In a nutshell: IT can be challenging for small business owners, but it’s better to spend time protecting systems and training employees than dealing with the downtime and cost of a system breakdown or attack.

 

Properly managing information technology may be a priority for businesses in general. But what happens when you are a small business owner with little, or no, IT staff?

With tight budgets, small business owners face challenges in how to stay up-to-date with the latest innovations in technology, much less keeping computer files safe from hacking and malware. For some, it might seem an insurmountable task.

However, there are best practices that even the smallest business can follow. By breaking down IT challenges into specific areas, they can become more manageable.

Train Your Employees to be Cyber Vigilant

Before considering an investment in new technology, it’s wise to protect what you already have. That lesson was driven home in mid-2017, when ransomware attacks, such as the WannaCry virus, started happening around the globe.

The WannaCry ransomware attack involved a code that effectively blocked users from company files. The attackers then demanded a ransom to reopen access to the files – annoying, frustrating and also a disaster when trying to manage day-to-day business.

Training employees on certain routine procedures can keep such attacks — which include ransomware, phishing and Trojan horses — from getting into your computer system in the first place.

  • Don’t download files from suspicious sites. Fake news sites may be opportunities to inadvertently download malware.
  • The same goes for suspicious emails. Emails containing suspicious files should never be opened, even if it looks like the file came from someone the employee knows. The other person’s account could have been hacked.
  • Know the risks. Any kind of file can be compromised – photo files, Microsoft Word documents, Adobe files, etc. If the file comes in unexpectedly or in any way looks suspicious, don’t open it.

Update Computer Systems

While small businesses focus on producing a quality product or service, they are constantly under the threat of attacks on their computer system, just like large businesses and government agencies. They just might not be aware of it.

Both computer and antivirus software companies employ people around the clock to monitor threats and provide updates to software systems that address them. These updates are then sent to clients.

The issue is that the timing of updates may not always be convenient, particularly if updates are time-consuming and keep people unable to use a system for a period of time. However, it is critical to find time to install security updates.

As antivirus company Norton states on a page dedicated to keeping operating system and antivirus software updated: “Not only is there a never-ending stream of cybercriminals who are looking to cause damage, steal identities or commit other cyber crimes, but also with most computers attached to the Internet 24-7 via broadband connections, the ease in which cybercriminals can perpetrate their crimes has gotten easier.”

Back Up Data

Backing up data is also key to protecting IT systems. If your company does have the unfortunate experience of getting locked out of your company files, a backup can quickly get the files back.

A best practice for small businesses is to take time to research the issue, determine what files you want backed up, find out the recovery time if a backup is needed and determine your MTPoD (maximum tolerable period of disruption). Then develop the plan that works best for you.

Fortunately, the cloud has made this a much easier task. Using the cloud basically means storing files in an offsite location. With the digital files safely off your system and stored securely, it makes restoring a system after a data loss that much easier.

Outside Vendor or In-House Staff?

A big step for small business owners with IT is determining how much you can do on your own and whether you need help from an outside vendor.

Certainly, hiring a third party with expertise alleviates a lot of the work and stress on the part of you and your employees. While there is a cost, there are also expenses saved in investing in software and other technology needed to handle IT challenges.

The benefit of handling the job in-house is that employees can immediately address a problem. They also are familiar with your system and whatever quirks it might contain.

Again, determine what plan works best for your business, both in terms of the bottom line and your peace of mind.

All of the above is doable if time is taken to address the specific issues. Rather than get overwhelmed with IT challenges, take the time to research the many options available, including cloud storage and outside vendors.

However much time it might take, it’s better than time spent trying to restore a system and disrupting your business.

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