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For modern businesses, having an online presence is a must. This could be in the form of a customer-facing website, internal tools for use by members of staff, or both. Online tools have made businesses more efficient, reliable and flexible than ever before. They have also introduced vulnerabilities that must be addressed.

For smaller businesses, staying secure when using online services can be a challenge. They may feel as though they do not have the in-house resources required to deploy the latest and most effective security tools. However, many of the best cybersecurity practices do not require huge expenditure at all. Here are five vital security tips that businesses of all sizes should keep in mind.

Stay up-to-date

If small businesses want to protect their operations from malicious behaviour online, keeping their software regularly updated must be a priority. Vulnerabilities are being discovered every day and new types of malware are continually being created in order to exploit them. Updates and patches issued by software developers are designed to counter these threats, but many firms choose to ignore them. As an example, just take a look at how many businesses refuse to migrate from Windows XP, despite it no longer having security updates. By sticking with old versions of software, companies are leaving their business at risk of attack.

Educate your staff

Another relatively simple way of keeping your business safe is to ensure that your staff are aware of correct security practice. Organisations should create a series of guidelines explaining company policy when it comes to cybersecurity. This could cover topics like BYOD, shadow IT and remote working. Paying for formal staff training programmes could also prove to be a worthwhile investment.  

Prepare for the worst

In order to truly stay cyber safe, small businesses must accept that they will face a threat to their data or processes at some point in time, whether from external actors or their own members of staff. Having a disaster recovery plan in place can prove hugely effective at protecting your business from excess damage.

An effective disaster recovery solution can even restore your data to the same state it was in when the disruption occurred. This mitigates issues for a company’s employees and customers and limits any financial impacts.

Choose your partners carefully

Many small businesses realise that they can achieve efficiencies and cost savings by partnering with other companies. Managed service providers like Sungard AS are proving increasingly popular because they can offer specialised services, like data storage or software maintenance, remotely – saving businesses from having to make large up-front investments. If you are going to work with an external partner, however, make sure you choose one that is experienced and well-respected.

Get your passwords right

Passwords play a primary role in security systems all over the world and yet many organisations do not give them much thought. In fact, some companies continue to use simple, easy-to-crack passwords on even their most critical business tools. What’s more, many companies re-use passwords across multiple IT solutions, meaning that a hacker only needs to crack one application to gain access to them all. Using stronger passwords, adopting two-factor authentication and implementing a password manager are effective methods that small businesses can employ to ensure that their software and data is protected. Don’t get caught out because you chose “1234” as your password.