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How to protect your business from data disaster

The information that you store about your business activities is not only highly sensitive but provides the administrative backbone of your company. What would you do if it all just disappeared?

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The information that you store about your customers, employees, and business activities is not only highly sensitive but provides the administrative backbone of your company.

What would you do if it all just disappeared?

You may think that the worst will never happen to you, but the fact is it could, and a little preparation can go a long way. You have probably experienced the problem of losing data in a document or spreadsheet and felt that sense of dread as you realise it has gone forever and you need to start all over again. Now imagine how you would feel if you scale this problem up to losing all of your business data.

There are three main threats to your business data:

  • Online and computer-based threats, including viruses
  • Physical threats like fire and flood, fire and theft
  • Human error, such as misplacing documents and devices.

Protect your data – back it up!

A back-up is the IT term used to describe a copy of your data, usually on a data storage device, and then secured away from the original. We cannot stress the importance of data back-ups enough – it is probably the single most important computer related task you will ever perform in business. What data should I back up? As much or as little as you can live without, but as a minimum it should include:

  • The contact details of your customer and clients
  • Employee information
  • Your customers' bank details, if you collect this information. 

It is your responsibility under the Data Protection Act 1998 to safeguard this information, making data security even more important.

Take frequent copies of important data and always remember to test your back-ups on a regular basis to check they're working.

Prevent viruses

Computer viruses are one of the biggest security threats facing small businesses. They can target personal data stored on your system (including that of your customers) and cause you to lose important data. Read this guide to protecting your data from viruses and malware.

Physical threats In the case of physical threats like fire and flood, it is important to store backed up data away from the original PCs.

Some small businesses use on site secure storage such as fireproof safes or ask a trusted member of staff to take the files home with them every night. There are also a number of technologies available to help you, including networked PCs, memory sticks and other storage devices, and online back-ups, where data is copied to a remote server.

Beware human error

We've all heard the stories of civil servants leaving sensitive data on public transport, but this can just as easily happen to private businesses. And someone getting access to your business data could be just as devastating as losing it entirely.

If you allow staff to take back-ups of work, or save data to external storage devices, then you could be leaving yourself open to such data loss.

A robust IT policy, which monitors such data storage and educates staff about the implications of data loss will help to minimise these problems. Ensure that all data kept on external storage devices is password protected, so that if it is lost and found it can't be accessed easily. This is also useful if your computer equipment is stolen.

The Forum is all too aware of the increasing threat this poses to members and offers an affordable comprehensive cyber risk management package to protect your business. This includes, staff training, risk assessment tools and expert support. In addition members can also get the added peace of mind of comprehensive cyber legal cover for just £75 per year. For further information and advice on cyber security and protection call 0845 130 1722.

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