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Small Business Security Threats: Avoid These Common Mistakes to Protect Critical Data and Maintain Business Continuity

Understanding your software protection is just part of the battle in securing your important data, here are some key things to remember.

Written By: Tom Collins
 It's not a matter of if, but when. You might think that as a small business owner, your company is not a target for malicious hackers or attacks, but this couldn't be farther from the truth. Size doesn't matter when it comes to maintaining business continuity in light of security threats - both natural and manmade - anyone and everyone is susceptible.
 
Think about what kind of information you could lose from various business security threats - years worth of tax records, confidential employee information including Social Security numbers, signed customer contracts and customer contact records, just to start. 
 
When an eight person law firm in Miami was hit by Hurricane Ike in 2008, it was forced to close its doors after a decade of being in business. Everything they had was destroyed and irretrievable. Although this was a natural disaster, the business owner could have taken some relatively easy and cost effective precautions to ensure his business was safe from common small business security threats. Fortunately, for today's small business owners, there are many software applications available that are adept at maintaining business continuity. These applications are easily accessible and simple to implement, making your business safer in case the unthinkable should occur.  
 
The Keys to Maintaining Business Continuity
 
I see many small businesses make the same common mistakes when it comes to securing their data and maintaining business continuity; I've listed them
(below) in an effort to help companies protect themselves from business security threats. Most companies I talk to believe they are secure, when in fact, they are unmistakably vulnerable.   
 
Mistake #1: "My data is secure; I've got it backed up on-premise." 
 
Let's say you are fortunate enough to have a security system, a fire detection system and are part of a secured office park with security personnel roaming the grounds 24/7. Just because your premises are secured doesn't mean your records are safe from business security threats. In fact, it's the opposite. Many businesses commonly make the mistake of backing up files only on-premise or back-up on premise and remove discs or tapes manually on a regularly scheduled interval (ex. once per month). The smartest solution to combating business security threats is to have all your data saved and stored in an off-premise data center. By having your data backed up off-site, you ensure the safety of all your important files and you get the added benefit of being able to access important files from any Internet connected computer (with the right security authentication of course!)
 
Like in the earlier example of the law firm affected by Hurricane Ike, if it had stored all of its files off-premise in a hosted data center, the employees would have been able to save all of the files, retrieve and reinstate them and gotten the business back up with minimal interruption. Backing up to an external hard drive or NAS (Network Attached Storage) device is critical to maintaining business continuity and preventing data loss due to hardware failures. However, small businesses commonly face fires, floods, thefts, and other business security threats that require backups to be offsite. Make sure your business has a secure backup solution in place to allow data to be stored offsite. These solutions are relatively inexpensive in terms of maintaining business continuity, especially considering the alternative. 
 
Mistake #2:"I just bought a new PC, so I've already got the latest and greatest security software loaded."  
 
You may be thinking to yourself "I already have all the security I need." Yes, Microsoft Windows does have a firewall feature guarding against common business security threats, but these off-the-shelf components aren't nearly enough to support the needs of a company. Ideally, small businesses should employ the same "defense in depth" strategy large enterprises use to secure their internal networks. PCs should have their software firewalls enabled and properly configured, and have a firewall router on the network's edge to provide a second layer of defense against business security threats. This way, if a PC's firewall is not configured properly, there is still a layer of protection between the computer and Internet threats. By selecting a managed firewall application, small businesses will shield themselves from critical network threats, block unnecessary Internet traffic, and restrict applications used on your network. This type of security product is a necessity for protecting small business networks from malicious Internet threats and maintaining business continuity.      
 
Mistake #3:"I installed new security protection software in the past couple years or so."  
 
As you may know, many laptops and desktops come with pre-installed free trials of a brand name security offering, although this will keep your desktop secure for a brief time, many small businesses commonly make the mistake of letting this software expire and forgetting to update it.  In order to protect your desktops and laptops from online business security threats, you must install a secure desktop solution to protect PCs from viruses, spyware, and other Internet-borne attacks. Sold as a bundle as part of many communications and IT services, secure desktop applications have no expiration dates to keep track of. The best part of this software application is that updates are automatic, which means there are no more software upgrades to install--reducing the cost of IT management. Maintaining business continuity is easy--just secure your desktop as soon as you can!  

Mistake #4: "I have to update my browser and operating system (OS) security patches myself, and I just don't have the time."  
 
Small businesses can easily be taken advantage of due to low security on their browsers and operating systems, but these types of business security threats can be easily avoided with automatic security patch updates. Many small businesses take the burden of updating their PCs with the latest software versions on themselves, but OS security can be easily automated, which makes maintaining business continuity a breeze. Yes, small businesses should ensure the updates take place and check in on them regularly, but today's technology helps alleviate some of the time it takes to manage the situation.    
 
By avoiding these common culprits of business security threats, companies can protect one of their most precious assets - data and files. Most businesses will face many threats in their lifecycle. Learn from the mistakes others have made and take these steps towards maintaining your business continuity.
 
 
 
Tom Collins is the Product Manager for Security and IT Services at Cbeyond, a leading provider of voice and data packages to more than 48,000 small businesses throughout the United States.
 

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