In celebration of National Small Business Week May 4-8, we’ll be bringing you some of our favorite tips for starting or building your own business. #DreamSmallBiz
Yesterday, we talked about planning an exit strategy for your business, and doing some succession planning so that your business can survive in the event of your unexpected death, disability, divorce — or eventually, retirement.
Today, we’ll talk about planning for some of the other unforeseen circumstances that could negatively impact your small business, including security breaches, natural disasters, theft and vandalism.
Don’t think your business is at risk? Think again. Whether you realize it or not, your business has valuable information and assets that probably are not protected right now. Your business likely has confidential client information, proprietary business knowledge or just internal knowledge that you wouldn’t want to be exposed to criminals or competitors. The loss of this information could have a devastating impact on your business.
While business insurance is an important part of your protection, it cannot protect your clients from identity theft, or your business from attack by unscrupulous employees or competitors.
No matter how big or small, your business needs to have a security and recovery plan in place that determines what risks you have, helps protect against those risks, and sets plans in place to handle the most likely types of losses you may experience. Your plan should also look at both the “physical” and the “virtual” aspects of your business.
Start by considering the types of risks to which your business may be vulnerable.
What if your business data was lost or stolen? Do you have customer records, tax receipts, bank statements, business plans, client project files, etc.? Are they in digital or hard copy format? Do you have backups? Are your backups secure?
Next, consider the physical aspects of your business that may be vulnerable. Do you have unique office equipment, inventory, computers, or trade-specific tools?
Finally, look at how you do business. Do you rely on technology, the internet, or employees with unique skills? Does your business model depend on repeatable processes that are unique to your business?
Now, consider what would happen to your business if these parts of your business were lost, destroyed, or stolen.
Could you continue operating if you lost your client files? Could you be sued by customers if their personal information were exposed? Could you be the target of negative publicity? Could your competitors benefit if they gained access to your information?
What if you lost email access for a day? What if that key employee suddenly left for another job? What if your office space caught fire or was flooded? What if the SAAS (Software As A Service) you use got hacked or went out of business?
Your security and recovery plan should put in place the safeguards, policies and procedures to minimize or prevent these risks — and their negative impact on your business.
Physical access to buildings is relatively easy to control, although most small businesses have little more than a lock on the front door. Should you consider locking file drawers? Is inventory controlled? Does every employee have access, even to things that are not part of his or her job? Could a disgruntled or fired employee return to the workspace after-hours with an extra key copy?
Your plan should consider how to protect the “virtual” parts of your business also. Do you have backups of all important files? Do you have passwords, account numbers and other key information securely guarded? Do your computers have virus and firewall protection, and is it up-to-date? Do you have internet and email usage policies in place to protect yourself and your employees?
What about remote workers or employees who take work home? In today’s highly mobile environment, vital business information can now be easily accessed outside of your physical controls. Do your employees know how to safeguard laptops, cell phones, flash drives, or even print-outs of business information once they leave your workspace?
What if a laptop is stolen from a worker’s car, home or hotel room? Do you have a backup of the data that was on the laptop? Do you have a way to track the stolen device, or remotely erase the data on the device? What if your employees are accessing your information from a coffee shop wi-fi? How do you know if your clients, your equipment, your data, and your business are protected?
Lastly, your security and recovery plan should consider how you would handle the most likely losses.
For instance, if the computer that holds all your sales information crashes, you should probably have a plan to immediately restore that information from a backup. Where is the backup kept? Who has access to it, and most importantly, who knows how to restore a backup?
If your office is flooded, how quickly can you relocate? Can some employees work from home or other remote locations temporarily?
If client information is stolen, do you have a way to contact them?
Most small business owners likely have taken first steps like purchasing insurance and putting locks on the front door. Unfortunately, few have taken the time to really understand the potential risks to their business, and even fewer still have put measures in place to minimize those risks.
Taking the time now to at least put together an informal plan will go a long way in the event of a real disaster or other loss. Even the best planning obviously won’t protect against all disasters, but it can certainly lessen the impact to your business once one occurs.
At Specialized Computing Innovations, we can help you secure your digital files, add remote tracking and data deletion to your mobile devices, create an automatic backup plan for your important data, and recover your backed-up files to a working copy so you can get back to business as soon as possible in the event of a business disaster.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the #1 most important plan you need for your business; the one that all these other plans feed into, and the one that will determine your business success more than any other.
Learn more about Small Business Week at https://www.sba.gov/nsbw