To CPA John Bierman, data security tops the list of his company priorities. “I can’t work without my data, and it’s critical that it’s protected from the outside world for my sake and the confidentiality of my clients,” he says. Bierman experienced a hardware failure that could have compromised his data, but protection measures ensured that his computer system was restored with no loss or security breach.
Thanks to constantly improving technology, it’s never been easier for the small-business owner to effectively and economically protect data, says Greg Davis, owner of South Coast Computers, a Southern California full-service computer company founded in 1991 that provides data protection packages to small businesses.
Take advantage of the many data protection products on the market today, and you can guarantee access to your company information when you need it. Davis shares these steps to ensuring your data stays secure and available.
1. Back it up or else.
The surest way to guarantee that your company information is at your fingertips is to backup on a regular basis with an automated backup system. According to Davis, there are external/offsite backups and internal/onsite systems, and each type has its pros and cons.
Also known as cloud backups, offsite backups eliminate the need for a server to hold data. “Such systems store your data out on the cloud, which is the Internet, and the information is securely replicated and backed up constantly,” says Davis, who advises that while offsite cloud backups have their advantages, it’s important to keep in mind their limitations. If your system fails and you have a lot of data, you must wait for the cloud provider to overnight you a disc with your information. It can also be costly to have someone put the data back on your system.
When you’re switching over to a cloud backup system, it’s also important to realize that sending the information up to the cloud can take weeks when there is a lot of information to replicate, so you’ll need another form of backup in the meantime.
Onsite backups through a network-attached storage feature copy your information on to a hard drive. In some instances tape drives are also used—the combination of which provides ready access to a backup at all times.
2. Take advantage of virtual servers.
Within the last couple of years, virtualization has become much more affordable to the small-business owner. This technology involves essentially running two computers simultaneously, which ensures no downtime if you have a hardware failure on one of the systems, because you have an exact replica of your server.
3. Maintain firewalls.
Intrusion prevention provided by firewalls blocks your data from the outside world, preventing intruders from accessing your information. According to Davis, when it comes to firewalls it’s best to have an appliance that protects your data, rather than software.
“Hardware firewalls sit between the Internet and your data, capturing intruders before they even enter your network,” he says. “When you use a software firewall, the harmful data is allowed to enter your system and uses up Internet space while the software attempts to block it and push it back out.”
4. Employ content filters.
Content filtering protects you and your employees from entering websites that are potentially harmful to your computer system. Filtering also enables you to promote a more productive work environment by limiting what websites your employees are able to view.
5. Use anti-virus and spam filters.
Anti-virus software continually scans your computer, ensuring that no viruses compromise your computer or e-mail. When a virus is detected, the software quarantines the harmful data and deletes it. The best e-mail virus software scans incoming and outbound mail, which ensures that you don’t inadvertently pass on any viruses to your e-mail recipients.
While everyone gets spam e-mail, programs exist that substantially reduce the amount of spam you receive, which protects the integrity of your computer and ensures that your system stays clean and runs fast.
6. Rely on UPS power support.
Essentially a giant backup battery, a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) protects your computer from harmful power outages, spikes and drops. Such an appliance is particularly important in this day and age, as electricity has become “dirtier,” which means that it fluctuates in strength, says Davis, who notes that electrical variations can be particularly harmful to computers.
“A UPS is essentially a giant surge protector with a battery behind it that cleans the power,” he says. “In the case of a sudden power outage, the UPS acts as a buffer. If the power remains off, the device allows the computer to power down safely rather than turn off abruptly, which avoids corruption of the computer’s operating system and loss of critical company data.”
While ensuring the protection of your company information does require some planning and attention to detail, the results of making sure your data is available when your small business needs it are well worth the effort.
A freelancer since 1985, Julie Bawden-Davis has written for many publications, including Entrepreneur, Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle. Julie blogs via Contently.com.