Business Monday

4 ways to protect your small business from disaster

Not many SMB owners want to think about a disaster before it happens, but when faced with massive data loss or threatened by a major flood, it’s impossible to think about anything else. Unfortunately, by that time, it’s already cost your business time and money.

Although we’ve all heard about the doomsday scenarios that leave Miami under water by 2030, it’s important to know disaster can come in a variety of forms — from weather to hacking — but more importantly, it can be avoided. Start by asking yourself two simple questions. If an emergency caused your business to close or go offline for an extended period of time, would you be able to access important files? Would you lose vital or sensitive business or customer data? If you answered yes to either, below are a few easy steps you can take to safeguard your business.

Move to the cloud: Although the large, corporate data breaches tend to grab headlines, attacks on smaller businesses are increasing because they may have less sophisticated online and cloud security practices in place. Plus, malware and inadvertent employee misuse tend to be more common in businesses without centralized IT policies and enforcement. With the cloud, your latest files are stored and accessible from anywhere on a device. SMBs using the cloud report easier systems integration and less time spent managing security.

Get disaster insurance: In 2012, 29 percent of small businesses were victims of a cyber-attacks. According to a recent study cited by the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology, roughly 60 percent of small businesses close within six months of a cyber-attack. Disaster coverage can give you peace of mind if your business’s client, vendor, or employee data files (or financial information) are stolen or damaged. This affordable and increasingly popular type of policy could help cover the costs of informing victims about a data breach at your company, providing them with credit-monitoring services, rebuilding your data files and more.

Upgrade your technology: There’s never been a more important time for companies to upgrade their technology to help them grow more efficiently and more cost effectively. That’s because support for Windows Server 2003 will end on July 14. For businesses that do not upgrade to more modern technology, it can result in a less secure and stable infrastructure. Once support for Windows Server 2003 is over there will be no updates, which can increase security risk, result in slower performance and cause potential down time of business applications.

Prepare your employees: Establish basic cyber-security practices and make sure employees are well-versed in handling sensitive customer and corporate information. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suggests that your plan include training in avoiding phishing and malware attacks; the plan should also require employees to change email and other passwords regularly.

As an SMB owner, you’ve got a lot on your mind. That’s why you shouldn’t have to worry about the “what-ifs,” whether it’s losing your laptop or losing power for days. Implementing a simple plan can provide peace of mind of knowing that your systems are up and running — and that you’re open for business — even if the unexpected happens.

Todd Shultice is an online services manager with Microsoft working with small businesses and partners in Miami and throughout the Southeast.

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