up to date.
Systems such as WatchGuard’s Unified Threat Management (UTM) offer franchises with a centralised method of deploying security solutions across its estate as well as providing compliance reporting. Having a system in place that can respond rapidly to threats as well as provide real-time access to inform security teams can help protect a brand from malicious attacks and the resulting damage to reputation.