Why Data Security is Important for Small Companies

By Tim Maliyil

When a major company experiences a data breach, it’s all over the news. It makes sense; these big companies often have access to sensitive data for millions of people, and a data breach makes them all potential victims of identity theft.

But these big security breaches are only part of the story. The fact is, regardless of its size, your company is at risk. If you’re dealing with sensitive data, it’s important to take measures to secure it properly—for the safety of your customers and for your own liability.

The Data Is Important, Not the Size of the Company

When you experience a security breach, it doesn’t matter how many customers were compromised by the breach—only that they were. Even a small-scale cyber-attack is enough to ruin a small business.

When a transcription company that worked with Boston Medical Center suffered from a data breach due to mediocre security measures, it exposed the sensitive medical information of nearly 15,000 patients.

While this number is small relative to Target’s massive data breach, it’s still significant—not only to the people whose information was stolen, but also to the transcription company that made the error. Boston Medical Center cut its ties with the company, its reputation was tarnished, and it opened itself up to the possibility of numerous lawsuits and government action.

It took only one misstep to devastate this transcription company, and the same could be true for your company (especially if you’re in an industry that handles sensitive information). Whether you’re entrusted with Social Security numbers, credit card information, or medical records, your customers deserve to be protected.

Small Business Data Security: What to Consider

There is a common phrase in the software development industry that more companies should take to heart: Security should be built in from the start. If you can incorporate proper procedures into your workflow early on, it creates a habit and a culture of security in the workplace.

But if your company is already in full swing, don’t let that prevent you from ramping up security measures to keep important data safe. Here are a few things to consider when pursuing better data security:

Cost: The main thing to think about when upgrading your security is whether the cost of protection is worth more than what you’re protecting. You wouldn’t spend $300 on a safe that’s only holding $100, for instance.

Of course, the cost of information isn’t quite as easily calculated. Do your homework to learn how much data breaches have cost other companies of your size, and price that against different estimates from security companies. With the current technology available, any size business should be able to afford more than adequate protection.

The price of disruptions: While you should expect some disruption of your usual workflow, when looking at security measures you should also take into account the way your employees work. If you can afford it, go with the options that cause the least amount of disruption.

What you have to lose: Security breaches cost more than just money. If your business relies on customer trust (like the transcription company’s did), then security needs to be a top priority. If you’re a small merchant that accepts credit card payments, then you must make sure those credit card numbers are secure.

Where potential threats lie: Before you invest in security measures, think about the biggest threat to your sensitive data. Is it an outsider, a rogue employee, or plain carelessness? Take stock of your weakest points so you know where you need security most.

Whether your company consists of five employees or 5,000, you can’t afford to neglect security. When it comes to sensitive data, it only takes one betrayed customer to destroy your company’s reputation. Don’t gamble your entire business on the hope that you won’t fall prey to a cyber-attack. With a few basic measures in place, you can rest assured that your customers’ information is safe.

Tim Maliyil is the CEO and data security architect for AlertBoot.

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Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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