As every professional knows, reputations grow on trust. In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s vital to safeguard your standing and keep it intact. That’s why preventing the loss of valuable commercial and client information is crucial.
Unfortunately, computer disasters and data losses can swipe away hard-won customer confidence at a stroke. Moreover, such incidents might also infringe regulations or break privacy law(s).
Data security is increasingly crucial whether you are a self-employed professional, a partner in a firm, or a decision-maker in an expanding SME. Continue reading to discover why. Below, you will also find a list of the necessary steps to secure your business.
1. Recognizing the threats
Resilient IT systems and data security are fundamental in business and service provision. Confidentiality is a prerequisite across numerous industries and professions; characteristic examples include accountancy, financial advice, medicine, and consulting.
Cybersecurity threats come in various guises. Nowadays, most savvy entrepreneurs know that common scams such as phishing or identity theft can lead to problematic data security. Worse still, unauthorized access to bank or credit card details or accounts can result in financial difficulties.
Data losses, of course, also may arise from disk and memory failure. Other causes include malware, ransomware, user error, denial of service attacks, and SQL injections by expert hackers.
2. Working from home
Entrepreneurs, consultants, and accountants have long worked in SOHO (small office/home office) settings. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about significant increases in remote working. This modus operandi now looks set to stay; the return to office working has been gradual and often only partial.
Despite its possible advantages, homeworking gives rise to additional risks posed by using ubiquitous mobile devices. If malicious code infiltrates, sensitive business information will likely be at risk. Keeping smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers secure and free of threats is essential.
Unfortunately, the automation of backups and virus or malware scanning is too easy to overlook. Similarly, protective measures such as maintaining secure off-site or cloud copies of essential data often end up on the back burner. Typically, hard-pressed owners or managers blame work-related pressure, time constraints, or staff shortages.
It makes little difference whether the catastrophe is due to hardware failure, theft, or malicious action. Nonetheless, statistics provide a stark reminder that data loss can threaten the very existence of a business. Records show that in the UK, for instance, three out of every five SMEs that lose their digital records have little option other than to close within just six months.
3. Setting priorities
Given that it is not worth risking your firm or company’s viability and the integrity of client data, where to start?
Broadly, the priorities are to:
• Prevent unauthorized access to client data
• Safeguard all your business files on local hard disks or cloud storage
• Protect your assets, including bank accounts
Every business should have an IT disaster recovery plan to achieve the above three goals. Practical measures include robust email vigilance, multi-factor authentication, and up-to-date protection against malware.
4. Adopting an integrated approach
A report published this year by Acronis, a Swiss technology company, highlighted a somewhat piecemeal approach to prevention. As specialists in backup and disaster recovery software and services, their researchers surveyed more than 6,000 IT managers and users in SMEs across 22 countries.
More than four-fifths of the organizations surveyed had as many as ten disparate IT solutions running simultaneously to protect data security. Yet more than half suffered data loss and downtime — and this proportion had increased year on year. These interruptions to business stemmed from system crashes (52%), employee error (42%), cyberattacks (36%), and — surprisingly — insiders (20%).
The conclusion is that a holistic approach is preferable. In other words, an integrated solution is likely to provide better protection than complicated stacks of multiple software tools.
5. Securing your IT
Suppose you have sufficient experience or time to learn the essentials. In that case, you could start by automating data backups to a portable drive or memory stick of adequate capacity. When not in use to copy the files, safeguard the backup device in a different physical location to the main PC(s) or workstation(s). Like many businesses, you might decide to also use a cloud-based service for extra security.
However, you could look for expert help implementing reliable backups and a recovery strategy if there is any doubt. Next on the list includes:
- Controlling access to digital resources, perhaps through 2FA (two-factor authentication)
- Making the most of cloud computing services
- Ensuring proper compliance with data privacy regulations
When your organization has covered the above priorities, more working time becomes available for productive core activities and clients. In addition, by addressing the potential risks, client confidence will grow. You will no longer need to spend valuable working time on stressful incidents.
Resilient back-office systems and contingency planning are essential in today’s digital marketplace. Data losses threaten the survival of businesses. At the same time, fraudsters are becoming more resourceful in finding new ruses, loopholes, and weak points. Thus, adequate protection against privacy breaches and serious incidents is crucial.
Existing and prospective new clients will notice when you follow the above recommendations to protect information and maintain confidentiality. In particular, a proactive approach to security and regulatory frameworks will make customers comfortable sharing their personal and financial details. The benefits are clear.
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