How small businesses can keep their data safe (and why they should care)

With the rise of WikiLeaks in recent years – and the role of stolen emails in the US election – online security has never been a hotter issue. “Unless proper precautions are taken, data is always at risk,” says Andrew Tucker, CEO of IT On Cloud. But the questions small businesses need to ask themselves are who’s it at risk from? What happens if they take my data? And how do I protect myself?

Who’s most likely to steal your data?

One of the most common threats is the disgruntled employee, Tucker says. “They might go into work and delete everything off the server. If proper backups aren’t in place, that’s a massive problem for the business.”

But your biggest threat is likely to be from overseas hackers. An employee might accidentally click on a link to something called a “crypto virus”. This nasty-sounding virus kidnaps your data and literally holds it ransom. If you want it released, you have to pay the hackers.

The virus sneaks on to your system as a link in an official-looking email. This might be disguised as a program or system installer. Once downloaded, it can sit in a network for weeks before bringing down an entire system. So always make sure you’re only opening links from emails you trust. A good trick is to check the sender’s email address and make sure it’s an official URL (like gmail.com) and not something like “google3123.us”.

What happens to your business if they steal it?

“If backups have not been done properly, a business could lose all its data,” Tucker says. That means waving goodbye to every application and every document that wasn’t printed. And once data has been hit by the crypto virus, there’s no way to unlock it. “Quite often police recommend just paying the ransom.”

Needless to say, your data needs to be secure. So what can you do to protect it? Depending on your budget, Tucker lists some things you can do to keep your data safely under lock and key.

“If backups have not been done properly, a business could lose all its data”

How you can protect your business?

Level 1: Take the simple steps

If you don’t have the budget for data protection, you can still take precautions. Though it sounds obvious, it’s often the simple things that can make a big difference. Make sure all your anti-virus software is up to date. Keep system backups. And perhaps most importantly, never click on suspicious email links.

Level 2: Use cloud storage

If your budget is small, use low-cost services like Dropbox or Onedrive for cloud storage. Both these online data storage services are well protected from hackers, and they’re also convenient if you’re on the move a lot. “However, what they don’t cater for is anti-virus measures,” Tucker says. “If you download a virus, it could be synched to your local device and anyone connected to it.”

small business data

Level 3: Use private cloud storage

Private cloud storage service is the ultimate in data security. If your data is too valuable to be compromised, this is the option for you. All your company data sits in your very own private cloud. That includes all desktops and all applications.

If hackers managed to delete data from your server, it can be restored instantly. The same thing happens if it’s hit by a crypto virus. “A full restore is available in minutes,” Tucker says. This level is most suited to any business that has to share data between more than three users.

Viruses will always be a problem for business owners as they’re continuously evolving. But with these steps, they will be just another thing your business won’t have to worry about.

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