There is a strong need for the right IT services in all aspects of the cannabis industry: cultivation, manufacturing/processing, transportation, lab testing, distribution, and retail. And that’s just the businesses within the cannabis industry that “touch the plant”.
A host of ancillary businesses have sprouted up to take advantage of an industry that is quickly growing and is projected to grow even more substantially in the near future.
As the industry grows, so will its need for managed IT services and strong cybersecurity. Yet green rush entrepreneurs have found themselves distracted by constantly changing regulations and other governmental factors that divert their attention from building solid IT infrastructures that are able to handle the massive growth in the years ahead.
Even in the short term, IT issues can seriously harm businesses. In one instance, dispensaries in Maryland were crippled when a module which allowed patients to check on their 1-ounce quantity limit crashed the statewide system and halted sales.Over 1000 dispensaries nationwide were paralyzed when seed-to-sale software platform MJ Freeway was attacked last year. This attack forced retailers to either shut down or revert to pen and paper. Some of those affected suffered a total loss of their company data.
No matter who you are in the cannabis industry, you cannot hope to survive without constant and secure access to your company’s information.
Open Cannabis Project
Databases such as the Open Cannabis Project will outline the roadmap from which entire new businesses will be birthed, and your business has put too much sweat and actual equity into developing your own IP and proprietary data. Just as cultivation units or dispensaries in any state cannot operate without strong surveillance and access control systems, your own company’s information cannot do without strong, managed IT solutions.
Ultimately, the future of the cannabis industry rests in those businesses that can answer many of the burning questions that still exist about the plant: the untapped capabilities of CBD, the proper doses of THC in edibles and drinkables and the seemingly endless applications of industrial hemp in spaces ranging from transportation to microprocessors.
Managed IT and Your Cannabis Industry
From the perspective of a managed IT professional, any small or medium-sized business, no matter what product or service they sell, has roughly the same demands of their IT. Since the field is always changing, and innovations such as cloud computing continually flourish, a good IT service professional keeps one step ahead of where the technology is moving.
Moreover, one moves in lockstep with the business owner’s vision. Good managed IT providers are not just skilled technicians; they’re also business people first and foremost, and they understand how businesses need to grow and scale.Cannabis business owners need to search for this flexibility.
In every vertical, new technology comes out every month – whether it’s cost-cutting lighting solutions for cultivators or ERP software platforms for vertically integrated businesses – which poses new challenges and offers new efficiencies for the industry.
IT Concerns for Each Vertical
Cannabis businesses are often told to stay nimble; good IT services providers have made careers out of it. They can integrate these new developments into an IT backbone that grows and adjusts with the ever-evolving needs of your company while constantly remaining vigilant for whatever security issues these new innovations may bring into your network.
Of course, the technology differs for every business, so IT service professionals need to take those into account.
Below is a list of general IT concerns for each vertical.
- Cultivation: IoT devices for fertigation and light cycles. RFID tags linking back to state track-and-trace systems. Automation controllers for systems ranging from HVAC to blackout panel timing.
- Manufacturing/Processing: Process IP for concentrates, infusions and edible production.
- Distribution: Storage climate control automation. ERP and track-and-trace integration. Dispatch software.
- Lab Testing: automation for mass spectronomy/certificate transmission to state programs.
- Retail (Storefront vs. Delivery) POS service. Dispatch software.
Ultimately, if you can connect to your online network, and it can be accessed through the internet, each device, whether mobile or stationary, represents a point of entry into your system. The arrival of IoT (Internet of Things)-enabled devices has introduced new data points and gives operators even more fine-grain control over their processes.
However, many IoT devices are easily hackable and can turn your grow house or lab into unwitting “zombie” warriors in devastating botnet attacks. Those implementing IoT devices without constructing the proper network infrastructure will certainly ensure that someone else will harness the power of your network to hurt your business and others.
However, more often than not, the weakest link in the chain for any business are poorly trained or rogue employees. Without strong policies in place to handle phishing or spear phishing attempts to gain access to sensitive accounts, employees can easily give away the keys to your castle.
The Anthem hack, which leaked accounts, was eventually traced back to an employee clicking on a corrupted link. Since then, Anthem invested approximately $260 million into improving its IT infrastructure and beefing up its cybersecurity apparatus, according to investigation’s findings.
In addition, skilled social engineers can effectively impersonate an authority figure to gain login credentials. Without solid deny-first policies that stipulate a protocol for bestowing access in place, employees will say yes to requests before they say no.
Moreover, when employees are fired or become determined to hurt your company, they can easily seize your data and hold it for ransom, or sell it on the Dark Web. The delivery app Eaze experienced this indirectly when a doctor that provided online recommendations for their service had his data stolen by a former employee that in turn asked money for its return.
Managed IT Services to the Rescue
Business is business and only those who are fully prepared to take off when Prohibition drops will be able to compete with the mega-corporations that are already forming in Canada. IT forms a critical part of the foundation for your business, and the right IT infrastructure, coupled with the proper training, will give you a solid headstart over your competition.
Most business owners do not have either the time or the technical prowess, however, to devise and implement their IT infrastructure, however.
This is where managed IT comes in. No matter your cannabis vertical, your outsourcing solution should offer
- Advanced Security Management – Firewall and antivirus management and protection
- Virtual CIO – Assess the role of IT in your business in relation to your goals and recommend the most effective strategy moving forward
- Customized Support and Monitoring Solutions – Individualized support for your unique network
You may not need every service you managed IT service provider offers, but as your business grows, so will your needs.
In addition, the IT landscape shifts constantly.
Today, it’s cloud computing and the mobile web; tomorrow, it’s AI.
Your provider will need to not only provide you with the services you need right now, but guidance uniquely tailored to your business objectives. In short, you’ll need a partner.
GeekTek has navigated clients ranging from law to medicine, startups to nonprofits, manufacturing facilities, and others, with IT solutions that correspond with every business’s growth potential. Many of these businesses have their direct equivalent in the cannabis industry.
As the industry matures, it will set the pace for business innovation and resilience – qualities which are also the hallmark of solid IT services.
We not only wish you as the entrepreneur luck in your endeavors but can increase your chances for success. We invite you to contact GeekTek for a consultation to get you on the right path to success and security.