By Daryl Blundell, General Manager for Sage Pastel Accounting
If you run a small business, you may think that data breaches and cybercrime are concerns mostly for big banks, retailers and telecoms companies. But in the worst case scenario, a data breach or a loss of customer information can be expensive to rectify, result in your business losing customers, and hurt your company’s reputation for years to come.
Not just for big firms
Even though headlines about data breaches and losses focus on big companies like Sony and Dropbox, small businesses are not immune. The UK’s Federation of Small Businesses found that 41% of SMEs in that country suffered from cybercrime last year. Though there’s a shortage of similar research for South Africa, our stats are likely to be in the same ballpark.
Small companies are, if anything, more vulnerable than larger counterparts because their defences tend to be weaker. They don’t have the IT specialists or budgets of larger companies, so their information security is often more basic. Yet their customer data or access to their online banking systems are nonetheless lucrative targets for today’s highly motivated cybercriminals.
SMEs are likely to become even more attractive as targets as a spate of recent high-profile data breaches prompt bigger companies to redouble their security efforts. Thus, small companies must take firm steps to protect their businesses, especially with laws such as POPI compelling them to safeguard the processing, usage and handling of sensitive customer information.
A technical and financial challenge
For many small companies, this sounds daunting as they do not have the technical expertise or the budget to build an effective on-site security and backup solution. This is where cloud computing can be hugely valuable, due to its ability to offer any organisation top-of-the-line protection.
Credible cloud providers’ offers strong security measures to give firms peace of mind. The companies that provide cloud solutions have bullet-proof security in place because they serve thousands of clients who trust them to keep their data safe. Thus, they are able to invest in the sort of high-end information infrastructure and processes that no SME can afford.
Get up and running with data backups
Another key advantage of cloud services is that if a business does encounter data loss or breaches, it will be able to access backups stored in the cloud to immediately get up and running again, minimising any disruption to services and ensuring downtime doesn’t cost the company money.
Of course, it’s also important to follow common-sense precautions to protect your information. Use anti-malware software on your computers. Ensure that access to your devices and online services are protected by strong passwords.
Encrypt any sensitive data you must store on a device’s hard drive or flash memory. And educate your end-users about the importance following these simple policies as well as the dangers that phishing, malware, and other security threats pose to your business.
You wouldn’t leave your business premises unlocked overnight so that thieves can walk in and help themselves to your assets. Don’t leave a virtual door open for them, either. After all, your online banking logins, customer data, and good reputation are some of the most valuable things that your small business owns.
Protect them with care.