Security is an essential part of your small-business infrastructure, yet many of us don't take the time to properly protect our digital assets. Effective protection includes backup, prevention of unauthorized data access and detection of malware and viruses.
Data security is not the only reason to take steps to protect your business. You're also protecting the privacy of your customers and employees, ensuring that their personal lives are protected.
Most of the time, nothing goes wrong. Despite coffee spills and power outages, our computers churn happily along. It’s easy to get complacent.
But your business can be in chaos for days when something does go wrong. One good virus, Trojan or malware attack is all it takes.
The bad guys keep getting better at what they do. The responsible business owner has to be up-to-date on the most current defensive tools for internet security and virus protection.
3 types of solutions for your business
As you review your options for implementing business-data security, decide which of three configurations is right for your business.
Individual software that protects each computer. Many very small businesses go this route, installing a product like Norton or a free version of AVG on every computer. These solutions work pretty well.
Robust, managed security solution. Growing businesses with multiple staff and computers need more than individual software. Consider installing a more robust, managed security solution.
Managed security solutions that are hosted. When these systems are in place, you have no software to install. Your traffic is routed through your security service, which scans and stops security threats before they enter your network. One caveat: If some software is locally accessed, through a USB drive for instance, you'll need to install protection on your local computer.
Software products with the best reputations
These systems are the most well-regarded for small businesses.
Symantec’s Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition 12.1 security product wraps up the major elements of security in a tidy package. You can control antivirus, spyware prevention and a firewall from a single entry point. The system is sleek, simple and efficient.
The software also helps ward off internal threats. That’s significant because potential problems lurk within your system, put there by your own employees who often don't realize they're doing it. Symantec's Endpoint protection lets you limit access to files, folders and other applications. You can restrict people from connecting potentially virus-laden devices like CD burners, MP3 players and flash drives. This control can keep a lot of unintended malware off your system.
The software package costs $1,414.
Trend Micro's Worry-Free Business Security Advanced 7 delivers all the necessary protections against adware, spyware, phishing and other ills. It also offers substantial data protection. It stops people from accidentally copying or recycling restricted data or transferring critical files to a portable storage device.
You can customize and configure the software according to a range of criteria. For example, an administrator can block specific URLs beyond those already caught by the safety net. The software also lets you restrict certain words from the company’s chat client, using an IM content-filtering mechanism.
The security suite runs from $24 to $69 per user for 26 to 50 users, depending on the terms of your license.
As with any cloud-based system, McAfee SaaS Total Protection takes a lot of the infrastructure expense off the shoulders of the business owner. You need no additional hardware, and your IT consultant can manage your security from anywhere.
McAfee's interface is easy to use and is surprisingly legible, giving color-coded feedback on system status. The system is friendly to home-based businesses, with Wi-Fi protection and parental controls.
While some independent tests of speed and accuracy have been less than stellar, McAfee holds its place as among the most prominent security-solutions providers.
A three-year subscription starts at $270 per license.
AVG is one of the most popular free security tools. Its Internet Security 2012 carries that reputation into the small-business arena for a fee.
It scrutinizes incoming threats from the Web, and it protects against malware from external devices and drives, e-mail and attachments, social media and file sharing. A handy tool rates a website for safety before you navigate there.
AVG maintains its own database of evolving threats, and it collects information from customers who choose to submit reports identifying new forms of attack. That dynamic feedback helps keep the software current in the face of ever-changing threats.
AVG protects your business for $50 per computer per year.
Panda Antivirus Pro 2012 scores right out of the gate by being friendly to both Windows and Macintosh operating systems. Choices among security systems for Mac offices are rather thin, so Panda's Mac support is welcome.
Starting with a solid foundation of blocking out potential hazards, Panda has a couple of nice bells and whistles. For example, it comes with its own browser, which provides added security by tossing suspect material into a virtual holding pen until security can be ascertained. A virtual keyboard prevents others from recording your keystrokes.
Panda costs $150 for up to five PCs and offers a solid, easy-to-use solution for potential security threats.
Be smart, be safe
You will never be completely safe. The people who dump garbage onto the web and poke holes in your computer system are very good at what they do. As a smart business owner, though, you can use these products to help you take some very effective precautions.
Beyond the technical resources you can buy, the best security is to be vigilant. Use long and complex passwords, be careful which links you click on and be wary of opening e-mail attachments.