For the modern business, even a small business, data is often the most important asset. A company’s data can contain information about prospective clients, proprietary secrets, a current customer database, and dozens of other vital components.
Read a tech or business-focused article and you’ll come across mentions of big data and the importance of navigating large amounts of information to gain insights. Storing and managing all of this information is essential, but unfortunately many smaller firms do not properly safeguard their data.
This is an oversight, and the stakes are high.
Big firms that mismanage data might have the resources to get through a big branding hit. A small business cannot take the risk, as a data breach will likely destroy a promising young company before it has a chance to flourish.
Thankfully, there are several actions small businesses can take to better organize, utilize, and protect their valuable data. Here are five important steps.
1. Create a detailed written plan.
If you’re a company of one, or a garage full of six, then it’s likely you don’t run the business as a formal Fortune 500 firm. You don’t need to mandate suits and ties and four hour daily meetings, but when it comes to data protection you should have a written plan that guides you on best practices.
It’s important to assign team members that are responsible for writing and following a data management plan, and then detail as many of the necessary steps as possible. Set rules for what types of data is stored, where it is placed, and when it will be necessary to access it. A sound written plan will assign tasks to specific individuals who will be required to perform tasks – from data backup procedures to cataloguing a new channel of data.
2. Gather and organize the data.
A key part of the plan will be to determine what information will be kept, and where it should be stored. Ideally, you want a centralized secure location that helps you to prevent data loss or mismanagement.
You don’t want to store product specifications in the cloud, customer addresses on a thumb drive, and your marketing plan on a desktop. Information should be centralized under a secure platform so you have access to all of your data. This is also necessary for analytics, as you need business intelligence (BI) and other platforms to be able to gain insights from multiple sources.
3. Introduce redundancy.
Once you understand how important data is to your business efforts, then you should focus on protecting that data for the long term. The cloud continues to be cheaper and more secure over time, and the flexibility cannot be matched.
Small businesses should utilize the cloud for the bulk of their data storage, but should also employ hybrid or private cloud options for the most sensitive data. Given the low costs of storage compared to the very high value of information, companies should detail redundancy plans that plan for the worst case scenario.
You want to create “backups to the backup” with multiple levels of redundancy working together. Use multiple cloud vendors and on-premises storage such as external hard drives to greatly reduce the odds of unrecoverable loss.
4. Handle devices with care.
Small business owners and staff members very often use their own personal devices to conduct business transactions. This is certainly convenient, as many of these individuals are working much more than Monday-to-Friday and need to get things done regardless of the time or day. One danger with using personal devices for work is the security concerns.
Consider that you are connecting to a Wi-Fi on an unknown network, and unknowingly give access to your proprietary data to someone looking to steal content or passwords. Follow best practices by avoiding free Wi-Fi connections by instead developing mobile closed hotspots.
Another device to handle carefully is the SD card found in nearly every tablet device. These drives can hold a shocking amount of data but are easily damaged. Take care to not bend the cards or allow them to get wet.
5. Delete with confidence.
If you delete data that isn’t crucial to your business, be sure to trash it in the right manner. To permanently delete files running on platforms such as Excel, you should use a program such as FileExstinguisher® that takes fragments of data and removes them from the file, so it becomes impossible to recreate the deleted file once again.
When it comes to important assets, data is often at the very top of the list. Small business owners need every possible competitive advantage, and data management and analytics can provide them with new insights that were not previously possible.
Companies that follow these five best practices will be best armed for driving sales teams, avoiding branding catastrophes, and possessing the information they need to keep customers happy and coming back.
This article has been edited and condensed.
David Zimmerman has been in the hardware/software industry for over 30 years, specifically in the data recovery software market for 18 years. During this period, he has been involved in the creation; marketing and support of the earlier drive recovery software products to enter the PC market and successfully marketed them both nationally and internationally. LC Technology International, Inc., based in Clearwater, Florida, is a global leader in data recovery, file system utilities and data security technology. His experience in the market has made him uniquely familiar with the data recovery business. Connect with @lctechnologyinc on Twitter.