The Importance of Encrypting Small Business Data Backups

I was invited to an EMC briefing in Singapore last week, where company executives shared the findings of a recent survey titled The Disaster Recovery Survey 2012: Asia Pacific and Japan, conducted by independent research company Vanson Bourne.

Through chatting with the executives, I learned about how a sizeable proportion of businesses in India claim to bring their business data backups home for safekeeping. It makes sense to me on one level, given that the alternative is probably no off-site backup at all. However, the revelation got me thinking about how important data encryption is for small businesses.

With that discussion in mind, I’ve highlighted three risks and reasons why small businesses should encrypt their offsite data backups.

Data Loss by Burglary

This pertains more to data that’s being stored at residences than at properly secured offices. While burglars may not necessarily target that box of slightly dusty tape cartridges stacked in the corner, we’ve all heard of stories of enthusiastic criminals cleaning out an entire house or apartment. Moreover, a tech-savvy thief may spot a stack of hard disk drives and figure he could resell the hardware for some residual value.

Loss of the physical devices aside, data encryption will reduce the stress of knowing that your stolen, unprotected customer and/or financial data could potentially wind up on the Internet or be misused for illicit gains

Curious Employees

In an experiment conducted many years ago, security researchers deliberately dropped flash drives at company parking lots. Not surprisingly, many of them were picked up and accessed using company computers.

Although the test was designed to illustrate a vector by which malware can be spread, it is not difficult to imagine the same curiosity coming upon employees tasked with safeguarding unencrypted data backups. In short: Don’t tempt them by making it easy to access confidential data.

Industrial Espionage

Finally, there is always the risk of industrial espionage. Though it is not a topic many business people want to talk about, the fact that the term even exists demonstrates that competitors will and do spy on one another. Having an “It can’t happen to me” mentality is a dangerous attitude for small and mid-sized businesses to adopt.

Indeed, small businesses owners need to understand that even if they own a very small business, it doesn’t mean they don’t need to protect their financial data and/or their customer’s personal data. Furthermore, just because your business is small today doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever.

Ultimately, it is far easier to adopt secure data storage practices — such as data encryption — from day one, than to do so only after a devastating security breach or leakage. Forming good security habits today will serve you well long into the future.

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

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