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How to Protect Your Small Business Data (Inside and Out)

Keeping your small business data secure is no small feat, and if that delightful small business of yours happens to be operating in the financial sector—say an online bank, then the risk of getting your data hacked skyrockets that you might have to give NASA a call to locate it.

If you don’t want your small spark of joy to be snuffed too early like 60% of small businesses that shut their doors within six months of getting hacked, then keep reading.

Here are the top ten tips for keeping your small business data safe and secure.

1. Know Thy Self: We Mean Your Small Business Data

You need to be in a position where you know your business’ data front-to-back, left-to-right, and even diagonally. 

Every business is different, so you need to be aware of what sort of data do you consider critically important or sensitive, and which data is a bit less so.

An easy way to answer that question would be by imagining the effects of a hypothetical breach. Yes, we’re asking you to imagine your customer profiles or financial data got out.

Once you take a deep breath to banish that nightmare scenario, you’ll get a better understanding of the business-impact levels for such a breach. 

For example, in the case of operating a business that offers secure payday loans, you’ll understand that your clients’ social security numbers are probably your number one security priority.

You can potentially think that your business’ annual marketing plan getting leaked is of less importance, but that doesn’t give you permission to ignore it either.

You’ll simply allocate a higher priority to your clients’ information, and still, take care to keep your other data secure.  

2. Establish Basic Password Hygiene

Operating a small business already places your data under the spotlight of nefarious hackers and opportunistic data-stealing fiends.

Don’t make it easier on them by having passwords of the same ilk as…12345 or Password1. While you might not have a ton of money to spend on a complex password manager, investing in even a basic one will save you money in the long run by keeping your business data safe. 

You can put in place an Active Directory/Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) integration. It will provide automated reporting tools as well as highlight weak passwords and put a master password in place, where you as the admin can edit or revoke access.

3. Teach Your Employees How to Fish…

…so you don’t run yourself into the ground giving them new fishes every single day. And by that, we mean you need to teach your employees about your company’s security policy and how to implement it.

It doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg, but having a smoothly integrated cybersecurity section in your staff-induction process, as well as bi-annual refreshers to keep your employees up to date with the latest technologies and security methodologies.

However, to ensure the training’s effectiveness is at 100% then it must be implemented from the very top of the company’s hierarchy to the newest intern.

Of course, the details of the training will differ according to the job’s details and responsibility, but a form of security protocol should be provided to all and all to make it work.

Even the smallest of holes in your security firewall can bring your whole security system down.

4. Encryption Is Here to Stay

Encryption sounds complicated, but it’s actually simpler than you imagine and it’s encryption is one of the most valuable steps in terms of data protection.

The great thing about encryption comes into play when you have a laptop stolen or an email hacked because in this case, it’s less likely to pose a security risk to your business.

With encryption technologies becoming more widespread and easier to use for the layman, it becomes a question of convenience and types of usage.

From a SSL Certificate to encrypted USB drives, there are many options out there for your business whether you’re a fan of rooted encryption to on-the-fly encryption.

5. Channel Your Inner Boy/Girl Scout

Always be prepared.

Remember that security policy we lightly touched upon in the education section? Yes, we’ll add to the training part of the equation.

More important than training your employees would be not only going into detail about how to protect your data but also what your reaction would be if the worst happens.

Putting in place an incident-response strategy when you are sipping a latte in your office and things are great is way better than doing so when your head is on fire and your data is dragged from your servers kicking and screaming.

6. Constant Vigilance

No one needs a less-than-gentle nudge from a character like Mad-Eye-Moody than small businesses. We know that you’re drowning in your business needs, and wondering whether all the pain and panic is worth it.

A) Yes, having your own business and watching it grow is totally worth it

B) We don’t care that you’re busy. Your data security updates take priority

You need to stay up to date, with your software that is used in your daily business like the operating systems of your company devices, your servers, and definitely your security system software.

Turn those auto-updates on for your security software, even though they may seem disruptive.

In addition, since your small company probably can’t afford to have an automated patch-management system in place, the alternative would be having scheduled scanning sessions for your unpatched or vulnerable software in your business’ off-peak times.

Patching is overall a rather low-cost process, so don’t keep pushing it aside because if you suffer a blunt force attack on your system due to unpatched software, you’ll have to re-establish a whole new security system.

7. Keep Those Personal Devices Away

This pandemic of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is hitting small businesses hard.

The simple truth is that personal devices — no matter how secure their owners think they are — have not been put through the necessary security paces like your company’s devices.

The mix of personal and business data on the same device with no corporate security controls in place, once that device leaves the business building, is a shining beacon for the morally unscrupulous to take advantage of.

Now we understand that there is a high probability you won’t be able to completely prevent BYOD from happening, but a simple and cheap way to counteract it would be educating your employee and establishing proper network controls. 

8. Cloud Computing for the Win

It might not make sense on the surface to recommend putting your data on the cloud when we’ve been foaming at the mouth about security risks out there…on the cloud.

However, for small businesses, actually investing in a good cloud service provider (CSP) is the way to go.

A proper CSP has the infrastructure, time, and means to heavily guard their data, and when you become their client, your data is now theirs to protect.

Nonetheless, make sure your cloud-based data is encrypted as well because it never hurts to be extra secure when you’re out there on the cloud.

9. Don’t Forget to Show Your Hardware Some Love

Because protecting your software is all fine and dandy, but if you ignore your hardware and access to your actual premises, then all of your hard security work can go down the drain.

Invest in good quality computer hardware, don’t underestimate the importance of regularly shredding your important documents.

And don’t forget that having solid on-the-ground security protocols with device lock screens in place and activated whenever your employees are away would be the way to go.

10. Don’t Put It Off

Taking responsibility for your data as soon as possible is probably the best tip we have out of the lot.

Because if you don’t act now, having a great security policy that is gathering dust in your desk drawer isn’t helping your business.

Remember that criminals never sleep, and while we don’t recommend you going full-blown sleep-deprived zombie, but a quick implementation of basic safety protocols is a must.

Ready to Get Your Business Secure?

Now that you have these top ten small business data security tips, you’re good to go conquer all those nefarious small business murderers out there.

Need to know more about what you’re up against and how to further protect your data?

We’ve got you. Make sure to check out our business article section regularly to learn more!