How critical is data protection? If you think about it: Every day you and your employees create or update data. You gather customer information, update financial documents or create marketing materials.
Each bit of this data is critical to some part of your business. It might be the up-to-date information you use to ship your products, serve your customers, get new customers or file taxes.
But many small-business owners focus on increasing revenue and forget to protect this valuable aspect of their company. If your server crashes this afternoon, can you recover your data? What will you do if your office burns down tonight?
Security breaches are important part of data protection. Have you taken precautions to prevent a data breach? Craig Blessing, with security company Datacastle says the average data breach costs a company $7.2 million, or $214 per breached record.
Because the stakes are high, make the first item on your to-do list properly protecting your data.
Here are three things you can do to help protect your data. Follow these steps so you can get your doors open again in case of a loss or breach.
Back up your data
One of the most important safeguards is to regularly back up your data. Security experts do not recommend copying unencrypted data to a tape or portable drive each night. The data can be stolen. To prevent theft, all saved data must be encrypted.
“While we recommend that you have onsite backup, it’s absolutely critical to keep an encrypted copy of your data off-site as well,” said Amanda Harper, president of Gaeltek Technology Solutions in Northern Virginia. Harper wrote Business IT 101: A Business Owner's Guide for Finding Hassle-Free Computer Support.
If a disaster or theft makes it impossible to access your computers or servers, the onsite backup is useless says Harper.
Jeff Hoffman, a small-business data-security specialist with ACT Network Solutions, recommends backing up any data that would hinder your business if it is lost.
“Identify the information that you can't live without to operate your business, like the accounting system, the client-tracking system, any contracts, your quoting system if you have one, your customer-support files,” said Hoffman. “Sometimes people go overboard and try to back up everything, including pictures of last year's company picnic."
Get advice on which online backup services are recommended for small businesses.
How often should you back up your data? The answer to this question depends on your specific industry and business needs. If your data changes dramatically during the day, then back up throughout the day as critical information changes. For most companies, a nightly back up is sufficient.
Often, companies will set up a backup system and then not check on it until they have a data loss. Only then do they realize that the backup stopped working six months ago.
“After you have a good backup system in place, you need to test it regularly to make sure it works,” said Harper. She recommends testing the backup at least once a month and more often if the data is critical to business operations.
Develop data-recovery and disaster-recovery plans
“If your building burned down, what steps would you have to follow to get your business up and running?” asked Jeff Hoffman, with ATC, a small-business security company.
Write out a plan for data recovery as well as what you would do after a disaster. Remember that if you ever have to use either of them, you will be under stress and most likely you will not have access to company resources. Be as detailed as possible and include all phone numbers and websites you need to execute your plan.
Keep a copy of the plan in several locations, both onsite and off-site. Hoffman said two businesses he worked for were involved in a fire. “One was up and running within 48 hours and one had to close their doors,” he said.
Train each of your employees on the importance of data safety.
Make sure they password-protect their laptops and mobile devices with strong passwords. Require that employees not use passwords that contain the word password since Password1 was recently found to be the most common password.
Data protection should be an ongoing priority in your office. Each quarter, set time aside to review your data-protection policy and make adjustments. You may have added a new location or a new technology.
The time spent on data protection is much less than the time it will take to recover your losses, after something goes wrong.
Jennifer Gregory is a journalist with more than 17 years professional writing experience. Jennifer blogs for Contently.
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