Imagine the frustration of losing a couple of hours of work on your computer.
Now imagine losing days and even weeks. Or, imagine losing critical data like your client database and those clients’ financial records. Imagine not being able to access your email or any of the information on your computer. What is the level of your frustration now?
Many small business owners ignore the natural disasters that can destroy all their data or tend to forget to implement an emergency recovery plan. They fail to take steps to secure their company’s network from these types of catastrophes until disaster strikes, and by then, it’s too late. Think about these facts:
- Sixty percent of small businesses will experience a significant network or technology disaster
- The average cost of these technology disasters ranges from $9,000 to $60,000 in repairs and restoration costs
- 99% of businesses claim to be “too busy” to think about network security and maintenance
- An auto body shop spends $20,000 to clean up a virus
- A health products company spends $40,000 and suffers nine days of downtime from two corrupted hard drives
- A property management company pays $9,000 and experiences weeks of downtime for a simple, inexpensive repair
And now think about this: you can avoid 100% of these disasters and restoration costs easily and inexpensively. Yes, it’s impossible to plan for every potential computer disaster or emergency. Still, you can take simple steps to prevent the top 10 most significant threats and disasters that wipe out businesses from happening to you.
Viruses and Worms
Viruses remain the most common type of security threat for your network. They can do a wide range of damage from displaying annoying popups to corrupting all your files and hurting your company’s reputation. Imagine unknowingly spreading a virus to a customer, or imagine a virus hijacking your email address book.
Worms don’t need a host file to infect your network, making them even more dangerous than viruses. They are often embedded in emails. The infected computer can make quick copies of itself and affect an entire network in just a few hours, making worms responsible for a good number of companies’ widespread network failures.
Make sure to install anti-virus software on every computer and laptop in your office. Once you install it, don’t forget about it. Monitor your network, making sure every machine has the most up-to-date version installed and making sure the software isn’t accidentally disabled.
Not Keeping An Offsite Copy Of Your Data, or Not Even backing up at all
Most small businesses never back up their computer network, or only keep an on-site copy of their data. Imagine this: you write the most crucial piece of information you could ever write on a chalkboard. Can you get it back if I come along and erase it? Unless you copied it, you can’t recover the data. It’s gone forever. There are many ways to lose data. If the information is essential to you, make sure you have more than one copy of it.
The first step in prevention is to make sure you have a good on-site copy of your data. Second, you must have an additional off-site copy. No one considers natural disasters. But should you consider the possibility of theft? Or, what if a nearby office catches fire or if a faulty sprinkler system waters your server room? And, what if your data becomes corrupt or a hardware failure erases your data?
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Not Performing Back-ups Tests
Many business owners set up some type of back-up system and never check to make sure it’s working correctly. It’s typical for a system to appear to be backing up when it’s not. Perform a restore of your data monthly to see if it can be restored and to see if your data is intact.
Trojan Horse Malware Attacks
Trojan horses hide in innocent items like screen savers, computer games, or even YouTube videos. They are challenging to remove, so preventing them from happening is what you want to do. Educating your employees is not enough to protect against Trojan horses because hackers come up with new, innovative strategies to access your network all the time. Instead, block users from downloading freeware and computer games, as well as embedded links in emails, and even block all websites that are not on an approved list of websites that employees may visit.
Spam is a malicious menace every business faces. In addition to killing office productivity and introducing viruses, worms, and Trojan attacks, spam can take up enough bandwidth to crash your network. Fortunately, a good email filter may be all you need.
Lack of A Secure Firewall
Small business owners have the mindset that hackers would not waste time trying to access their networks when nothing is further from the truth. There have been experiments where, within hours, malicious code took over gigabytes of space from a single computer connected to the Internet without a firewall. Remember that there are thousands of unscrupulous hackers out there who think it’s fun to disable your computer just because they can. Maintaining a secure firewall can save your business a lot of headaches.
Failing to Install The Most Up-To-Date Security Patches and Updates
Software companies continuously discover security loopholes within their programs that hackers use to access your network. That is why these companies offer free patches and updates to their users. The irony is that most hackers do not discover these security loopholes on their own; they learn about them when the software vendor discloses the vulnerability and issues the patch or update. The announcement is the hacker’s cue to action. And the time gap between the solution and the exploit gets shorter every day. That is why it’s critical to keep an eye out for security updates and patches and install them quickly.
Phishing refers to spam emails designed to trick recipients into clicking on a link to an insecure website. The intention is to steal passwords and account information for e-commerce sites and credit card and bank account numbers. Most of us have received the infamous PayPal emails alerting us that our account is going to be deactivated or closed if we don’t log in to verify our account information. To prevent phishing attacks, you can educate employees on how hackers try to phish account information and remind them to never enter personal information in a web site solicited via an email
Hardware Loss and Residual Data Fragments
Did you know that stolen laptops and computers are a significant contributor to the 10 million cases of identity theft suffered by Americans each year? What can you do for prevention?
- Encrypt sensitive company data (especially on laptops used by employees who frequently travel)
- Wipe and shred files on old hard drives before they leave your organization
- Develop a policy for tracking smartphone and USB memory card use around sensitive data
You And Your Staff
End-user mistakes are often the biggest threat to the security of your network. Whether someone downloads a virus, accidentally deletes a critical folder or file, visits shady web sites, or shares confidential information, end-users are usually at the root of every computer problem. In most cases, these actions are not intentional, but the effects of a virus are the same whether the download was deliberate or purely by accident. On-going education on proper email, Internet, and computer usage and regular maintenance and monitoring of your critical data and systems is the prevention we recommend.