There are many ways to store and protect your business data, from laptops and mobile phones to the cloud. Here’s advice on finding the best option for your business.
The amount and type of data you need to store will depend on your line of work. Knowing what you have and how you use it are key to finding the best storage option.
The first step is to list data you have in paper records, stored electronically or on devices you use in your business. The second step is to identify what you need to run your business — what you couldn’t do without or find elsewhere if needed. This could include:
Next, ask yourself who needs access to the data. Whether you share documents with one or two people or collaborate in teams, make sure your storage solution allows the right access at work and offsite. You’re unlikely to need to store most information for more than a couple of years. But some data needs to be kept for longer.
Many businesses use the cloud — the network of servers hosted on the internet — to store, manage and process at least some of their data. Examples include Google Drive, Dropbox and iCloud.
When looking to sign up to a cloud service, it’s a good idea to compare what’s on offer. Think about the following:
Benefits: You should be able to access data anywhere and anytime you can get online, including on a smartphone.
Ask about: Can you easily and securely collaborate on documents with colleagues and clients, eg for day-to-day business and projects?
Benefits: If misfortune strikes, eg a breach of your IT system or devices by a hacker or a major natural disaster, your data should be safe in the cloud. Most cloud services are very secure — their businesses depend on it.
Ask about: Data security. Even if you’re no IT expert, you should still feel confident about what you’re getting. For example, ask the service provider about any security breaches and its strategies for stopping them. If the answers don’t satisfy you, maybe that service isn’t for you.
You can also ask if it meets the New Zealand standard for information security management. This standard is coded ISO/IEC 27002— find out more about it on the Standards New Zealand website (external link)
Benefits: Weigh up how much future storage you’ll need. The cloud can be cheaper when it comes to scaling up your needs.
Ask about: There should be a range of prices depending on how much you want to store and service level. Also ask about special offers for signing up. If you can’t negotiate on price, you can still compare prices between services.
Benefits: Cloud services often offer levels of service that cater for a range of business sizes and budgets, eg if you don’t need on-call 24-hours-a-day support, the costs should be much lower.
Ask about: If looking at an overseas service with different business hours to New Zealand’s, does this affect response times to queries?
Benefits: It’s usually very easy to change services. Notice times will be in your contract.
Ask about: If you want to switch providers, what happens to your data? How easy/secure is it to transfer it?
Reputation: Check the service’s reputation by doing an online search of its name and words like“ privacy” and “ breach”.
Location:Privacy rules can vary between countries. If your business is concerned about privacy, ask where your data will be stored.
Cloud computing checklist for small business (external link) — Privacy Commissioner
There are ways for small businesses to store data including:
Personal computer: If you don’t have lots of data, a PC hard drive is an option. Large amounts of data on a PC can dull its performance, but you can boost storage if needed. As it’s connected to the internet, think about how you’ll guard against hackers.
Server: A much more powerful hard drive used to provide a business with its own network. You’ll need IT help to maintain one. Think about how you’ll guard against hackers. It’s also a good idea to restrict administrator-level access — and to have a secure password that’s different from others your business uses.
External hard drive: These offer more storage than a PC, and are relatively cheap and easy to transport — a good option for backing up data and offsite storage.
USB drive: Also known as a USB stick or flash drive, they’re small and can store moderate amounts of data — an option for backup copies or for working offsite.
Disc: DVDs and CDs can store moderate amounts of data and can be useful as backups to keep offsite.
Always keep multiple copies in different locations.
You should regularly make copies of data — known as backing up — in case original data is lost or stolen. It’s also vital for your disaster recovery . If you store data in the cloud, this should be done for you. If not, look at getting software that backs up data automatically, so you don’t need to think about it.
Ask yourself if you’re making it easy for unauthorised people —hackers — to get access to your data. Here are some options for protecting it.
How cyber secure is your website? (external link) — Connect Smart
Change these to strong passwords — and change the passwords each time someone who knew them leaves the business.
Add a further security layer by encrypting data with a key. A cloud service will do this for you, as doing it yourself can be time-consuming and costly.
Installing antivirus software on computers is an easy way to protect your data. Keep your software up to date to fight off the latest malware. Install patches and updates from your internet service provider.
Consider getting protection from malware, a term covering a range software threats, including:
The Digital Resources website has more tips on antivirus software (external link) and security.
SME toolkit (external link) - Connect Smart.
Security breaches are often caused by an employee doing something they shouldn’t, usually inadvertently. If your people use computers and mobiles devices at work, create a usage policy — see the Internet and social media clause in our Employment Agreement Builder for tips on what to include — and provide training on how to keep data and systems safe.
If your business holds information about people, eg customer contact details, you must handle it carefully. The Privacy Act has guidelines to help businesses handle personal information, including:
Your privacy obligations (external link) — Privacy Commissioner