These days, it actually could be more common to hear about a nearby business losing much of its valuable data in a cybercrime attack than it would be to hear about your neighbor's house being vandalized. The enormous wealth of information stored on computers and over the Internet has created a whole new breed of “bad guys” that may not know how to pick a lock, but know their way around computer code, and therefore could be a threat to your business and the integrity of its data.
What's more, even natural disasters or network failures can compromise your business' digital data. But before you whip out your calculator and start the painstaking process of determining how much it's going to cost you to keep your business safe, consider the following five steps you can take to secure your digital data. While not all of them are free, most are and others are cost-effective, making it well worth your while to heed them.
- Don't ignore updates – While notices to update your software can often come at inopportune moments, don't ignore these reminders just because they feel like an inconvenience. Often the updates contain critical security patches and therefore should be dealt with immediately. If you have a difficult time disciplining yourself to download these updates, switch your computer settings to install automatic updates.
- Move some or all data to the cloud – The cloud could be a safer place for your business' data than your own in-house network. Many cloud-solution providers store your data in state-of-the-art data centers with rigorous, enterprise-class security standards.
With Office 365, for example, data is stored on industrial-strength servers and is also backed up to a second datacenter. IT experts handle security updates, leaving you with more time to focus on business priorities.
- Focus on prevention – It's been said that the best offense is a good defense and in the realm of IT security, this rings especially true. Take preventive measures to keep your data secure, such as practicing “least privilege,” or limiting employees' computer functions to job-related tasks only. Encrypt some or all of your computers' data so that unauthorized users can't decipher sensitive information should they gain access to one or more of your computers. Require employees to only use Internet browsers with sufficient protection features. Finally, make sure you're running antimalware software from a reputable vendor.
Some computing solutions, such as Office 365, come with antivirus and antispam software already included.
- Make the most of free resources – Many reputable IT vendors offer free security solutions and educational materials to computer users, so be on the lookout for these resources and leverage them often.
Twice a year, Microsoft publishes its free, Security Intelligence Report that provides analysis of the latest threats and how to protect yourself and business from them. Additionally, businesses and consumers can access free antivirus protection with Microsoft Security Essentials.
- Get everyone involved – Employees have an important role to play in keeping your business and its data secure. Help them understand the latest security threats and measures for protection by making digital security a regular topic at company meetings and/or via email notifications. Steps employees can take to improve security include only opening emails and attachments from known senders, using strong passwords and changing them frequently, and notifying your company's IT staff of any security threats they detect.
With so much data being created and stored everyday, there's even more of a need to be vigilant about information security. From virus attacks to random network failures, your data can be compromised in a number of ways, and to make matters worse, it can be costly and time-consuming to remedy. By taking these few simple preventive steps, you can help keep the worst from happening, and you and your business will be glad you did.
Office 365 makes it possible for smaller companies to access enterprise-grade technology and compete on a new playing field, all without breaking the bank. For more information and to get started with a free 30-day trial, click here.