By David Zimmerman, CEO of LC Technology International
Peruse the latest tech, business or marketing-related online magazine and you’ll assuredly come across articles about data, specifically the value data holds for the organization. Whether it’s uncovering insights through analysis of “big data”, processing recurring customer payments, or sending out marketing campaigns, modern companies rely on information. For smaller firms, safeguarding data is supremely important. Big firms that lose or mishandle data can sometimes handle the branding and financial hit. Consider Target’s credit card data breach and the efforts the company has put in to regain customer trust. Small businesses do not have this luxury, and should employ the very best practices in data protection in order to prevent catastrophic losses.
Here are six best practices for small businesses that need to protect their most valuable asset:
1. Create and follow a written plan.
By design, smaller businesses are usually not run as formally as bigger businesses. Multiple employees might have a fluctuating job description, and the firm might have several “jacks of all trades” who hold a variety of responsibilities. While this attitude is ideal for attracting customers, it’s not a reasonable strategy for data management. It’s important to assign a small team or individual that holds responsibility for writing a formal data protection and management plan. They will detail the various types of information held by the organization, where data should be stored, and when it should it accessed or analyzed. The written plan should delegate individuals to assist with following the plan and performing various tasks such as handling data backups.
2. Centralize the information.
Once the “what” of data management is completed, it’s time to focus on “where” it should be stored. Keeping information at a centralized place is the best way to prevent mismanagement or loss. It also makes it easier to compile and analyze the information, especially in cases where data is being pulled together from multiple data sources. The written plan should detail data storage and movement protocols to ensure staff are working diligently.
3. Build-in Redundancy.
Storage is increasingly headed to the clouds, with cloud enjoying a period of lowered costs and impressive reliability. Smaller firms should use the public cloud for most information storage, but look at the private or hybrid cloud options for the sensitive information. And backups are essential, especially for small businesses that have very limited funds and need cheaper methods of data protection. A quality strategy is to build “backups to the backup,” where a company might use the cloud, on-premises servers, and hybrid connections to create multiple redundancies. Remember that storage is inexpensive especially when conducting a “risk-reward” on the headache associated with stolen data.
4. Manage information over time.
Small businesses grow quickly, which means hiring and training new staff members and managing departing employees. Change means disruption, and it’s vital to have a plan in place that does not rely on any single individual for control of data. When employees leave, be sure their access is cut off automatically and then implement a permissions-based structure where employee access to or ability to download information is severely limited.
5. Be gentle with devices.
The mobile small business increasingly uses their own personal devices to conduct business transactions. While this improves productivity, it can open up the company to data breaches. This remote generated data still needs to be captured and catalogued, so employees should use care when using free Wi-Fi or connecting to unknown networks. When working with information stored on fragile SD cards, employees should take care to not bend the cards or get them wet. Employees that use portable hard drives should take similar precautions.
6. Be sure deleted items are gone for good.
Storing data safely is a great best practice, but care should also be taken when deleting information. To permanently delete files, use a program such as FileExtinguisher® that pulls together file fragments and removes them before they could possibly be used to recreate the deleted file.
Protecting data should be supremely important for small business owners, as data drives the entire organization, from marketing and sales to the finance department. Companies should follow these six data management practices to; leverage the most sales from the customer base, avoid branding and potentially legal consequences, and raise their chances of longer-term success.
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.