Sponsored by Bitdefender

By Rieva Lesonsky

While keeping track of all the information involved in running a small business is one of your most important tasks as a business owner, even more vital is taking the right steps to keep that information safe and secure. Not only are you required to protect your own company’s crucial data, but you must also safeguard the customers who’ve entrusted you with their data, such as credit card numbers, names and addresses, Social Security numbers and more.

Can you blame consumers for being fearful when the 2015 Identity Fraud Study reports some $16 billion was stolen from 12.7 million U.S. consumers last year? It all comes back to which security systems and policies you have in place for your business. That includes budgeting properly, staying current on new technology, and ensuring your business can survive even if it does experience a security breach.

How much should you spend on your company’s data security system? The answer, of course, is “Whatever it takes.” Costs usually can be estimated on a per-employee basis. According to the Georgia Tech Information Security Center report, major Internet companies have begun to encrypt the links between their data centers and email. Follow their lead and invest in secure email hosting. Other factors to budget for include an antivirus service, online backup and a secure Internet phone system. Don’t forget the labor costs to either hire a full-time IT person to keep it all running smoothly or to outsource that responsibility. Compare the options Bitdefender offers. It’s easy to get the protection you need now, and then find more solutions for you as your business grows. As our world continues to get more virtual, you’ll need evolving solutions to protect your business. Check out this free whitepaper, Evolve or Die: Security Adaptation in a Virtual World.

Be sure you don’t skimp on security, because your competition isn’t. A  recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that businesses now spend a higher percentage of their IT budgets on security than ever before. According to the survey, large organizations spend an average of 11 percent of their IT budgets on security, while small businesses spend nearly 15 percent.

When it comes to upgrading and staying current on security technologies, there’s no magic bullet. The Georgia Tech report concludes that “neither training nor technology alone can prevent the most targeted phishing attacks that have caused the most significant data breaches in the past few years.” Doesn’t sound very promising, does it? However, if you approach the problem of data protection by combining the right security technology with controlled access, security education and employee awareness, you have a much better chance of preventing hackers from disrupting your business. Most security and cloud companies offer discounted products to support start-ups. Bitdefender has a pay-as-you-grow policy that lets you get all the security your start-up needs to date and add additional packets as your business expands. This offering is complemented by professional IT services that would offload your IT department and let them focus on developing the product.

Let’s say you do suffer a data breach. What now? If you’ve lost data, your regular online backup system should take care of putting you back in business without too much fuss. But what if the breach has also caused problems for your customers or vendors? Make sure your data security plan includes strategies for rebuilding your company’s reputation and making things right with your customers.

Ask your insurance broker about cyber security insurance. This can cover the costs of everything from lost data, to downtime when you can’t access your servers or website, to public relations efforts needed to recover your business’s reputation. Your broker can advise you what coverage you need.

As a small business, your reputation is everything. Take steps now to make sure one hacker’s evil plan doesn’t become the downfall of your empire.