Business owners often express security concerns about moving data to the cloud, but everyday hazards can pose even more serious risks to data that live on desktop computers. From natural disasters to human error and internet scams, a wide variety of conditions can result in costly data loss for your business. Businesses that do not maintain readily accessible backups of critical data can face severe, costly loss of revenue.
What are some of the possible perils that can compromise your critical data, and what steps can you take to safeguard your information?
1. Weather and Natural Disasters
One of the biggest threats to server security can seem like a surprising one: weather. Power outages accompanying severe weather can mean significant financial hits to businesses. Research has found that weather events cause more than 40 percent of all U.S. power outages, with costs up to $70 billion annually. When power outages result in a lack of access to critical data — and the resulting business downtime — the negative financial impact can mount quickly.
Depending on your part of the country, your business may face threats from a range of natural disasters. Along the East Coast and Gulf Coast, hurricanes and tropical storms pose significant dangers. Flooding, physical damage from wind and airborne debris, and fires sparked by lightning or flooding all can mean serious risks for the integrity and accessibility of your business data. Tropical storms and hurricanes also can spawn tornadoes with little warning — causing tremendous damage or destruction to business structures and the computer servers they house. But it’s not just natural disasters that pose a threat to servers. Even relatively weak tropical weather systems can result in storm surges, flooding, power outages, and damage to structures.
On the West Coast and in other parts of the United States, earthquakes represent a major danger. The federal government, along with states and localities, advises residents to keep an earthquake kit available with several days’ worth of food, water and medical supplies. For businesses with servers housed on-site, no easy remedy exists when an earthquake causes extreme damage. In many cases, the servers and the data they contain simply are lost for good.
The West Coast also experiences periodic destruction from wildfires that can rage out of control quickly. Residents who live in these areas know they must prepare to evacuate rapidly when officials give the order. For businesses, however, bulky servers containing critical data often cannot be saved quickly enough to escape the flames and smoke damage.
2. Physical Site Security
Break-ins, theft, and other physical security breaches can affect businesses in any part of the country. When your proprietary or sensitive data represents your most valuable assets, protecting it becomes paramount.
Data kept on individual computers or on servers at your site is vulnerable to break-ins and theft. Thieves who enter your business may grab these machines to sell immediately, or — depending on the nature of your business — they may want the data housed within for more crimes like identity theft. In some cases, vandals break into businesses simply to cause damage and mayhem. While vandalism may not lead to compromised data or identity theft, it still may result in destruction of equipment that houses irreplaceable business and financial information.
When you store your data on-site, any security measures you put in place may not be enough to deter thieves. Highly motivated individuals will find ways to defeat a variety of anti-theft strategies, including alarm systems, strong deadbolt locks, and enhanced lighting. In some cases, burglaries and thefts are committed by employees with inside information about business data — and its potential value — and knowledge of the security systems in place.
Small businesses often do not have the financial resources to pay 24-hour security guards, but loss of proprietary data can strike an unrecoverable blow nonetheless. With an increasing number of employees working from home, physical security becomes even more of an issue. Are your employees using laptop or desktop computers that contain valuable business data — and, possibly, the only copy of that data? Your data is only as secure as the home of each employee who has access.
3. Internet Security
With attacks that can originate from anywhere in the world, internet security poses even more of a threat to your business than physical security does. The cybersecurity landscape changes so quickly that even experts have a hard time keeping up, and attacks can go undetected for months or even years — with valuable data being continually compromised and used for nefarious purposes.
Employees who work from home have increased the risks of internet attacks significantly. How secure are your employees’ computers? What about their WiFi networks? Who has access in addition to your employee? With team members working off-site, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to know the extent and effectiveness of security measures in place.
Protecting valuable data on laptops, desktops, servers, and in the cloud means always observing cybersecurity best practices — including developing and enforcing strict protocols for working with sensitive data, limiting access to certain data, using appropriate firewalls and other security, and changing login credentials regularly.
Seemingly on a weekly basis, new stories emerge of large, global businesses beset by cybersecurity attacks, resulting in huge data breaches that compromise the personal information of millions of people. If international companies have so much trouble protecting their data, how can individual employees working from home be expected to do so?
4. Persistent Scammers
Most U.S. workers have had no training in working securely from home, and they have no experience fending off determined scammers. Finding the names — and other personal details — of your employees is as easy as connecting on social media. Armed with that information, skilled scammers can mount a variety of attacks that involve convincing an unsuspecting employee to share data.
While many data breaches occur due to sophisticated cybersecurity incursions, just as many happen thanks to social engineering — the practice of using proprietary or personal information to convince a victim of a scammer’s authenticity. Whether a scammer poses as a bank employee, a government regulator or a customer, they can target your employees and potentially gain access to your sensitive data.
Scammers use a variety of methods to convince employees to turn over unauthorized payments or access to proprietary information. They may pose as an individual the employee trusts — such as the company CEO. In doing so, they may use a sense of urgency or intimidation to convince an employee that they need to take action immediately rather than hesitating to get approval from someone else.
Keeping your employees — and your sensitive data — safe from internet and phone scams involves ongoing education and training, as well as a protocol for secure and consistent back-ups of your data.
5. Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware attacks — in which cybercriminals lock computer systems and hold data hostage until the victim remits demanded payment — have dominated the tech news lately. From huge companies to hospital systems to city governments, many types and sizes of organizations have fallen prey.
As with many types of modern scams, human error often serves as the entry point for ransomware attacks. Many begin with phishing, which involves convincing an unsuspecting employee to click on a malicious link, providing the cybercriminals entrance into a computer system. With no backups available, many business owners feel that they have no choice except to pay the demanded ransom to regain access to their data.
In the past, phishing emails often looked amateurish and were rife with spelling errors and other giveaways. However, phishing methods have evolved, and messages often look professional and entirely believable; even trained employees with a keen eye can fall for phishing scams nowadays and unwittingly expose their companies to costly data loss.
The Benefits of a Dedicated Cloud Server
Regardless of the type of threat to your business, the devastating result can be the same: costly loss of sensitive, proprietary data. Secure dedicated servers offer disaster protection through cloud computing quickly and easily in addition to the measures you’ve taken in your business disaster recovery plan.
You may know some of the benefits of switching to the cloud for hosting your data. When you do so, you greatly reduce the chances of many potential hazards, such as physical damage or theft of the machines that house your data. You leave security and maintenance to the professionals so that you and your employees can focus on your core business.
When you make the switch to the cloud, ensure that you do so on a dedicated server. By using a dedicated server, you gain multiple benefits. Because you are not sharing your server with other companies, your privacy is assured. In addition, you have complete control over your server and won’t have your data slowed down by another company’s high usage.
Ensuring Data Security
Costly data loss can occur in a variety of ways either on desktop computers or in the cloud, from ransomware scams to hurricanes and other natural disasters. For accountants and business owners who rely on QuickBooks, Summit Hosting offers QuickBooks hosting security.
By running QuickBooks on a dedicated server, you and your employees can access your vital financial data from any location and from any internet-connected computer as you benefit from the advantages of cloud hosting. With a dedicated cloud server, you gain an edge in data security, privacy, and protection from ransomware attacks and other cybersecurity breaches.
Summit Hosting specializes in providing cost-efficient QuickBooks Cloud Hosting and Sage Cloud Hosting throughout the United States and Canada, making these mission-critical applications constantly available to on-site and remote workers alike. With cloud hosting security and a dedicated server, your business can stay up and running even when disaster strikes.
To learn more about our services, please contact Summit Hosting.