Thinking about data security can overwhelm almost any small business owner but if you read or watch the news these days if is hard not to read a story about cyber attacks. It is not just governments or large companies either, many small business are reporting attacks on their systems more than ever. Almost every business nowadays has sensitive data it needs to protect—customer data, business secrets, financial information—and if that data were to fall into the wrong hands, it could mean disaster.
Recovering from a data breach is expensive and difficult, nevermind the negative publicity and loss of trust by your customers. Many small businesses simply cannot afford the cost of cleaning up after a data breach. Compounding the problem is that fact that business data is now accessible in many more places than it used to be: desktops and laptops onsite—of course, but also mobile devices like phones and tablets, as well as from remote logins. The cloud—storing data hosted servers offsite—is an increasingly popular IT solution for its flexibility, convenience, and cost, but business owners should worry about the safety of their data when it “lives” in remote servers controlled by companies with their own objectives.
Given all that, here are three IT security tips for small businesses, in increasing order of protection. If you are the owner of a small business, following these steps should help you erase some of your concerns and allow you to think about other things than IT security, like growing your business and serving your customers.
1. Take the obvious steps first
You’ve bought computers, desktop and laptops, for your staff. You maybe even set them up yourself and activated some kind of antivirus software that came with it but was it a trial? Maybe you installed a free version here on there but is it still active and updated? Free antivirus software is OK for a computer or two but if your small business has more than 2 computers you should consider a modern day antivirus and antimalware application and one that you can manage easily so YOU know that your computers have the best up-to-date protection.
2. Consider the cloud carefully
Dropbox is one of the most relied-upon cloud storage providers in the U.S., but even it suffered multiple data breaches even as recent as July of 2012, as hackers gained access to users’ email addresses. If you’re turning your data over to some other company, make sure that company can be trusted to keep it secure. And use a company account for your staff, letting staff use their personal cloud service account puts your data at risk and out of your control.
3. Seek expert help
Your staff members might want to access their work data from their smartphones, but is that really necessary? When tightening up your IT security, look at the little things like this that can have huge consequences if they trigger a data breach. The more ways there are to access your company’s data, the more at risk you are. Most people aren’t very productive on a three-inch screen anyway, so consider keeping your employees’ smartphones off the network.
You and your employees have grown your business from nothing, based on your expertise and hard work, but will that do-it-yourself approach work for protecting your IT security? Wouldn’t you rather focus on tasks more directly related to your business services? Managed IT service providers now offer many levels of data security services and guidance. Using sophisticated remote monitoring systems, IT service providers don’t even have to come to your location to report on missing security patches, install antivirus updates, and monitor suspicious activity on your network. Of course, if you would like an IT technician to come to your site, check out your systems, and talk to you about your data security options, that is available too.
Learn more about partnering with an outsourced IT provider for data security in our newest white paper for small business owners. Download it for free by clicking on the link below.