07/02/11

By Adrian Booth

This is a cautionary tale. Against the odds my friend set-up a property search service and all was going surprisingly well until a fire destroyed his office. His PCs melted and this was the one night he left his laptop in the office. Computers, chairs, desks and phones he can replace, but not data. He’s trying to piece things together from memory and isn’t sure the business will survive.

The value of business information often exceeds the capital cost of IT equipment it is kept on, and fire is not the only threat. SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) are notorious for not backing-up or protecting their data. Countless laptops disappear annually which hold vital information not backed up elsewhere. Employees unwittingly or deliberately modify software and introduce viruses. Hardware breaks down...…

Thankfully, there’s a lot we can do. Here are some top tips:

Use common sense: The Internet opens us to threats from hackers who want our sensitive data or to gather financial information for fraud. So don’t let anyone download software in response to ‘pop-ups’, even if they claim there’s an issue you need software to fix. And only open e-mail links or attachments you know come from trusted sources.

Prevent data theft from removable devices: Memory sticks can hold reams of data these days. Countless USBs are lost every year, often containing very sensitive data. Make sure you are encrypting them with a tool like Bitlocker Drive Encryption, available on Windows 7 Ultimate.

Train your staff: They are often your first line of defence for data security. Make sure they know how to treat confidential information and that they understand guidance on safe internet usage. Importantly, make sure they understand your policy on data protection.

Restrict access to confidential data: Would you like it if an employee left your company and took the entire customer database with them? Compartmentalise access to data. The new AppLocker security tool, also in Windows 7, ensures only authorised software runs on company machines, controls sensitive program access and reduces virus risks.

Love your server: Do regular updates, ideally to a server. Look for a server like Windows Small Business Server that can be used for back up, but also provide exchange email and central storage. Unless you are adept with IT, use an IT specialist to help set up your server so that you can get the best use from it. Make sure strong passwords are used.

If all else fails: make sure that your data is also being backed up remotely… this is also key for your personal life too. You’d hate to lose your personal photos as much as your entire company records. This is where cloud computing becomes essential.

You can sign up to free online storage with skydrive: www.windowslive.co.uk/skydrive

Understand more about ITsecurity: www.getsafeonline.org

Watch the video below featuring Tanya Shirlow, SMB Marketing Lead at Microsoft UK, as she discusses the advantages of cloud services.

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