As if running a small business didn’t already come with enough inherent risks and responsibilities, you also need to make sure you are taking the right measures to keep your business safe and secure. Small business owners need to make sure all the hard work that has gone into their business doesn’t go down the drain one day due to a natural disaster, network security breach or a break-in.
Thankfully, it’s easier than you may think to protect your business. We’ve come up with five areas that should never be ignored when it comes to keeping what you’ve worked so hard to build protected.
1. Network/Online/Data Security
Even if you can’t afford a full-fledged IT or database security team, you can still take measures to make sure your information and systems remain secure. First of all, start with strong passwords that are at least eight to 12 characters long and include letters, symbols and numbers. Don’t use common words or phrases and never keep your passwords in a book, spreadsheet or other easily-accessible location.
In addition, make sure you change the default security settings on any routers or other equipment you use in the office and protect your programs and hardware from Malware and other attacks by setting up Internet browsing security. Make sure to use an HTTP connection whenever accessing the Internet to help weed out would-be attacks. And always remember – it is more important to protect your information than your devices. Don’t make the mistake of securing your physical equipment without making sure vital information can’t be accessed by outside sources.
2. Disaster/Emergency Plan
Mother Nature seems to be pretty busy lately, and you want to make sure your business doesn’t become an unfortunate victim when a flood, fire, storm or other natural disaster hits. Even if you’re located on an idyllic stretch of beach there are no guarantees that disaster won’t strike. Not only should you craft a disaster plan for your premises, but you need to conduct a complete emergency risk assessment and establish contingency plans for unexpected events. This will protect you, your employees and your assets while also ensuring that your business suffers the minimum amount of downtime and lost business. Make sure all important data and information is backed up regularly and that the backups are stored in a different location that is designed to be as disaster-proof as possible.
3. Building/Property Security
As much as it may feel like you live at the office, chances are you leave and go home to sleep in your bed from time to time. It’s impossible to keep an eye on your business 24/7, but that doesn’t mean that you have to leave it vulnerable when you’re away. There are many affordable alarm and monitoring systems available for small business owners, and the initial expense and monthly costs vary greatly. There is an option out there that could work for your business and you can search for one on the SafeWise security system finder tool. Most current systems offer remote access through laptops and/or mobile devices so you can tuck in your business every night just like you do your children. And don’t overlook more low-tech solutions like adequate lighting, reinforced doors and windows, and heavy duty locks.
4. Preventing Internal Theft
Just because everyone in the office feels like family doesn’t mean there might not be a bad apple in the bunch. Even though you want to trust your employees, the fact is that embezzlement and internal theft are just as big a threat to small business as they are to Fortune 500 companies. You can deter associates from putting their hand in the company cookie jar with a few simple precautions.
Plan regular inventories of merchandise and business-owned furniture, equipment and other assets – make sure this happens at least once a year. Set up internal controls and build in checks and balances by distributing financial responsibilities among employees, ensuring that no single person controls every step of any transaction. And always have an outside accountant conduct an annual audit of your cash and business accounts.
5. Social Media Security
Never before has a business been so vulnerable to an attack on reputation and character than in the current climate of social media. Whether you like it or not, your company is going to have an online presence either with or without your consent. Even if you’ve never set up a Twitter or Facebook account for your business, that doesn’t keep customers from setting up a page or making comments about you. Plan to regularly monitor your business’ online presence and find out what actions you can take to eliminate negative or damaging information.
And, it’s not just your reputation you have to worry about. If employees are accessing social media from company devices, that can be an open invitation to hackers and other online threats. Set up a social media policy that is closely monitored, or consider prohibiting social media access on all company computers and mobile devices. You can also implement a non-disclosure policy that keeps employees from identifying their workplace on their personal social media accounts.
What other security measures do you think are crucial to protecting a small business?
Written by Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca has honed her safety and security skills as both a single mom and a college director. Being responsible for the well-being of others helped her learn how to minimize risk and create safe environments. Learn more