Business Buzz: Secure your business data | CraigDailyPress.com

Business Buzz: Secure your business data

The Better Business Bureau warn that although it's large national companies that get the headlines when a data breach occurs, small businesses account for approximately 85 percent of all data breaches, according to Visa.

If your company — big or small — has a website, communicates with customers via email, or stores customer information in an electronic database, you could be putting them at risk if you don't take proper precautions.

Better Business Bureau Serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming advises following these four steps to help you be a more trustworthy business:

Have — and follow — a privacy policy: Your company's website should have a privacy policy that tells customers what information you collect and how you use it.

Know what you have: Be aware of all the personal information you have about your customers, where you store it, how you use it, who has access to it and how you protect it.

Keep what you need and delete what you don’t: While it’s tempting to keep information for future use, the less you collect and store, the less opportunity there is for something to go wrong.

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Protect what you're provided: If you’re holding onto information about your customers, it needs to be stored safely.

Don't stop there, however. Keeping your customers safe requires your own computer systems to be fully protected. The best policies in the world won’t protect your customers if your network and resources are at risk for preventable attacks.

BBB offers these tips:

• Keep a clean machine: Having the latest security software, Web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.

• Automate software updates: Many software programs will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks. Turn on automatic updates if that's an available option.

• Scan all new devices: Be sure to scan all USB and other devices before they're attached to the network.

• Use a firewall: A good firewall keeps criminals out and sensitive data in.

• Use spam filters: Spam can carry malicious software and phishing scams, some aimed directly at businesses. A good spam filter will block most of it and will make your email system safer and easier to use.

• Show your commitment to security: Participate in activities such as Data Privacy Day on Jan. 28 to demonstrate your business's commitment to security.

Seven key small business resolutions for 2015

Editor's note: This story was written by Matt Varilek, Small Business Association's Region VIII administrator.

Like personal resolutions to eat healthy or get fit, New Year's resolutions for small business owners can lead to increased sales and greater profitability. The Small Business Administration has resources to help entrepreneurs to put their resolutions into action. A 2014 Constant Contact Inc. survey showed 53 percent of small business owners make New Year's resolutions to boost their businesses. Consider the following ideas from our network of small business experts for your own list of resolutions in 2015:

• Give your business plan a facelift. Business plans are a useful tool for anticipating future scenarios and how your business will respond. But even the finest forecasters get some predictions wrong. Consider your business plan a living document and review it regularly. Update the plan to reflect how the business has evolved in terms of technology, product diversification, marketing strategies, and owner experience.

  1. Understand the Affordable Health Care Act. Small firms with fewer than 50 employees are not required by the ACA to provide health insurance to their employees. That's 96 percent of all businesses. However those that voluntarily choose to provide coverage have the options of doing so through each state's small-business health insurance marketplace.
  2. Get a financial check-up. Business owners should review their company's profit and loss statements, balance sheet, and other relevant financial indicators on a regular basis.
  3. Take a hard look at what worked and what didn't. Did you buy too much of the wrong inventory? Did you make hiring decisions that adversely affected the business? Are you working too many hours at the business and need to hire more help? Are you putting too many hours into the business and neglecting your family?
  4. Find a mentor that you trust. Mentors can provide a fresh perspective on tough issues like the ones mentioned above. They also can provide business owners with a wide range of advice including business strategies, financial counseling, and commons sense solutions to everyday problems. They provide someone you can discuss sensitive issues with in confidence. Consider using a SCORE or Small Business Development Center counselor to fill this role. They're experienced. They're confidential. And in most cases, they're free.
  5. Embrace online sales and social media. A 2013 study by Forrester Research Inc. showed that by 2017 nearly 60 percent of all U.S. retail sales will involve the web. Successful small firms maintain a Web presence where customers can purchase items online, or find a retail location. The cost of creating a web presence is far out-weighed by the potential new customers ready to buy your products or services on-line, often from markets well outside your geographic home. Let 2015 be the year you create or refresh your business' web presence.
  6. Embrace innovation and creativity. Differentiate your small business from the competition by embracing innovation and creativity every day. Feature the products that can't be found at the local mega mall. Create the kind of unique customer experience that serves as a destination for shoppers not content with pointing and clicking in solitude.

For more information on how SBA can help your business keep its New Year's resolutions, visit http://www.sba.gov/co or call the Colorado District Office at 303-844-2607.

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