How safe are your small business’s electronic records? Are you protected against computer viruses? Do all your employees understand how critical the security of your IT infrastructure is to the success of your business? You may have never asked yourself these questions before, especially if your small business is brand new, but you should. Small business IT security is more important than ever because the threat grows every month. Instead of scrambling to respond to data theft, virus infection and user error, use these three simple steps to avoid IT disasters from the start.
1. Install a Firewall
Most computers these days come with a basic firewall installed on them, but rarely is this effective enough to truly protect your systems. Plus, it is designed for a generic user, and not managed by someone who understands your company and the threats you face. A strong appliance based firewall installed between your network and the internet connection of your office is your first line of defense against hackers and other malicious elements. Even small businesses need to have a corporate class firewall in place if they are serious about iron clad data security.
A firewall provides a certain amount of automatic protection, but keeping it effective requires monitoring and maintenance. Regularly scheduled updates need to be diligently installed, and patches need to be added as unexpected threats arise. Examining your network traffic can identify potential or minor threats before they find a way to breach the firewall. A managed firewall solution can also provide you with useful statistics on what web sites are being visited by your users.
2. Implement Managed Antivirus Protection
Many people operate under the misconception that a basic antivirus program will protect them from any malicious program, now and into the foreseeable future. The reality is that effective antivirus protection requires constant updating, monitoring and tweaking. Even expensive antivirus programs can leave you with serious vulnerabilities if they are not managed properly.
In order to stay ahead of sophisticated and constantly evolving viruses, your antivirus protection needs to be constantly updated. If you do become infected, your protections may now be disabled without your knowledge. Worse still, an employee may have turned them off unknowingly. Installing an antivirus program on every machine is just the first step. Once it is there, it needs to be constantly managed to remain effective. A single virus on a single machine can spread through your entire IT infrastructure with devastating results.
3. Prevent Internal Threats
Hackers are not the only threat to your sensitive data . Your own employees, whether accidentally or intentionally, may be your IT security's worst enemy. Employees who use your computers everyday are in a unique position to compromise them. Unknowingly downloading viruses from the internet, disabling firewalls and changing administrative settings are all common and consequential problems that can derail your small business IT security efforts.
You can effectively eliminate this risk by educating your employees and limiting their access. Make sure that you train all employees on the best practices of data security. Having vigilant and knowledgeable employees can help you avoid rather than deflect major threats. Teach them not to click on that link in an email that looks funny but comes from someone they know. Help them to understand that that pop up that looks like a Windows alert wanting them to buy or install something could be and most likely is a hoax. Next, restrict administrative access to your IT systems to only those who absolutely need it. If employees are not able to download and install programs, or change operating settings, there is less risk of your security strategies being accidentally compromised.
The simplest way to manage small business IT security, and to address all the issues raised in this blog, is to outsource it to a managed service provider (MSP). These IT experts understand the threats you face and have the resources to protect you remotely. Your small business will be safer than ever, and you will have to invest little to no time in protecting it. To learn more about what an MSP can do for you, read our white paper “The Ultimate Small Business Guide to Outsourcing IT.”