Data drives the modern business world. From customer identity information to business analytics, "big data" plays a massive role in the success of most companies. Crafting a solid IT strategy is simpler for large organizations, so smaller startups must get creative when leveraging information technology. Here are six ways for small businesses to level up their IT processes.
1. Engage in Data Monitoring
So much data is accumulated and transmitted during normal business processes that constant monitoring is necessary to ensure quality. Various data monitoring tools are available for purchase or as open-source software. Consistent monitoring mitigates the threats of data loss and file corruption. Remember that the "extract, transform, load" process (commonly referred to as the ETL process) has been an integral part of data storage since data warehousing began. Take a hard look at your company's unique needs and find a monitoring solution that fits your resources.
2. Prioritize Secure Storage
All stored data should be monitored, but exactly how that data is stored is of paramount importance to cybersecurity. All vital files should be backed up in the cloud. That said, many data breaches do happen in the cloud. Scrutinize the security measures of the cloud service providers you work with. Using adequate encryption is another beneficial policy. This is easier than it sounds. Many operating systems already have encryption options (such as Microsoft's BitLocker). The most critical data can be backed up offline in encrypted flash drives or hard copies. Most importantly, ensure each device with stored data is kept behind a physical lock and key at the end of the business day.
3. Avoid Data Silos
When interdepartmental communication falters, data can become lost or mismanaged. This is especially true for large organizations, but small companies are not immune. When data is held by one department and isn't easily accessible by others, that's called a "data silo." Siloed data can result in a loss of efficiency and exacerbate security issues. Integrating data systems is the go-to technical solution for breaking up silos, but communication issues are rooted in the organization's culture. Streamline communication between departments so that data can go where it needs to.
4. Invest in Updated Infrastructure
Updating your software and hardware can consume considerable time and resources. That said, it's a move you should at least consider making. Software updates are often free and typically include patches for newly-found security vulnerabilities. Updates can cause bugs and delays, so it's crucial to research updates before committing to them and schedule them in ways that won't disrupt workflow. Obsolete hardware can also be vulnerable to modern-day cyberattacks, so think about giving your physical infrastructure an update as well.
5. Focus on Effective Breach Response Strategies
Much of the cost associated with cyberattacks results from sloppy data breach response. Too many IT departments focus solely on stopping an attack. In reality, isolating an affected system and quickly preserving forensic data is just as critical. Promptly contacting the authorities and moving to reassure customers are quick actions that can mitigate further loss. Endpoint detection & response (EDR) software can also be a powerful intelligence tool, but there's no replacement for having a well-formulated response plan.
6. Make Education a Policy
A now-famous study by tech company Tessian found that approximately 85% of data security issues were caused in some fashion by human error. Nearly all of these errors stemmed from a lack of awareness or ignorance of basic computer technology facts. In other words, they were caused by a simple lack of training.
Employees need to be taught the warning signs of the most common scams. For example, you don't have to be a computer science expert to understand how malicious software can be attached to emails. Arguably, the most effective strategy is to teach employees to engage in network-centric thinking. Get them to realize that good digital security starts and ends with their actions.
Lackluster information technology processes can bring about failure in the business world. A top-notch IT program can engineer success. Examine your options for scaling IT operations, and stay ahead of the tech curve.