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Data Privacy for Small Businesses: The Basics

Data is everywhere. Employee bank information, client addresses, credit card numbers, style guides—how much sensitive information does your business process over a single day?

All that data doesn’t stay in one place. It’s stored, transferred, analyzed, collected, processed, and accessed by any number of legitimate users. So, what’s stopping an illegitimate user from accessing all of those juicy credit card numbers?

While a business might experience a disruption in its daily activities because it lost or leaked its own information, small businesses suffer the worst repercussions when there is outside access to sensitive client information. To that end, data privacy is a small business’s first line of defense against hackers and accidental outside access.

What is data privacy?

 The term “data privacy” refers to cybersecurity systems and processes that make sure data is only viewed by legitimate eyes. For small businesses, this can range from data encryption to password requirements and everything in between.

How do I make sure my data stays private?

 Today’s IT industry is built on effective, reliable technology with bulletproof security. You can boost your data privacy with a wide range of software, procedures, and practices. These seven are some of the most common—and the most reliable. 

  1. Data backups. One of the most important things to prepare for in the case of data privacy is what happens if your company were to lose sensitive information. If your office computers were to burst into flames, would you have a way to access your emails from another device? Whether you choose a cloud backup system or an offline system like a portable hard drive, it’s absolutely critical in today’s business world to keep multiple copies of your business’s most important data.
  2. Individual accounts with strong passwords. Do you use the same password for every login? A strong password is complex, varied, and difficult enough that it would take a computer decades to figure it out. If your workplace must use shared logins (for expensive software or CRMs, for example), invest in an encrypted password storage system, like the GTS Password Portal.
  3. Multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication requires a user to verify their identity in more than one way before they can get access to a device or program. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a form of multi-factor authentication that requires—you guessed it—two forms of authentication before granting access. You’ve probably already experienced this if you’ve ever logged into iCloud from a new device, then had to retrieve a security code from your iPhone or iPad to finalize access.
  4. Audit logs for access. Do you know who’s accessing your files? If everyone on your team shares a login, your audit logs will look like one person—maybe you, the business owner!—is doing all the work, accessing and updating files every day. With individual, tracked credentials, you can see who had access to files, where they went, and where a potential data breach could be occurring.
  5. Security training for your whole team. One of the easiest ways a hacker can gain access to a system is by stealing a password from a legitimate user, often through something like a phishing scam. Teaching your team how to avoid common cybersecurity pitfalls is a great way to invest in your business’s data privacy.
  6. SSL certificates. SSL encryption and HTTPS protocols encrypt data on your website as it’s being presented. This is especially important for businesses that handle money, like e-commerce websites and online order forms.
  7. Mobile device management (MDM) for BYOD systems. In an increasingly remote workplace, mobile device management is critical for businesses that let employees bring their own devices to work. Through MDM, you can lock out a device’s access if it gets stolen, or wipe company information from an employee’s tablet if they move on to greener pastures.
  8. Remote monitoring and management (RMM) with a trustworthy MSP. Yes, we’re tooting our own horn here, but we can’t recommend RMM enough to business owners who handle a lot of sensitive information. Through RMM, you have 24/7/365 monitoring for potential cybersecurity threats—and often, these threats are quarantined and dealt with before you even know they exist.


Paul May