Data security is a paramount concern for everyone these days — and for business owners, cyber protection has become a critical part of daily operations. All too often, however, business owners don’t realize that data security is a proactive, two-way street that requires responsible practices, protocols, and protective installations.
This is especially true for small business owners because they don’t have the same level of tech support that a large business or corporation has. Large-scale businesses have immediate access to a network of cybersecurity advisors, as well as a team of tech support professionals; but small business owners simply don’t have this advantage.
A staggering 43 percent of cyber attacks target small businesses, and 60 percent of these small businesses go out of business within six months of experiencing an attack.
With sobering numbers like these, it’s crucial for small business owners to learn how to be proactive with data security. These six steps can help you develop the right practices and protocols to ensure the safety of your cyber network and company data.
1. Make a complete inventory of all company computers and devices
A complete inventory means just that: An inventory that includes not only onsite computers, but also laptops, tablets, cell phones and home computers used offsite by employees. Likewise, any protections or data security installations that are implemented onsite need to be installed in these employee devices as well. Be sure to update this list regularly, even if you haven’t had any recent new hires.
2. Put protocols in place, and enforce them
Protocols typically include a list of rules and regulations for online use, as well as the implementation of necessary passwords and authorization codes to protect data security. Importantly, the same protocols that govern online behavior in the workplace should be enforced offsite as well, in any device that an employee is using for work. Toward this end, it’s important to implement access codes, update passwords and even use encryption when necessary, so that unauthorized users won’t get access to company information.
3. Don’t just train your staff; enable them as well
Employees are the nerve center of any business; and as such, they’re the doorkeepers of your company data. They have the power to stop a data security breach — but they can’t use this power unless they have the proper knowledge as well. The best way to do this is to make your employees a real part of your security team by giving them the same level of cyber security training that you give to your managers. This doesn’t mean giving them access to every authorization code in your business; rather, it means giving them the training they need to follow security protocols; monitor, check and update data; and recognize inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and potential security glitches.
4. Develop an effective response plan that everyone understands
A response plan isn’t effective if only a few people know about it. A data security breach might very likely be discovered by someone other than yourself, and it’s crucial for that person to take immediate steps to curtail the damage. In order for them to do this, they’ll have to know exactly what to do, and how to do it quickly. In addition, the company response plan should include protocols for what to do if you’re not available when the breach occurs. Owners take vacations, too, and you could be miles away. That’s why your plan needs to include an employee chain of command, with people you can trust at the top.
5. Learn how to leverage your data
Your existing data can be an important tool for monitoring potential security glitches — and even uncovering breaches. Everyone associates data security hacks with viruses and malware, but user behavior analytics can also reveal irregularities that can be red flags. Toward this end, behavior analytics software programs can shift through megabits to uncover patterns that aren’t normal — and that might signal either existing or potential trouble.
6. Use a managed IT services team
The most comprehensive way to ensure data security for your business is to hire professionals who can help monitor your network data, on a 24/7 basis. A managed IT services team will monitor and update your network and existing systems, as well as provide 24/7 help to you and your staff.
Here are just a few of the benefits a managed IT services team will provide:
- Monitor/update data and company operating systems
- Provide a continuity/disaster plan in case of a breach
- Put effective security systems and protocols in place for everyone to follow
- Provide a 24/7 help desk, as well as 24/7 maintenance, patching and networking monitoring
- Provide protection for your cloud storage
- Provide expert cybersecurity training for you and your employees
- Help you stay compliant with constantly-changing regulations
- Provide effective data backup solutions so files aren’t lost
A good managed IT services team will take care of everything related to data security, from start to finish, so that you can get back to concentrating on your business. In addition, managed IT services will also provide services such as spam filtering and content filtering, so you won’t leave your company open to potential hacking and malware.
According to recent US statistics, small businesses in 2017 lost an average of $1,207,965 due to cyber attacks — an amount that can bankrupt many businesses this size.
That’s why, when it comes to data security, managed IT services can represent a valuable investment in your company’s future.