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How to stop data loss dead in its tracks

If you’re a small business, data loss probably isn’t high on the priority list of things you need to worry about. You’ve probably got some antivirus in place, and you’ve even got an IT guy who takes care of your network.

Sound familiar?

It should because it’s a very common approach – and that’s a scary thing. According to CSO, a whopping 70% of SMBs will either experience (or have already experienced) data loss from accidents, viruses, disasters, errors, and more.

Additionally, Small Business Trends states that 60% of small businesses that lose their data are doomed to shut down within just six months.

Suddenly, not knowing your data loss prevention strategy sounds like a dangerous gambit (which it is).

In short, the threat is very real. However, there’s plenty you can do now to reduce your chances of suffering from data loss before it ever hurts your business.

Illustration man on paper plane

The 3-step business strategy approach

Where can you get started on defining your data loss prevention strategy?

1. Define your objectives and scope

Most companies focus on securing access to computers and networks. While it’s certainly a good start, it’s only part of the equation.  

In modern IT environments, the data loss objectives need to center on data protection as a whole. Admittedly, it’s a wide field to cover. You’ll want to base your objectives on the threats that are most relevant to your business.

For example, does your data loss prevention need to revolve around complying with regulatory compliance laws, such as HIPAA? Focus on reinforcing data storage security and employee training to those that handle that data.

Maybe you’re more focused on protecting your intellectual property. In that case, you’ll want to balance cloud and on-premise storage usage to build a stable blend of productivity and security within your network.

In other words, it’s far easier to tackle data loss prevention strategies if you narrow the scope of what you need to protect.

The ugly truth is that you won’t ever be able to 100% protect against everything.

2. Track how your data moves

Much like water, data tends to flow in a pathway that you can track. To effectively secure your data, you’ll want to understand where and how your data moves both within and outside of your organization.

Keep in mind that protecting data doesn’t mean just protecting the environment where the information resides. Making sure all your computers have antivirus is nowhere near as effective as making sure your employee doesn’t fall for a phishing attack.

Find out how people are using your business data and see if people are putting it in harm’s way. Oftentimes, the answer is yes – and it’s usually not intentional.

The average time to detect breaches has reached an average of 191 days, which translates into over six months of dwell time for attackers.
Ponemon Institute

Once you see how your data passes through “dangerous” areas, you can start to focus efforts on closing those gaps in security.

3. Create an actual data loss policy

Once you’ve gathered some solid intel, it’s time to transform what you’ve learned into actual policy. For example, the European GDPR data privacy law contains hundreds of mandates to cover a variety of data security situations.

However, you may find only a few core requirements that you need to meet in order to comply, depending on how your organization collects and uses data.

Since you’re an SMB, that’s totally normal. You don’t need to go overboard.

You’ll also need to decide what core system changes you need to make to implement the policy. You may stay with the all the hardware and software that you’ve currently got in place.

However, you might need to move to a more secure file sharing platform or implement more thorough security solutions.

team of men move forward

The 3-step practical approach

Now that the strategy is in place, what can you do to prevent data loss?

1. Educate your people

Employee training is the most important factor in data loss prevention.

Start by defining employee roles in maintaining a data loss prevention plan. Then, involve those employees in implementing the plan.

Take the time to explain the serious consequences that result from data leaks and the role each employee plays in keeping the company’s data secure.

The following should be a part of your employee education:

  • What phishing scams are and how to spot/avoid them
  • How to avoid emails that seem suspicious (and what a suspicious email is)
  • Why/how to use strong passwords for devices and accounts
  • The dangers of public Wi-Fi and susceptibility to data hijacking
  • Physical security of devices and passwords

2. Take employee-owned devices into account

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are amazing for staff freedom and productivity. However, you must consider that their devices can be vulnerable to data loss.

When an employee accesses company data on their personal device, you face a difficult choice.

Do you shoulder the burden of securing their device since it contains your data? Or do you leave it to them?

Devices vary widely in type, operating system, and security. As an SMB, your best bet is to leverage the cloud to store sensitive information and ensure that your employees have strict password requirements that protects it.

In the workplace, 60% of employees use a smartphone for work purposes while 31% desire one.
Dell

3. Back your data up securely

Despite your best efforts, data loss can still happen. Since you’re reading this and being proactive in the first place (we hope), add another bit of insurance to the strategy:

The mighty data backup. Preferably a secured one.

Consistent data backups can save you from a great deal of stress and save your company from losing everything (including customer confidence) and starting over from scratch.

Typically, you’ll want to create multiple data backup sources that are redundant. In the past, this was prohibitively expensive to SMBs. However, as data storage prices and backup system prices dropped and cloud options increased, it’s become more commonplace to see.

Besides, you can’t really put a price on your business data. It’s a critical part of operating successfully.

Make sure that your backups are protected, too. It’s easy to simply copy and paste your files into another place.

But if you don’t have the security necessary to protect that data, it’s not useful. A single cyberattack could encrypt and disable all of your backups if you’re not careful.

Man helps other man

Prevent data loss with the help of IT professionals

Well, there you have it.

A guide on stopping data loss that’s relevant to your business and step-by-step advice on how to get started. But what if you need some extra help making sense of it?

That’s great, because that’s exactly what we’re here for. We’d love to help you create and manage your data loss strategies and policies as partners.

For next steps, start by emailing us or filling out a form from the contact page.