By Ryan Ayers
Unless you live out in the wilderness, completely cut off from modern society, your personal data has probably been compromised at some point. Most only become aware of this fact when a huge data breach like the one Equifax experienced in 2017 comes to light. That breach compromising the sensitive information of 143 million Americans and put them at risk for identity theft.
Small businesses, though they don’t have access to that massive volume of sensitive data, do store some personal information. That information can include customer names and addresses, credit card information, business financial information, and more. Every year, the amount of data a business stores grows. How you store this data and keep it safe is essential for your business’s success and reputation. Here’s what you need to know about data storage and security in 2018.
Very few small business owners consider themselves a target for hackers—but unfortunately, small businesses are some of the most common victims of cyberattacks. If you store sensitive information (and every single business does), there is potential value there for a cybercriminal. Since many small businesses don’t have the resources to dedicate to cybersecurity, they prove easy targets in cyberattacks like “ransomware” schemes, which involve holding data hostage and forcing business owners to pay a sum of money to retrieve it. According to a 2016 report, about half of the 28 million American small businesses have been breached by hackers.
Where Do You Store Your Data?
Since small businesses have far less data to store and manage than large enterprises, there are more options for storage available, which each have their pros and cons. Here are some ways small businesses store and back up data:
- Network-attached storage
- Direct-attached storage (external hard drives)
- Cloud (online) storage
- Flash drives (can be encrypted in case of loss)
- DVDs and CDs
Cloud storage is becoming more and more popular due to its convenience and the fact that data is safe from physical danger onsite at the business. Automatic backup makes the cloud very appealing for busy business owners. Recent reports show cloud spending worldwide at $204 billion and growing, as Software as a Service (SaaS) companies are popping up to help small businesses easily manage their data on the cloud and helping to increase demand.
Back it Up
No matter where you store your data, you should make sure you are backing that data up on a regular basis. Slacking on this step is why ransomware is so successful—victimized businesses don’t have a backup of the data and are forced to comply with the demands of the cybercriminal. Automatic backup is the best option to ensure that you comply with regulations and reduce the risk of losing valuable data.
Aside from cyberattacks, data stored on physical devices can be stolen, lost, or ruined due to fire, flooding, or other damage. Ensuring your backups (yes, multiple) are stored in a separate location from the original files is key to their effectiveness in the event of a breach or natural disaster.
Get Serious About Security
No matter what option suits your business’s needs best, it’s crucial to implement a data security policy. This includes implementing at least basic security measures against breaches—the FCC’s 10 security tips and the Small Business Association’s training module are great resources for getting started. You’ll need to educate your employees on these issues and make security a priority within your company. Unfortunately, even large companies with vast cybersecurity budgets still fall victim to successful attacks. This is why you need to be prepared with a plan of action should you be the target of a data breach.
Using the principles of emergency management can help you manage data safely. If you prevent the problem to the best of your ability, prepare for the possibility of a breach, and respond appropriately, you can help ensure your business can survive a data breach. Don’t count on being one of the lucky ones—every business is a target.