SMB security: what are the biggest dangers?

From a cyber attack to a cup of coffee - what's putting your business information at risk?
The importance of protecting business data

Whether you are a one man band or an employer of 250 people, it is likely you will rely on various technologies to support access to important business data.

With data volumes expected to double every two years and paper-free environments on the increase, the need to be able to store, manage and retrieve data quickly and efficiently has never been greater.

Furthermore this must be balanced by ensuring security privileges and access rights are adhered to in order to avoid sensitive data becoming compromised, while still allowing it to be available at the drop of a hat.

To find out how SMBs can hit the security sweet spot and devise the perfect storage strategy, we spoke to industry expert John Hallatt, a director at Netgear.

TechRadar Pro: How big an effect does data damage or loss really have on an SMB?

Jonathan Hallatt: Any loss or inability to view your business data would have a significant impact upon operations. In some cases it could prove a serious threat to the viability of your future business, for example undermining contractual agreements and jeopardising repeat business.

Figures from Gartner suggest only 6 per cent of all businesses survive a data loss incident unscathed, with 43 per cent going out of business immediately as a result.

Some regard the issue of data loss as a problem reserved for big businesses, but it is often SMBs who are likely to be hardest hit, as many are unable to pick up the pieces with ease after such an incident. Despite this, many small businesses are still in denial.

Data loss incidents covered by the press usually focus on cyber-attacks or employees leaving confidential documents on public transport.

While of course these risks do apply to SMBs, it is more often the everyday occurrences such as accidental file deletion or spilling a hot drink on a piece of IT hardware that could cause the biggest disruption to a business if data is not properly stored and backed up.

TRP: What is the biggest cause of data loss in small businesses?

JH: According to Kroll Ontrack research, 40 per cent of data loss occurs because of human error. No matter how state-of-the-art and efficient an IT system is, a single human mistake, such as accidentally saving over a file can have a dramatic impact if there is no restoration plan in place.

Couple this with the fact that many SMBs still rely on hard drive technology today for storage, which according to recent research by Backblaze, only lasts 18 months before its first failure, and the potential risks to SMBs are clear. Safeguarding data against everyday occurrences is just as important as protecting it from the possibility of theft, fire or flood.

TRP: How can small businesses prepare themselves for the worst?

JH: It pays to have a safety net in place, so make sure you look at creating a full backup facility for all of your data and save it regularly.

The regularity will depend on how you run your business, but the core advantage remains the same – you will be safe in the knowledge that restoration in the event of data loss will enable the business to carry on with minimal disruption.

SMBs can also utilise data snapshot technology which offers a read-only image of a document, frozen at a specific time. These can be carried out hourly or daily, and are fast becoming an essential part of the day-to-day running of many businesses.

TRP: How important is back-up?

JH: Never have just one copy of anything, but ensure you have a contingency plan in place should your primary backup fail. How many backups you need is at your own discretion, but remember that more backups equals more protection.

This might sound overkill and expensive but cloud-based replication technology can enable data sets to be easily maintained and replicated in multiple locations. This is also of great benefit to ensure protection of data from remote or branch office locations, speeding up restore and recovery times.

TRP: Where can small businesses get help?

JH: Growing businesses require advanced and easy to use solutions for centralising, securing and controlling access to their digital assets.

For many businesses, time spent on problem solving and second guessing what storage methods you should have will take time and effort away from the core objective of growing the business.

Be sure to approach a trusted source for advice on what solution best suits the needs of your business when you come to making an investment.

While data storage technologies have evolved dramatically over the past decade, there is still more for SMBs to do to catch up. It is likely your business data is your world, and despite the widespread belief that data protection and storage can be a time consuming exercise, protecting your data has never been more important. Save your data, and it may one day save your business.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.