One of the charms, and also the challenges, of running a small business is that your scope and reach is by its very definition limited. You don’t have the resources of Unilever nor the cultural cache of Disney, but what you do have is heart, value to offer, and hardworking staff behind you.
So far, so good. Yet when it comes to modern applications or necessities that may seem beyond your skill level, you may feel a limited intimidated in your planning. Never fear, because this is entirely natural and nothing to be afraid of. You can pick up new practices as your business expands.
One essential practice to consider is that of managing data security. Sure, you might be a small enterprise, perhaps without the most valuable and sensitive data that other companies might commit corporate espionage to get, but you still have a responsibility to your customers, your staff, and everyone who positively interfaces with your company.
But how is data security defined, and what measures can you, as a small business, take to manage it? Those are good questions, which is why in this post we hope to answer them as dutifully as possible:
Assessing Your Data Assets & Risks
To start with, it’s important to consider the full scope of the data you’re trying to protect. At first glance, it might feel as though your product design plans, internal business documents, and marketing information (such as the login codes and authentication tokens for your social media pages) should be protected first and foremost.
But it’s not just these assets that might be at risk. Customer data, for example, is an asset that your company uses to better gauge preferences, save information to better serve your customers, or give them the autonomy of account creation and management. On top of that, you likely also have personal HR information about your staff, including where they live, their personally identifying tax information, and more.
In other words, even small businesses can sit on a vast trove of sensitive data. As such, it’s important to be aware of the risks involved with protecting that.
These risks can include computer viruses, including trojans and malware, but mostly issues can arise due to social engineering as opposed to brute force hacking attacks. When you know the data you hope to protect, and exactly where you need to protect it, you can plan for a robust outcome.
Establishing A Data Security Policy
It’s also important to consider your data security policy and how that will automate good practice among your staff, or clear up confusion where there may be any.
But how do you go about establishing such a policy? Well, you don’t have to write it from scratch. Hiring outsourced IT professionals or hiring an administrator in-house can be a great idea. Moreover, many managed IT service providers (MSP) will allot you a code of practice to use while integrating their services into your business.
This security policy should be both internal and external, so customers also know how you’re handling their data and what steps you take to protect it. This will include constant cybersecurity updates, 24/7 server hosting, and servicing from your MSP. It will standardize how your office communicates, even leading to PDF redaction where most appropriate if you need to share sensitive files with those who might not need access to the entire text. This process will also include:
Employee Training & Awareness
Even employees with a specific IT specialism will not necessarily be constantly updated with the latest understanding of cybersecurity practice, which is why it’s essential to train your entire staff and keep them on the same page.
As we said above, social engineering is the easiest method for someone to breach your systems. So for example, an emailed link leading to malware can easily cause an infection on a work device, which may spread. That’s why it’s so important to teach staff not to download suspicious files or visit odd links, to constantly verify their communications with other staff, to change their password at least every 90 days, to keep up with your multi-factor-authentication methods, and better yet, to limit their personal use of work devices.
Small businesses may not be in a position to furnish every single employee with a laptop, which is why tools like virtual private networks (VPNs) and secure workplace modules can be used to keep staff protected, even when working from home.
Data Backup & Recovery Strategies
Ultimately, having a disaster plan in place will help more than any other strategy. This is because no security measure is 100% foolproof, but the need to reclaim what was lost is 100% necessary. After all, it’s not just hostile actors that might put your data in harm’s way, but also the failing of systems, even flooding depending on where your office is based, and other unforeseen issues that might cause harm.
Of course, cloud backups off-site are far and above the best method of data management, and using a service provider that correctly scales to the size of your business is absolutely essential to work with. This gives you the peace of mind to know that in the final analysis, your data can always be restored. That’s not to say you should loosen your other security measures, only that the final defense will be prepared as part of your strategy.
To conclude, it’s important to never take your approach to data security for granted. No matter how humble your outfit, you can be certain that your efforts to market your business will, one day at least, notify a potential bad-faith actor that you have systems worth considering. Cybersecurity doesn’t always make the news, but data leaks, cyberattacks and more can be possible, and take some time to deal with. As part of your obligation to your staff and clients, solidifying a robust approach now will help you avoid any of those challenges causing difficulties.
With this advice, you’re sure to have planned data security a a small business in the best way.