Regional businesses have unique challenges. I’ve worked with many regional businesses over the years, and…
Why Every Business Needs to Protect Their Data
Privacy: the state of being free from public attention, or a state in which one is not observed or disturbed by other people. We each treat our privacy differently.
At one end of the spectrum are those who seek the public attention and in doing so give up their rights to privacy in many aspects of their private lives. At the other end are those who shun the world and live a reclusive life avoiding interaction with people completely. The vast majority sit somewhere in the middle.
Business privacy is slightly different. You need to have public attention to promote your products and services, to improve brand awareness and to get your message out to your target market about what you do and why you do it. However, beneath that is the desire to maintain privacy on your finances, your customised systems and processes, your intellectual property, and in some businesses the names of your clients or customers.
The challenge lies in how you balance these opposing requirements. I have identified 7 areas to consider for your business:
1. Security of data.
Consider using cloud systems for your accounting, timesheets and payroll, databases, CRM systems. These systems eliminate the need to take backup copies off-site where they can be compromised. The more copies of your data that are in different locations, the higher the risk of unauthorised access.
The typical scenario where this applies is the copy of your accounting file which you’ve put on a USB stick and sent to your accountant. What would happen if the USB stick fell into the wrong hands? Particularly if the file has no password, or uses a generic password.
2. Change passwords.
The banks remind us to regularly change passwords and to never have them written down. It’s too easy in a business to set a password and never change it. Employees come and go, and the passwords remain unchanged. Putting in place systems to ensure that all passwords are changed regularly and that employees who leave are locked out of your system by eliminating their login and changing passwords is essential for the protection of your data.
Changing passwords is vital in today’s world of cloud systems. Take a moment and check all your systems to identify who has access and if you’ve got old employees listed, delete them or make them inactive.
3. Shred paper.
Don’t just throw it in the bin. For paper that has sensitive information on it, make sure the papers are shredded in a shredder on site or placed in a security bin for collection by a security bin collector.
Don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that no one will ever go through the paper in your garbage. You just don’t know. Better to make sure that your private information is simply not available. Invest in a shredder.
4. Employment agreements.
Employment agreements need to cover areas of confidentiality of information, security of data, and privacy of intellectual property.
Every business should have formal written employment agreements, and codes of conduct that are ready, understood and signed by all employees. At a minimum, these agreements act as a deterrent against an employee doing the wrong thing with information they have access to in the course of their employment.
Do you have employment agreements in place and have they been prepared by an expert to make sure that they carry the full weight of the law?
5. Taking action when there is a breach.
It’s all fine and good to have agreements in place, but it is essential that disciplinary action be taken in the event of a breach of the agreement.
Disciplinary action could take any number of forms from docking pay, to immediate and summary dismissal. Beware the employment legislation and check with a Human Relations expert before taking action to make sure that you’re within your rights.
6. Talk to your employees.
One of the easiest ways to ensure the privacy of your business is to talk to your employees and tell them why privacy is so important. I have found that when I’ve done this I’ve also garnered loyalty and respect as well, and they’ve felt more a part of the business.
7. Practise what you preach.
In all cases, as the owner of the business, you have to lead by example on all these matters. By doing so, you enforce the importance that you place on your privacy and security of your business and its information.
If protecting the privacy of your business information is important to you, and it should be, put in place the measures to give yourself the best chance of protection. Don’t allow yourself to become complacent, regularly review what you are doing and improve wherever you can.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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