How to Protect a Home-Based Business and Its Profits - Page 2

By Pam Baker
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The Social Media Trap

In a recent Microsoft survey, 42 percent of SMB information workers indicated that they use public social networks to conduct business.  "Intellectual/business property is being shared over these public portals, which calls in to question ownership," warns Josh Waldo, Microsoft’s director of SMB marketing in the U.S. 

 "While social media is an effective way to collaborate in business, it isn’t secure," he said. "It’s important to be strategic about how and where you collaborate and to put security policies in place that discourage social media, like Facebook and Twitter, for internal communications."

Instant Messaging (IMs) Pose Threats, Too

But social media isn’t the only highly vulnerable means of communication. Instant messaging (IM), for example, is not encrypted and is incredibly easy to hack. Anything sent over consumer-oriented IM is therefore highly vulnerable. Email, too, may be at risk especially if you or an employee uses a simple password.

Combined, these are far bigger security risks than most small business owners realize. In a recent survey by Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of the office supply company, telecommuting respondents said they rely on the following technologies to stay connected:

  • 96 percent rely on email
  • 68 percent rely on instant messaging
  • 44 percent depend on videoconferencing
  • 25 percent rely on unified communications

To resolve the IM vulnerabilities, use software that provides a private, internal IM service. Cloud computing has made such services cheap and easy to use and secure.

Automate Your Small Business Data Backup

Last but not least, your security plan should include data backup provisions to ensure that your small business data can be recovered if the worst happens. According to Staples Advantage, nearly one in three telecommuters say they never back up their data -- leaving their companies vulnerable to data loss.

To resolve this problem, enable a remote backup process so that you and your employees’ work are automatically backed up to a centralized server. "It can be batch, overnight or real-time, on-demand -- just back them up, and make it so that the distributed user does not have to do anything," advises Heimerl. "Don’t rely on the user to copy information to a central repository, or to initiate a backup job."

Small Business Security: Where to Start

While it is critical to establish a security policy (even if it’s only for you) and insist on absolute adherence, it is equally important not to make the policy such an obstacle that you and your employees circumvent it just to get work done. Configure your security measures to fit the ways you and your employees actually work.

"You should first lay out the basic solution criteria, including the mode of work (mobile or in-office), the working environment (single user or networked PC), the communication relationships (dial-in or dial-out) and the mode of operation (autonomous or through a provider -- an outsourced network)," advises Rainer Enders, CTO, Americas of NCP engineering.

"There are advantages and disadvantages to every solution; it really depends on each SMB's individual security requirements and the teleworking scenario each company wants to put in place."

Pam Baker has written for numerous leading publications including, Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, the NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers.

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This article was originally published on July 26, 2011
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