Your business is your livelihood. Whether it’s located online or offline, you need to protect it. Unfortunately most small business owners don’t think about protecting their business. They’re so busy with running it they forget to put proper security in place. Or they think that just installing an antivirus on their work computer is enough. It’s not.
It may seem like a daunting task, but you can take these practical steps to protect your online business, and prevent a disaster from happening.
Perform Background Checks Before Hiring Anyone
The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends you perform background checks before hiring anyone to assist you in your business. The reason? “Basic pre-employment background checks are a good business practice for any employer, especially for those employees who will be handling cash, high-value merchandise, or have access to sensitive customer or financial data.”
It is very easy to lie about your identity online. Do everything within your power to make sure the person you want to hire is trustworthy. Even if you only plan on hiring one person as a virtual assistant, chances are they are still going to be privy to some confidential information, like your list of clients. You should do a basic background check just to see if everything checks out. You should check references too, and not just accept them at face value.
Have Dedicated Emails for Your Employees
The statistics for employees who share company data through personal email are astounding. Over 80% of employees have sent sensitive company information through a personal email account. Gmail and similar free email services are public domain emails that anyone can get access to. To cut down on the chance that someone could hack into your employee’s private inbox and get your business information, set them up with an email that’s dedicated strictly to your business.
This may mean you’ll have to set them up with one on your website domain (i.e firstname.lastname@example.org). This is the only email address they are to use when communicating sensitive information about your business. Sending that information through a personal email on a free email service just increases the risk of it being stolen.
Don’t Use Public Wifi
Instruct your employees to never use public wifi to send company data. Public wifi is a hacker’s playground. There are no firewalls or any sort of protection in place to keep your files and data safe. Anyone with the right set of tools can steal your data. You won’t know until it’s too late.
Change Your Passwords Regularly
In addition to implementing internet security software on all computers, everyone in the company should change their passwords on their accounts on a regular basis. The SBA recommends you change it every 60-90 days. Here are some guidelines for setting up strong passwords:
- It should be at least 12 characters long.
- Upper and lowercase letters should be included
- At least one special character should be included
- At least one number should be included.
- Numbers and letters should not go in succession either forwards or backwards (i.e. ABC, 321)
- Passwords should not contain information anyone can get access to, like a birthday.
- Passwords should not contain sensitive information like a social security number
- Avoid having passwords that are either all letters or all numbers.
Get Insurance For Your Business
More and more insurance companies are offering insurance policies for online businesses. They are not just for general liability. Some of the policies are tailored to specific types of online businesses, like e-commerce businesses or consulting businesses. Some insurance companies even offer insurance for contracts. Here are the most common types of insurance for online small businesses:
- General liability insurance protects you from claims by third parties involving injuries, medical costs and property damage.
- Professional liability insurance protects you if you are sued for negligence.
- Errors and omission insurance protects you if you fail to fulfill your contract with a client.
- Business owner’s policy covers your data and your office equipment in case of damage or data loss. This includes the theft of your data by unscrupulous employees. However some things aren’t covered, and it may be necessary to get another insurance policy in addition to this one.
These are five things that any small business owner can put into place to protect their online business. It may take a little time to implement these changes, but the security of your business is well worth the investment.