Data-sharing is essential for the successful operation of today’s businesses. Small to mid-sized companies are no exception to this rule although their size may pose additional challenges, especially where they lack dedicated IT support. Fortunately, following a few simple guidelines can help you ensure that your company’s data sharing is targeted, timely and, above all, secure.
Few of us appreciate receiving irrelevant or extraneous communications. Taking the time to consider whether your organization is sharing the right data or messages with the right customers, suppliers or other areas of the business goes a long way towards retaining their goodwill.
Knowing when to share data is as important as the content of what you are sharing. Bombarding recipients with information is rarely good business practice. Where appropriate, ask if what you are sending is useful and timely, and don’t be afraid to rethink the frequency of your messaging.
Security breaches are a real threat. Not only can they cost your business significant sums of money, but they can also jeopardize carefully nurtured client relationships and damage your company’s reputation. Consequently, it is essential to protect sensitive information at all times but particularly when you are sharing it with a third party.
Here are 4 important security safeguards to ensure trouble-free data sharing.
- Virtual Private Networks
The internet is an invaluable tool for any business but, used incautiously, it also represents a risk. Although using private networks reduces this risk, most workers in the average small to the mid-sized company will, at some point, need to use a public WiFi connection.
Unfortunately, public WiFi connections are not always as innocuous as they seem. At worst, they can be an elaborate phishing exercise, set up with the sole purpose of stealing data from unsuspecting users. At best, they expose the user to the risk that malware from another device connected to the same network could end up on their laptop, tablet or smartphone.
This is where Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, can act as a real game changer. Correctly installed, a VPN means that you can use public WiFi securely for any legitimate purpose.
A VPN achieves this feat with a two-step process. First, it encrypts your data and, secondly, it transmits that data to your intended destination via the VPN server. The result is rather like a private tunnel that is accessible only to your data.
From a business perspective, VPNs are particularly useful for online collaboration, including group chats and cloud drives. As a result, providers such as NordVPN have designed systems with exactly these sorts of scenarios in mind.
- Secure use of content collaboration platforms
Content collaboration platforms such as those provided by Google Drive are an integral technology for many businesses of whatever size. Secure data centers store the uploaded files, and all files are private unless shared deliberately.
Despite the safeguards built into these technologies, it is sensible to take further precautions to secure your data. For example, Google Drive offers a 2-step verification process that uses both a password and your smartphone. Called 2FA, you can enable it from your accounts settings page.
- Password managers
It’s inevitable that colleagues will sometimes need to share passwords in order to access particular documents, emails or user accounts. You should resist the temptation to share these passwords in emails or even via casual chat as the risk of the information falling into the wrong hands is too great.
Password managers are the ideal solution. Not only do they remove the need for an individual to remember a potentially large number of different passwords, but they also enable a team of people to share those passwords when it is appropriate to do so.
Most password managers allow you to use a single password key to access your information, while also highlighting your password’s health by flagging weak or duplicate keys. Many also offer business-specific tools that enable you to share passwords, create new password categories and also assign each employee or other users to a specific category that delineates their privileges to access the system.
Choosing the right password manager will depend on your specific requirements as well as your budget. At the top end of the scale, some providers offer dedicated corporate support.
- Endpoint protection
Essential to guard against viruses or hackers, endpoint protection is not a security safeguard to skimp on. As a consequence of having fewer IT resources, small and mid-sized businesses can be more vulnerable to these sort of attacks than their larger counterparts. Additionally, having fewer defenses in place can also make it harder to track and trace attackers.
When selecting endpoint protection, you’ll have a choice between a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) package and an on-premises package. Choosing SaaS can save time and effort but it is no substitute for ensuring that your operating system and underlying infrastructure is appropriately patched at all times. Furthermore, whatever provider you choose, make sure it is one with an excellent track record of adding new protection in response to evolving threats.