The only difference between your small business and a large corporate IT department is the volume of problems and the number of IT staff. Small and home based businesses will at some point experience and require defense against the same problems a large corporate IT department defends. That’s why I’m putting my fifteen years experience including numerous technical certifications and research to work for you in the Small Bus-y IT section of this blog. My goal is to make each post simple so you can spend 5 minutes or less reading and implementing a “Small Bus-y IT” post.
I believe strongly in entrepreneurship and the American spirit of freedom. There is no need for you to waste time fighting IT problems after a major disaster when I can help you prevent the issue. This first post will cover only the basics then I’ll delve into more detail in future posts. Let’s get started.
Here are the TOP 3 most important things you must take action on now:
- Always have a backup!!!!!!!!
- Secure your electronic home
- Stay up-to-date
1 – Always have a backup!!!!!!!!
I have seen 30 year experienced IT employees feel like complete idiots after accidentally deleting a file only to realize they had not made a backup. This is literally IT 101, but it usually gets overlooked for action we deem more important in the heat of the moment. Have a backup of everything – software installation DVDs or downloads, hard-drives (backed up to an external drive or cloud storage), a database backup, a backup laptop in case your primary computer goes down, and a temporary backup of any file you consider important. As an example, many things can go wrong when editing a file in Word, Excel, Access or any other program actively being used. Take 10 seconds to make a duplicate for those important files before editing. There are multiple ways to keep backups, but the easiest backups that run themselves are iDrive, Mozy, and Carbonite.
2 – Secure your electronic home
Most people would never build a house without putting a deadbolt lock on the front door, but that’s exactly what happens with many routers bought from a big box store. They come wide open with no security. That’s where a firewall becomes a priority.
You may have heard the word ‘firewall’ before but never really known exactly what it meant. In the physical world, a firewall is usually made of brick or some other material that will keep fire from spreading from one room or building to another. A software firewall serves the same electronic protection of real world firewalls. It closes off all communication channels (also known as ports) to the outside world and forces you (the administrator) to approve any communication coming into your network from the outside world. In a sense, you can view the firewall as the deadbolt on the front door of your home where only those with the correct key are allowed to enter. All Windows operating systems include a software firewall in the Control Panel so you should take a minute to enable it now. Enabling a firewall will cause software, Skype for example, to stop functioning since it’s communication channel will be disabled. To ensure Skype will work with the firewall enabled, you’ll need to allow the specific port number access through the firewall. This functionality will be reviewed in a later post along with password protection and data encryption, but for now you should only trust known ports meaning those that are well known from large established software vendors like Microsoft, Apple, or Cisco. If you are looking for a suggestion, I say enable your firewall permanently and only disable it when the need arises such as making a Skype call.
3 – Stay up-to-date
Most of us have heard of software updates like Microsoft Windows Updates, but a lot of people just don’t see the point. Windows Updates, in addition to software updates from any other operating system, many times include security patches that correct known vulnerabilities. For that reason, I always tell small businesses to update immediately. If you prefer not immediately, always install a patch within a month of its release. The month lag time will give some time for the vendor to recall the update if it is found to create a bug or other annoyance discovered by other users. The most recent Windows 10 updates have gotten tricky for small businesses, but you can get those details here.
There are so many more items we’ll cover that I can assure you are important, but I suggest you stop everything until you have completed these 3 items. A few minutes of planning can result in hours saved by implementing these three actions before it’s too late.