Data Security Concept

The complete guide to SMB data security

This guide includes the following sections:

Nothing starts off a provocative article about data security like a blood-curling quote. Are you ready to be scared into giving this whitepaper your undivided attention? Good. Here we go.

The following quote comes to us courtesy of CSO. The author, Shira Shamban, is an expert in the field. In other words, data security is what she researches and consults on for a living.

This is what Shamban had to say about the majority of data breaches, including the big, headline-making disasters like Equifax’s epic security lapse.

Most, if not all, data security breaches are preventable. Sobering, right?

So what does it take to stop successful cyberattacks and protect your precious data? We’re so glad you asked. That’s what this guide is all about.

The foundation of data security

Data security starts with the basics—your network setup.

Network setup includes everything from the equipment you select to the IT tools you use—like your productivity suite,  communication applications or even your CRM. It also includes the actual configuration of your network. Especially your wireless router.

As Cisco observes, it wasn’t that long ago that “wireless connectivity was nice to have, but not necessarily mission-critical.” You can kiss those simpler times goodbye. Today, on-the-job Wi-Fi connectivity is as expected as it is essential. But talk about a potential security weak point.

Make sure you take the time to set up your Wi-Fi network correctly. That goes double if you plan to make any kind of free access available to customers. If you’re not sure how to do that, Verizon has a handy guide for SMB Wi-Fi set up.

Other considerations for SMB network setup include individual workstations (especially laptops), virtual servers and any device (like wireless printers) that have access to the network.

Data security is a top-down thing

Your personal work habits will set the tone for the entire organization. If you don’t practice smart data security yourself, don’t expect your employees to, either.

Convenient, collaborative tools like Microsoft OneNote can make your workday so much easier. But be careful that you don’t trade data security for productivity. The same goes for browser extensions, storage solutions (like Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive) and mobile device apps.

Perhaps the single biggest (ridiculously simple) thing you can do to maintain data security is practice good password security habits. If you don’t know what makes for good password security, check out this article from CSO for a quick rundown on the basics.

Bringing your employees up to speed

Of course, you’re not the only person at your office who has access to the network. Data security is a team effort, so you need to make sure your employees are on the same page.

Begin with regular employee training. Yes, it takes time. And no, most of your employees won’t do cartwheels at the thought of data security training. But this is important stuff. If you make it a priority, it’s far more likely your people will understand what’s at stake.

Beyond training, you can help your employees prevent data breach by thinking strategically about everything from user access to collaborative work tools.

For example, if everyone in the company doesn’t really need access to customer records, don’t give everyone access. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how convenient an instant messaging app is if it’s not secure.

Don’t forget to take into account the pros and cons of remote access. Cloud computing continues to improve our ability to be productive from practically anywhere. It’s critical to think about the precautions you need to take to balance the advantages of working from anywhere against possible data security issues.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Cloud solutions and remote access are huge benefits to modern business. Just make sure you’re smart about how you use these newer tools.

When everything goes wrong

Finally, you need a worst-case-scenario plan. What will you do if everything goes wrong?

In the IT world, we refer to this as a backup and disaster recovery (BDR) plan or business continuity. While there are slight differences in the exact meaning of each phrase, the goal is basically the same.

Keep your business going, even in the midst of a disaster.

A solid BDR plan will include thorough data backup, a strategy for maintaining customer service (with or without immediate access to customer data), as well as additional pragmatic considerations, like internal communications, alternate work locations and eventual data restoration.

An alarming 75% of small businesses have absolutely no disaster recovery plan. That’s just asking for trouble. There are all kinds of reasons why business owners put off developing a BDR plan, from laziness to simply wanting to avoid an unpleasant possibility.

But your data security and the future of your business both hang in the balance. It’s far better to have a plan, even if you never need it.

Your data matters, so keep it safe

If you take nothing else from this guide, we hope we’ve made one thing crystal clear: data security is an important topic. If you lose your data—to a disaster, an accident, a cybersecurity incident or even to hardware failure—you’re in a tough spot.

Do what you can to maintain data security.

And feel free to bookmark this article. We update it periodically with new information to make sure you always have the most accurate, up-to-date information.