Everything is online. Your customers, your systems, your history, your data, your IP, your life. You need to protect this in a manageable & effective way. That’s the key word, “Manageability”. Network Security is the ultimate buzz-phrase in business at the moment. That’s because it impacts everyone & everything online. If any part of your business or network is online, you have a risk that needs to be understood & managed. As a SME owner, you cannot afford this risk, & yet managed network security is often not viewed as business essential as it is not a direct contributor to the bottom-line. Yet without it, in the likely event of security being compromised, your profitability will take a knock.
What is Network Security?
Network security is about protecting your information assets that live on your network. You need to keep your information locked-down & unusable by unapproved parties. There are various ways you can protect these assets through tech or process. But essentially, it boils down to visibility of & understanding points of weakness & having a plan of action to mitigate or nullify the risk of exposure or breach.
What type of tech can I use to protect my SME?
Below are some key components to a network security strategy for SMEs. You should seriously consider investigating & deploying at least one of these items:
- Anti-Virus (AV): Loads of products out there. Most are available via download. Some popular AV products include: AVG (Free), ESET, Kaspersky, or Norton AV. It is important to keep these products up to date on your machine/s at all times. New holes in software & operating systems (OS) are being discovered by hackers & exploited daily. It’s like taking regular Vitamin C doses in preparation for winter. Most updates are free & just need to be scheduled to run automatically.
- Email Security: Quick tip: Microsoft Outlook gives you a few options to secure an email before you send it. The first prohibits the recipient from being able to forward the message. Open a new mail, click “Options”, “Permissions”, select “Do not Forward”. There are also other means to encrypt your email by clicking “File”, “Properties”, “Security Settings”, & ticking “Encrypt Message”. You can also go the specialised route by looking at products from Mimecast, Synaq, or McAfee. All these vendors offer some form of protection against spam, phishing, viruses, & malware.
- Firewalls: When selecting a firewall you should look at the features offered such as Unified Threat Management (UTM). This is the bundling of core network security elements like AV, Intrusion Protection, Web Filtering etc. into one bouquet. Many service providers give a choice of a shared or dedicated firewall. Important considerations here are; price, redundancy, visibility, management, support & stability. As a SME a shared model is probably better for the budget, but beware of Internet Service Provider (ISP) pricing that can be unsuitable. Rather go specialized & get more bang for your buck.
What to do next?
As a SME owner you need to protect your information assets in a proactive & budget effective way. The risks are relevant & persistent but you can actively manage them. Select a blend of security elements & management & put them to work for your business. Quick wins include:
- Ensure all machines on your network have a standardised & up-to-date anti-virus running 24/7.
- Train your staff on proper email etiquette & security protocol. Be suspicious of everything & ask questions when unsure. Google can really help here!
- Get a network security management dashboard & a support function that is available 24/7
- Engage with your existing service provider & ask questions about redundancy, back-ups and security
Don’t leave your network unprotected. Lock-up & grow your SME!