Six network security steps to protect your company’s data

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Hackers know that most of the 30 million small businesses in America operate without full-time IT staff. That’s why online “bad guys” aim 43% of their cyber attacks at small businesses, and wait. These nefarious actors also know that only 14% will be able to mitigate such risks effectively.

Security systems control access to your business network – a gateway to your company’s data, which in many cases is the most valuable asset you have. Network security operates inside your business operations and at the “edges” of your network, where external systems attempt to interact with your network. Your partners, customers, external regulators and vendors count on your network to let them in – with permission-based authorizations usually tied to the type of information they want to exchange. In a secured business network, hardware and software products, as well as a full complement of IT services, work together to form a permission-based layer of protection around your network, limiting access to only authorized parties.

Navigating the maze of interconnected hardware and software that is network security can be a confusing, daunting task. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, a new threat emerges, a breach comes out of nowhere or you’re hit with ransomware. Few small business owners are security experts.

To help business owners make informed decisions about the best ways to protect their data, look to Cisco Meraki, a worldwide leader in IT, networking and cybersecurity solutions, for help in understanding the network security landscape. One resource, Cisco Meraki’s Network Security Checklist, highlights six ongoing activities critical to effective management of network access:

  1. Closely monitoring network traffic: Too many small business owners rely on alerts to flag suspicious behavior. It is imperative to understand the data behind the reports and not just act when a flag is raised.
  2. Staying up to date on new threats: Hackers’ skills grow quickly, sometimes exponentially, which means small business owners need to monitor online lists that share the latest threats. One way to stay current on the newest threats is to request email updates of threat-specific bulletins and analysis reports from The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, a division of Homeland Security.
  3. Refreshing frontline defenses: Firewalls and anti-virus software operating at the end of the network need regular updates to continue to block newly discovered threats.
  4. Deputizing your staff to be part of your “digital network watch”: Educate everyone in your company to the importance of security. Emphasize how critical it is for them to report immediately any change in how they log on or use their systems.
  5. Implementing a data loss protection system: These pieces of hardware can protect your data in the event of a breach.
  6. Continually improving your security environment: No other part of your company’s online environment changes as quickly as network security does. Consider adding new security software and hardware as your business’ dependence on its systems increases.

Keeping on top of the various aspects of network security can be overwhelming to business owners already engaged in almost every operational aspect of their company. Often, they are priced out of the market when it comes to hiring their own IT staff, especially cyber security talent. But being without a full-time internal IT specialist doesn’t mean your network’s business data has to be at risk.

Global security leaders such as Cisco Meraki and local firms offering managed IT services, such as award-winning Carmichael Consulting, can help select, implement and monitor small business-optimized solutions designed to control access to your business network. Leveraging the extensive resources of companies such as Cisco Meraki and Carmichael can add to your team service-oriented experts up to date on the latest security protocols, hardware and software. As a result, your immensely valuable data can be protected at a cost that is affordable, allowing business owners like yourself to operate with confidence.

When it comes to network security, an ounce or two of prevention really is worth a pound of post-breach recovery anxiety.