There can be no debate on whether internet has seeped its way into the world of business, including small businesses. In fact, it might even be more appropriate to use the term bulldozed its way into it. And while this is definitely the case, there are still plenty of small businesses (according to some sources more than a half of them) who have no online presence whatsoever. It is only logical to think that they avoid other benefits of doing some of their business online, such as online collaboration with remote employees or sharing data via internet with their partners and other parties.
In many cases, this decision to stay “off the grid” is the result of purely business decision. For example, some businesses just do not have the need to go online because they do not wish to grow too much. Others believe that they are in an industry where online presence does not bring new business. However, there are just as many small business owners who do not wish to “go online” simply because they are afraid. They think that their business will never be safe online.
The worst thing is that they are not completely in the wrong.
According to the latest numbers, Australian businesses lose about $1 billion every year due to online criminal activity, with the tendency of these losses growing in the future. It is also a well-known fact that small to medium businesses have become the prime target for security breaches and theft of confidential information, simply because the criminals know small business owners often do not worry about online security.
According to the aforementioned research, only about 25% of small business owners considered themselves at risk from data breaches, with less than a half of them even bothering to keep their antivirus software updated.
It becomes quite clear why online criminals target small businesses. They are easy targets.
What are the risks?
When going online, small businesses need to worry about quite a few things that might lead to various security breaches if they are not prepared. For one, there is always the danger of malicious code finding its way to a small business’ cyber system, leading to loss of data which can often be quite disastrous. There is also the good old fashioned theft of mobile devices and laptops where physical devices are stolen and then mined for data and access information.
In addition to this, there is also the risk of employees sharing their personal access information with outside threats that “mask” themselves as someone from the inside, asking for sensitive information for one reason or another. Wireless networks also tend to be quite vulnerable, with some of the most prominent cases of data breaches happening via insufficiently secured Wi-Fi networks. Of course, there is also the issue of sending data online to various partners, suppliers or customers and receiving it. These remote collaborations are often not secure enough, becoming potential risks.
What to Do?
The good news is that pretty much all of these risks can be mitigated and that there is a lot owners can do to secure their small businesses online. The first step is to ensure that your antivirus and antimalware software is always up to date and that you are not skimping on it, going for free solutions. Your business needs more.
A very important thing to do is to educate everyone in the company about the dangers and the proper way to conduct themselves with data that can be stolen or phished in some way. They should be educated about the importance of strong passwords and caution when taking company devices off premises. This education needs to be done from top to bottom, ensuring that everyone knows how to behave, so to say.
When it comes to securing one’s online collaboration and exchange of data with other parties, it might be a good idea to approach outside sources and utilise remote access software solutions that will provide an added layer to any data exchanges that are done online.
There are risks out there when it comes to small businesses and their online presence. The risks are very real and ignoring them can lead to severe data breaches that may result in dire consequences for the business. Fortunately, there are solutions to pretty much every problem and if small businesses are smart, they should be able to avoid any troubles when conducting any part of their business online.
About the author:
Sonya is a passionate business consultant from Melbourne, Australia. She has a wide range of interests, including online writing, technology trends and marketing in general. You can find her on Twitter – @wattsmsonya