The ongoing pandemic has added to small business challenges globally, irrespective of size, location, and funding.
Asking residents to stay at home for all but essential errands have greatly restricted local companies when it comes to operations. Considering that this sector contributes $5.9 trillion to our nation’s GDP highlights how any difficulty for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) could spell trouble on the economy as a whole.
The lockdown has also caused an overnight transformation making remote work culture the new normal. While large corporations have the set up to facilitate efficient telecommunicating, it isn’t the case for SMBs. The latter has to work on establishing a technical infrastructure that connects all remote employees and has the necessary safety measures to keep security risks in check and bad actors at bay.
In this article, we’ll provide 6 key tips that can ensure the shift to online is seamless for all SMBs.
1. Keep an eye out for security breaches
For most companies, it isn’t a matter of if, but when they fall prey to looming threats, which is why they need to be prepared for the worst.
A common problem faced by small business owners is time and resource limitations that can compromise the whole security posture of their workforce. The abrupt transition to remote working has further intensified the security problems as continuing business operations can inherently lower the overall level of data protection.
What SMB leaders can do is adopt a more proactive outlook to strengthen their overall strategy. They should keep reminding their employees to carry out general security checks to gain insights, along with the importance of using security best practices for safety of everyone involved – employees, companies, and customers and partners. Additionally, there should be a timely review and update of disaster recovery plans.
2. Develop a sustenance plan for business continuity
SMBs for whom infrastructure redundancy isn’t an option should work on developing an efficient plan for sustaining critical infrastructure at the time of crisis for quick disaster recovery.
An increase in remote teams means more work for internal IT teams, which includes daily operations, reporting, and communication. Owners can opt for web-based service portals to support these business needs.
For instance, emergency outreach and response operations can be used for workforce communication in a bid to share important updates and to provide a centralized system for resource requests, management, and tracking, respectively.
3. Practice good cyber hygiene
SMB owners should communicate the company's security plan to its employees. This plan should include security software standards that should be run on every device on which work is done, company policies and procedures to secure data, along with cybersecurity awareness and training to keep everybody on the new and informed.
You see, building a digital workspace involves various implementations like application integration and allows users to stay connected when working, helping companies create a more collaborative culture in the business. To make sure that things carry on smoothly, employees must remember a few extra steps for security. Some of these include the following:
- Refraining from installing new applications without the IT team's approval
- Disconnecting the devices from the corporate VPN when not in use
- Identifying malicious phishing scams or malware that are commonly spread through emails, text messages, or social media
- Not using personal devices for work-related purposes
- Making sure that their WiFi router is up to date and is equipped with WPA2 security or higher
- Securing their accounts with strong passwords and two-factor authentication
Employees should be encouraged to work from home, but they shouldn't take their work devices out, and neither should they use unapproved personal gadgets when working.
4. Take advantage of the plethora of internet tools available at our disposal
With an increasing number of small businesses going online, Mark Zuckerberg was quick to launch Facebook Shops, which is a new e-commerce feature that allows businesses to build online stores on both Facebook and Instagram. This can actually be an excellent tactic for business owners to stay afloat during the pandemic.
Instagram, for one, has launched several additions that could help small businesses during the shutdown. In mid-April, the platform launched food delivery and gift card stickers and ‘Support Small Businesses’ stickers in May. Recently, it announced multiple new e-commerce tools as well for small businesses that could be helpful for smooth operations.
To enhance the effects of these digital tools, you can also consider developing eye-catching promotional material for your offerings to ensure higher engagement and possibly drive sales on social media. One way to do this is by finding a designer who understands your brand, your professional needs and seamlessly plugs into your creative ecosystem.
If you can’t afford one, then you can create a simple and easy-to-navigate website to direct customers to your offerings and provide more information about your company. Just make sure you have the vital security tools – including SSL/TLS certificates – to prevent malicious attacks and data breaches too.
5. Establish strong – and secure – lines of communication to boost productivity
Once the team goes remote, communication is the only way to remain functioning as before. Owners and managers should make time for human interactions asking employees about their lives instead of directly talking about work. Doing this will make the latter feel wanted, which, in turn, can boost their morale and productivity levels. Find ways to strengthen and develop your virtual work culture – your ability to attract and retain the best talent depends on it.
Also, when it comes to communication, it’s important to recognize that your team’s schedule and work hours may need to change. Expecting employees to work according to a strict time regimen as they did while in office may not be realistic. As long as the job gets done and you have the right communication tools in place to keep you connected – safely – some flexibility may not be a bad thing.
Sending professional invoices, receiving payments, following up with prospective customers, and so on, shouldn’t be troublesome tasks anymore. There are incredibly easy-to-use apps that allow you to do all these things with the simple click of a button from your phone. And by utilizing secure digital signatures for all of your important paperwork, you can keep keep your business running online without having to sacrifice security.
6. Make sure your VPN is secure
Several experts have predicted that security breaches will become increasingly common primarily due to the offhand infrastructure of companies. To avoid compromising critical data, business owners should secure their ACLs, network configurations, firewall rules, and take other measures to amp up security.
People have become more receptive to VPN after learning how it can help maintain online anonymity by encrypting data that can safeguard their devices and accounts from hackers. However, there is still a possibility of a VPN breach since cybercriminals have developed sophisticated methods to travel internally from VPN infrastructure into personal data.
Furthermore, any malicious behavior will be very difficult to detect because of the spike in user traffic because of the lockdown. To avoid these problems, it’s best for SMBs to configure a VPN in order to balance the bandwidth required for its server and the protection necessary for the remote staff.
While a split-tunnel VPN only protects certain traffic, a full tunnel VPN distributes all internet traffic over the VPN due to which even remote workers have the same level of protection against malware and viruses as they would in a traditional office setting.
Securing your online business is a win for everyone
SMBs remain resilient despite the unique circumstances 2020 has brought forward, with owners operating, managing, and working tirelessly to stay afloat.
While they need to find new ways to reach their customers, they also need to make quick and efficient adjustments to how and when they do business.
Introducing a remote work culture is the need of the hour, but even hackers are working overtime. Managers, IT teams, and business owners should work together to adequately train employees on cybersecurity basics to reduce cybersecurity attacks and data breaches. With a little preparation and correct knowledge, small businesses will be able to avoid cyber attacks that can keep their integrity and finances stronger in the long run.
Note: This blog article was written by a guest contributor for the purpose of offering a wider variety of content for our readers. The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of GlobalSign.