Technological advances and increasing commute times have led more employees to pursue jobs that allow them to work from home. And while employers are also benefiting from the ability to hire regardless of location by keeping costs down, they also need to find new ways of protecting their networks now that workers are working remotely. Understanding your options for network security is crucial if you hope to protect customer information and other sensitive data from those who would misuse it.
The following steps can help businesses preserve the safety and security of their networks while allowing personnel the access they need.
1. Switch to the Cloud
Cloud-based storage systems offer a number of benefits for small businesses. When you migrate your data to the cloud, information is stored on an off-site server that usually boasts enhanced security. As a result, remote workers can access necessary information regardless of their locations, and businesses can feel confident that sensitive data will remain safe. Additionally, businesses can save money by eliminating the need to hire an in-house IT team or purchase expensive personal security systems.
These days, small business owners can choose from a variety of cloud-based security systems. Recently lauded by PC Magazine, CertainSafe offers encrypted cloud storage known for its security and priced for less than $9 per user a month. Additionally, Intuit’s Quickbooks has a high-ranking cloud accounting system that enables companies to organize all their financial and sensitive data in a single, secure location.
2. Create Better Passwords
If your employees are using their pets’ names as passwords, they could be affecting the security of your small business as a whole. To keep your network secure with remote employees, small businesses should require their teammates to use random passwords containing at least 12 characters, including numbers and special characters (e.g. @, !, $, etc.). Additionally, it’s a good idea to change vital passwords every few months, and use different passwords for various sites and applications. After all, if a hacker cracks the code for one system, you don’t want him or her accessing all the others as well.
3. Limit Access
Hiring remote workers is a great way to cut costs. Savvy businesses, however, take steps that limit access to sensitive information. While it may seem simpler to grant access to everyone on staff, the truth is that workers only need access to those tasks that are specific to their job function.
Additionally, savvy small business owners find ways to prevent unessential remote access to the company’s VPN, or virtual private network. On the other hand, VPN access provides an extra layer of security when transmitting sensitive data, which your employees may need to do over email or special applications from time to time.
If you do need to allow remote employees access to the VPN, there are technologies you can use to protect company information. VPN software programs like Dell Secure Works encrypt Internet traffic and evaluate remote computers for viruses and other signs of infection.
4. Secure Email Access
Securing email access is a crucial part of protecting your small business data. Businesses should require that remote employees use a secure web mail program that encrypts messages before they are sent. For example, Hushmail encrypts emails so that only the chosen recipient can read them. While free for single users, Hushmail domain support begins at $5.24 a month, making it a relatively inexpensive way to protect employee tax documents and other vital data.
5. Enable Virus Protection
When was the last time you updated your antivirus protection? Viruses and malware still pose a serious risk for any small business owner, and having remote employees only enhances that threat. In fact, many would-be hackers target off-site workers’ computer systems because they tend to be neglected and less secure. Once remote employees connect a compromised laptop or tablet to the company’s internal system, malware can be introduced.
Along with regularly updating software to protect against the latest threats, business owners should safeguard their data with firewalls and antivirus programs. While most new computers come with some form of basic firewall, companies should make sure they’re turned on in both in-house and remote computers. Additionally, businesses should download an up-to-date antivirus program like AVG AntiVirus.
Finally, companies that are worried about remote employee security breaches may want to consider hiring an IT professional. Not only will IT professionals ensure your system has the latest security safeguards and updates, but they can also get you back up and running in the event that a breach does occur.
Small business owners often assume that network security is only an issue for larger companies. The truth is, however, that small and medium-sized businesses are often especially vulnerable to hackers and would-be thieves because they lack the motivation to regularly update their security systems and procedures, which larger businesses can better afford to do. If you want to continue growing your company, it’s important to take steps to protect your information and online property while allowing remote workers the access they need to succeed.