Data (employee and customer information, financial records, intellectual property etc) is incredibly important to both old and new businesses. If your company stores any kind of confidential or sensitive consumer information—whether passwords or credit card numbers, the importance of security cannot be overemphasised.

Cybercrime costs the global economy up to USD$500 billion annually. The risk of a breach makes it insanely crucial to invest in the best business security tools and apps to secure private customer data. It’s wise to put as many safeguards in place as possible to keep your business secured from intruders.

You should be doing everything you can to protect your precious business data (and your network, computers, company mobile devices) from attackers, especially when your business begins to embrace new and online applications to grow your company. Every business is a potential target for cyber criminals, robust security is not only important but essential.

Establish basic cyber-security practices

This is probably one of the most important steps you should take to secure your business from all sorts of cyber attacks. Data leakage can occur through employees deliberately or accidentally. To control these leaks, train your employees to handle sensitive customer and corporate information with care, and give them the right training to help them avoid phishing and malware attacks.

Explain which data matters, why and how you want that data to be handled. And explain the consequences of someone breaching the security policy. Provide the business tools and resources they need to do their work. They should know all company approved software, online services, cloud applications and other relevant technologies they need to use.

Millions of people are guilty of using birthdays, names, and personal references as passwords. Stress the importance of strong passwords to your staff. Establish enforceable policies in place that require employees to change passwords regularly.

Training employees on how to look for and avoid data breaches can protect your business from cyber attacks. Make your employees your first line of defence and the  threats can be be significantly reduced. Review and revise your security measures at least once every year.

Why move to the cloud?

Modern technology has now made it easy for small businesses to embrace cloud tools and apps to improve business efficiency. More than three quarters of the workflows handled by corporate computers will be processed by cloud data centers by 2018, a survey by Cisco showed. Cloud computing can make a positive impact on your overall data security.

Chances are your business relies on cloud computing to solve some of the many challenges faced by small businesses. And the beauty of cloud computing is that suppliers take care of general maintenance for you and roll out regular updates – including security updates.

You will have time to focus on the things that matter most to your business, like attracting and retaining customers. And because your data is stored in the cloud, you will be able to access it anywhere on approved multiple devices.

With cloud solutions like Office 365, updates happen automatically so you never have to worry that the technology is out of date and thus more vulnerable to security risks.

Office 365 also uses advanced security tools to safeguard communications through OneNote, SharePoint Online, Outlook and Skype for Business as well as control who can access that information.

With Office 365, you can use the same systems used by Microsoft and other enterprises worldwide to help protect your email, documents, and networks. Invest in business and cloud apps that offer built-in security features.

On protecting your mobile devices

Mobile device security is usually neglected when businesses implement security measures for their computers. Company devices should be monitored and controlled.

As your business begins to embrace cloud technology and applications, your employees will be able to work effectively from anywhere on their mobile devices (laptops, tablets or smart phones) outside the office.

It’s imperative to password-protect these devices, encrypt sensitive data, and install security apps to help prevent data breaches while they work away from your company’s network.

Budget for regular software updates

Updates seem like an annoyance, doesn’t it? Having to update your security software every time another version comes out. And it’s time-consuming (and sometimes costly) to continually upgrade operating systems and software. But it pays to keep software up to date to handle current threats.

Most software companies send out automatic updates to their customers almost every year to block security loop holes and generally improve user experience. Look out for updates to your software especially security apps that keep your computers and networks secure.

Don’t ignore messages to update your business software. It’s the most effective way to keep your business protected against constantly-changing cyber threats.

Microsoft BitLocker, which is integrated into Windows 10 ensures that in the event that a device gets stolen, the data on it stays secure. Both Microsoft SmartScreen and Windows Defender also prevent phishing sites and malware that may attempt to steal your identity and personal information.

Your business should take advantage of the enhanced security features in the latest Windows 10 to defend against cyber threats.  If you are worried about disruption to workflow, seek help.

It’s vital that every business has a backup plan

What will you do when the unexpected happens? If you are already using cloud apps, your documents and files are protected by your application provider.

For all other business files and documents on company devices, you can implement cloud-based backup and recovery solutions. You will avoid the large up-front investment cost of hosting files on company servers in-house.

OneDrive for Business files are automatically backed up. And Office 365 also offers the option to define clear permissions and access levels to those backup files. That way, when your employees walk out the door, your data stays with your business.

Test your restore processes before you need them. Backup won’t be of any use to you if you can’t get access to it. To avoid backup failure, test them to make sure you can successfully restore when the need arises.

How much do you know about cybersecurity? Here is a free Cyber Security IQ Quiz you can take to help test your knowledge about the security risks you face every day. It will help you gain valuable insight to prevent cyber attacks.