Whereas big businesses tend to have a variety of well-staffed departments devoted to the legal, physical and digital protection of their business, small business owners often must take a more hands-on approach to protecting their operations. Small businesses face unique challenges and risks that their larger counterparts do not, making encompassing protection an extreme priority.
Here are the top 10 tips for protecting your small business’ legal, physical and digital standing.
- Protect Against Malware
Failing to protect your business’ computers from malware is akin to leaving your door open at night. Anyone could stroll in and steal valuable data or tamper with your network. Small businesses especially lack comprehensive IT departments, so equipping each computer with malware protection is a must. Turning the firewall on is the bare minimum first step, though it takes more than a firewall. Consider security software that will prevent against intrusions, though without hindering performance.
Additionally, hold a mandatory training session regarding basic computer security, including not opening suspicious email attachments and never giving out personal login information, even if it’s a request from IT or administration. Establish the protocol that login information requests will only be in-person.
- Require Strong Passwords
It’s easy enough to have an employee use a password like “bAseBall18” instead of simply “baseball.” The change can make the difference between a massive hack and nothing at all. To further prevent successful hacking attempts, require strong passwords with a length of at least eight characters, at least one number and at least one special character, like ! or @.
Although employees may not enjoy the more difficult-to-remember password, the added security makes the inconvenience worthwhile. For additional security, require a new password once every few months. The average cost of a data breach is $3.79 million, a number that could easily drive a small business into insolvency or even bankruptcy. Even small steps like password standards can make a huge difference in a matter as important as data protection.
- Ban or Heavily Monitor BYOD
Employers with a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy can increase productivity. When employees bring machines they’re accustomed to using, they can save time. As a bonus, they’ll be able to continue work from home seamlessly. However, personal computers are unlikely to abide by company protocol on digital security. As a result, it’s more secure to not allow external devices.
If it makes budgetary sense for a small business not to purchase a work computer for each employee, require the installation of universal security software that can prevent against hacking attempts.
- Ensure Business Name and Logo Uniqueness
Your business’ image is extremely important, including its name and logo. As a result, choosing a name with no litigation potential is crucial. Ideally, before settling on a name, do all research possible to ensure there are no similar names or logos, within your niche especially. State and federal name registries are a great place to start looking, in addition to domain name searches. Being forced to change your business’ name or logo can hinder progress and confuse consumers, on top of legal fees.
- Obtain All Necessary Permits and Licenses
Required permits and licenses vary by business type and location, so it’s up to the small business to dig deeper. Failure to have a license or permit can, in some cases, lead to a business dissolving. It’s worthwhile for small businesses to hire a knowledgeable attorney on retainer so they can be entirely certain they are operating legally. Being forced to shut down due to a lack of the necessary permits and licenses can have an extreme cost, both financially and regarding reputation.
- Use Written Contracts and Agreements
Small businesses tend to enter into numerous contracts with other small businesses or individuals. Especially in these cases, it’s a best practice to use written contracts or agreements. A contract will show the partner you’re serious about fulfilling your end of the transaction, while also ensuring any failure on their behalf will fairly compensate your business. The time involved in preparing contracts is well worth the security blanket for small businesses.
- Operate a Safe Workplace
Small businesses should strive to maintain a safe environment for their employees, both for their physical and mental well-being. They should handle any claims of harassment or unjust treatment with the utmost seriousness and thoroughness. Failure to acknowledge or treat such an issue can result in a costly lawsuit and poor image that can drive a small business to ruins. Similarly, all businesses need to comply with OSHA guidelines and standards, as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
Employers have a responsibility to inform employees about hazards, maintain accurate records of workplace injuries and illnesses, in addition to notifying OSHA or any workplace incident within eight hours of the incident occurring.
- Put Arbitration Clauses in Contracts
It’s a good idea for small businesses to include an arbitration clause in their contracts, requiring the parties to resolve their disputes first through an arbitration process. Arbitration clauses can avoid thousands upon thousands in legal fees for both parties. While a larger business may be willing to battle in court, many small businesses do not have the resources to pursue a lengthy legal claim, making arbitration clauses a desirable aspect for small businesses dealing with contracts.
- Invest in a Security System
Small businesses should consider a security system as a worthwhile investment. A series of camera feeds you can access in real time is not an exorbitant cost, considering the camera’s presence alone can deter criminal activity. Additionally, if a crime does occur, businesses will have a much likelier chance of catching the culprit and reclaiming their lost data or material.
- Back up Data Routinely
It doesn’t take a hacker to wipe all your data. A major technical malfunction can destroy data just as effectively. Small businesses can prevent against both cases by routinely backing up their data. Cloud platforms often provide automated backup features. For example, Google Drive automatically saves all edits. Small businesses should get into the habit of backing up their sensitive data very regularly.
Small businesses can enhance their security in every capacity, especially in the legal and digital realms, by following these 10 tips. Stay informed on changes to your industry and to new technologies that will help keep your business safer!