By David Zimmerman, CEO of LC Technology International
Small and medium-sized businesses are typically inundated with data, despite their smaller size. Companies have to use data to extract as much value as possible from every customer interaction in order to be successful. Since it’s vitally important, data should be protected and properly managed.
Here are six tips for SMBs that want to keep their data intact, avoid potential loss, and recover quickly in the case of a problem:
1. Build a detailed plan.
If you’re running a small business, then you know a solid marketing, sales, or IT plan is essential to your success. Data is very important, so it also merits a well thought out plan. The first step is to establish which data sources you will be storing and using, including social media data, sales information, and of course marketing campaigns.
A side benefit to this exercise is you might be able to uncover certain contextual relationships between the data sets. You then should write down who is responsible for the data segments, for compiling the information, and for backing it up on a regular schedule.
2. Centralized management is key.
Even the smallest company can produce a large amount of data from myriad sources. Centralized management of this information helps keep it organized and reduces the risks of theft. The formal data plan should detail what solutions will aid in data centralization and who is responsible for managing security.
As the business grows you’ll need more control mechanisms and layers of access so that all employees are not able to view sensitive data. Understand that mismanagement is a frequent cause of data breaches, and can be something as simple as an “admin” password or an employee leaving a hard drive in a taxi cab. Your plan should include the procedures for handling departing employees.
3. Backup the backups.
Cloud storage is becoming cheaper by the day and reliability is improving. It’s a viable option for backups, but make sure you don’t simply move all of your data storage to the cloud. You want redundancy, which means a mixture of cloud and on-premises storage.
For the most sensitive data, consider a private cloud and/or saving information to hard drives that are kept in a locked safe. Cloud data access does rely on internet access, so physical media can still be useful if you can’t get online.
4. Check the laws and regulations.
If your business is collecting PII (personally identifiable information), then you need to be sure you are following privacy laws. Customers are entrusting you with information, so you need to develop data storage practices that will help keep their information out of the hands of hackers. Ignoring such regulations can result in fines as well as potentially ruin your business if customers cannot trust your brand.
5. Protect devices.
Portable storage media are great tools for capturing and storing images, video, and other types of data. If you opened a new store location, then you’ll want some DSLR photos to capture the event. Those photos end up on a SD card, which is a convenient yet very fragile device. SD cards can be easily damaged or corrupted, so be sure you handle them with care and don’t expose them to any liquids. Hard drives are more durable in comparison, but they can still be irrecoverably damaged after being dropped.
Put in place a plan for staff members to quickly move data from hard drives and SD cards to the cloud or other approved media.
6. Recovery means hiring an expert.
Losing data contained on a SD card or hard drive isn’t always without hope. The one solution that is very flawed is to select a free software utility, which is very likely to be corrupted by malware, or can potentially damage data further. This is a classic risk/reward where you should be open to spending a little money for a reputable company that has demonstrated expertise in data recovery.
Losing data can be crippling for a small business. If you’ve spent years developing a customer list, then imagine all of that information being wiped away in an accident. Or consider if you expose confidential partnership details because your public cloud was guarded by a “1234” type password. Given the risks, it’s imperative for companies to create a plan, centralize data management, and train staff to follow procedures in order to best protect a most valuable asset.
David Zimmerman has been in the hardware/software industry for over 30 years, specifically in the data recovery software market for 18 years. During this period, he has been involved in the creation; marketing and support of the earlier drive recovery software products to enter the PC market and successfully marketed them both nationally and internationally. His company LC Technology International makes data recovery products for most of his competitors.