IT security on a shoestring budget

mobile security imageDespite constant reports of online security scandal, it’s still common for small businesses to operate without even the most basic safety measures in place. One common misconception is that there’s no point in trying to secure your network unless you can afford the best security on the market.  In reality, even small and inexpensive protection measures can make a big difference for your business.

While there’s no such thing as the perfect defense, you can still improve your network’s resilience just by taking some simple steps to protect yourself.  That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the easiest and cheapest (and sometimes free) things you can do to get started.

Educate your team

Learning and educating your team about safe computer usage is one of the easiest and most important things you can do to prevent your system from being compromised.  At minimum, you’ll want to teach everyone to recognize (and avoid) suspicious websites, use email safely, handle sensitive data appropriately and take physical precautions to protect computing equipment and mobile devices.  Clear policies and guidelines can help you to communicate and enforce appropriate computer usage in the workplace, as long as they’re communicated clearly to your staff.

Next steps: If policies aren’t enough, there are technologies available to prevent a number of accidental or intentional security infractions.  Web filtering, for example, can block your employees from accessing malicious sites.

Get firewall and antivirus protection

You might think your business is too small to attract a hacker’s attention, but they truth is that many online attacks are conducted en masse, with no particular target in mind.  Your first line of defense against these threats is basic firewall protection, and antivirus protection provides another important layer of protection as well.  The good news is that they’re both affordable and easy to install on a simple network.  In fact, most routers and PCs come with firewall software already installed; all you need to do is make sure it’s set up properly!

Next steps: if you have anything more than a simple network in place, then you may need some extra help to ensure that everything is configured properly.  Additional, third party software can also give you an extra security boost.

Update constantly

Simply keeping your software up-to-date can help to protect you against potential security vulnerabilities.  We’re not just talking about your antivirus software — that’s a given. We’re talking about regular, everyday stuff like Windows Office and Adobe Acrobat.  These programs sometimes contain security vulnerabilities which can be discovered and then exploited by malicious hackers.  If you don’t have automatic updates in place, make sure to check for software updates on a regular basis.

Next steps: if you have a lot of computers to manage and taking care of all your updates is too time consuming, then you might consider using software to automate all of your updates.

Back everything up

Backups are often left on the back burner in favour of more immediate concerns, but if the worst should happen, having up-to-date backups prepared is essential.  Make a routine of performing backups as often as needed.  If you automate this process, don’t forget to check  once in a while and make sure it’s working properly!

Next steps: Advanced backup solutions, like offsite storage, can automate the backup process and alert you when anything goes wrong.

Prioritize additional security activities

We’ve outlined some bare basics to help you get started, but of course, the more precautions you take, the better off you’ll be.  Getting an assessment from a professional can help you determine which security risks will impact you the most and prioritize accordingly.  There’s no one-size-fits all approach to this; your needs depend on how you work, where your business is located, and the specific regulations of your industry.

With so many cyber threats out there, it may feel impossible to keep up.  Just remember: every little bit counts!  Even if you’re on a tight budget, taking small steps to protect your network can make a big difference!