We file data all the time, every day. And it goes…somewhere. What we too often fail to consider is exactly where it goes, and what fail safes we should build around it. Recent breaches at national retailers such as Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan Chase prove data security is a critical issue. The breach at JPMorgan Chase affected 76 million households and seven million small businesses. We still don’t know the depths of this data crisis, either at JPMorgan Chase or in the bigger picture.
If you’re not protecting your data, you and your valuable customers are about to become a target.
The worst data protection plan is not having one. The idea that “someone else takes care of it” leads too many business owners and managers to think that they’re protected. It may be that no one in your company is responsible for data protection. But that responsibility will fall on the business owner or manager when a lawsuit is filed after a data breach. Better to make it someone’s job now than after you get sued.
Here’s what I can tell you about protecting your data from internal and external threats:
1. Have a plan — As I said, the worst plan is simply not having one. Make an inventory of the data you receive, collect and produce, and list where it’s stored, too. That can include printer hard drives, cloud storage systems or internally based servers. Then, figure out ways to protect the data you found. Create a backup system, and protect yourself against attacks through encryption and other methods.
2. Hire the best — When my company moved into the information technology business, I hired two employees for the task of data maintenance and protection. The temptation would have been to hire some friends or connections from within my industry. But their expertise would fall outside of IT. Instead, I hired two employees with specialized skills in IT and let them learn the intricacies of the print business later. Don’t short yourself by letting someone already in the company convince you they can take care of it, even if they have an IT hobby.
3. Have a backup — Systems fail, and they fail all the time. Sometimes a natural disaster like a flood or a tornado can destroy data servers. Thankfully, that’s not common. But have you ever seen a hard drive actually disintegrate? My technicians have told me how they can melt like a candle and that happens far more often than a tornado. And it can happen through no fault of your own. Think of all the important documents you want to use in the office tomorrow, then find a place to save them that isn’t on the desktop of your PC.
4. Invest in the cloud — We recommend a cloud system for all of our clients. It not only creates a backup, but it also allows for more efficient and intelligent data management. Through a cloud system, you can move a document safely and securely from your smartphone to your work PC to a Mac laptop at your home. The cloud can also send data to you, wherever you are — you can arrange for a voicemail sent to your office to arrive as an email, accessible through your cell phone. Cloud systems also help with redundancies. If I delete an email from my phone, it goes away from my desktop mail client too.
5. Get a third-party consultation — Even with a detailed plan, backup system and cloud storage, it’s best to have someone double check your work. For the same reason an accounting firm might ask for a third-party audit, you should do the same with your data management plan. Hire a consultant to comb through your systems and watch them discover vulnerabilities you haven’t even considered yet.
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