Technician in Google data center
A technician works inside a Google data center in Oregon. Photo courtesy of Google

It’s a new year and the start of a new decade. Twenty years ago, we were extremely concerned about Y2K (remember that?). While that catastrophe didn’t come to pass, its still important for small business owners to have a plan that will enable their business to stay strong, resilient, and protected from future threats.

Even if you think you’re fine and up to date, it never hurts to re-assess how well you’re both serving and protecting your customers. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, in 2018 alone there were more than 1,200 data breaches across businesses and government agencies that exposed over 446 million records. Stories like these are reminders that one hack can create millions in lost revenue and untold time spent remedying the damage.

Staying current on best practices for business technology is also a great way to stay competitive and demonstrate to your customers that you prioritize efficiency and security. Here are some tips to ensure your business stays ahead of the curve on the tech front.

1. High-speed Internet is the lifeline of any business

This seems obvious, but businesses today must have a reliable Internet connection with the speeds and capabilities that their day-to-day operations require. Business apps and software are increasingly hosted online, rather than installing on a desktop or laptop computer. Unreliable Internet service means lots of hidden costs and hours of added stress. Plus, if you own a brick-and-mortar business, more consumers expect businesses to provide complimentary WiFi access as part of the customer experience.

2. Have a separate WiFi connection for customers

Any brick-and-mortar business today knows customers want WiFi access, whether you’re a restaurant, doctor’s office or boutique hotel. However, allowing the general public to log on to your company’s WiFi network could pose a serious risk.

Take, for example, Thr3e Punk Ales Brewing Company in downtown Chula Vista. The company utilizes Cox Business’ suite of products to help run their operations smoothly and provides a secure guest WiFi network.

3. Educate your employees about good cybersecurity practices

Duane Cameron
Duane Cameron

The most common cause of data breaches is human error, plain and simple—64 percent of security events in 2018 were caused by employee, vendor, or contractor errors. Even the most tech-savvy employees could bring their own personal devices onto your network or make a mistake that puts your network at risk.

The best way to defend against this type of unintentional negligence is educating employees about the different types of security threats (viruses, malware, phishing, etc.), how to identify them, and protocols for escalating suspicious emails and requests. Communicate requirements for dealing with sensitive customer information at the time of new-hire training, and make sure your ongoing cybersecurity training is engaging enough to stick, and brief enough not to be a burden.

4. Keep an inventory of who can log in to your network

Take an inventory of who has access to your company’s network—it’s likely more people than you think. When an employee leaves the company, immediately withdraw their login credentials for any company device. You may also want to consider changing your passwords and investing in cybersecurity tools that keep your company’s information safe.

5. Back up in the cloud to give yourself and employees more security and flexibility

96 percent of IT professionals surveyed in the RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report said their companies were using cloud computing services. A cloud service not only provides more protection, efficiency and flexibility for business owners, but also provides employees the ability to access work files using multiple devices and locations. Because the data is housed over the cloud network, it also promotes collaboration allowing multiple users to access the same files at the same time, which is very helpful in project scenarios.

This time of year, many people make resolutions for their personal lives, but if you are an entrepreneur it is important to also focus on attainable goals that will advance and protect your business. Adopting the latest tech best practices and protecting sensitive data not only keeps your business strong—it greatly reinforces the trust your customers place in you.

Duane Cameron has more than 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. He is currently an executive for Cox Business, helping to bring innovative products and services to Southern California businesses.