Thirty-one percent of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) do not actively secure their online files from cyber-threats, while only 32 percent regard their employees' social media activities as a security risk, according to a whitepaper from Experian's CSID.

This is particularly disturbing because, owing to the limited resources of SMBs, 60 percent of those that have a data breach go out of business within six months, according to a National Cyber Security Alliance study. Additionally, the price for recovering from a data breach is high.

Kaspersky Lab estimates that recovery would cost, on average, $86,500 for SMBs and $861,000 for enterprises. As a small business owner who uses cloud-based solutions to lower operational costs and maximize employee efficiency and productivity, here's what can you do to minimize the risk of online threats.

Encrypt Your Data

You might have a team of telecommuting workers collaborating through popular consumer-grade brands like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. If so, then it would be best to encrypt files before uploading them to your chosen cloud storage and backup service. Even when stolen or compromised, encrypted data is not readable without the corresponding decryption key. BitLocker, which is available for Vista and later versions of Windows, is one reliable full-disk encryption software you can use. Other free encryption tools to consider include VeraCrypt, 7Zip, and AxCrypt.

Use Strong Passwords

Your level of encryption is enormously limited by your password-creation capabilities. There's just no replacement for a strong password. This practice holds true even when you invest on a zero-knowledge cloud solution, in which not even your carrier's employees can view your encrypted company data stored in their server. So much depends on a strong password, including the most crucial--your decryption key. A password that combines any word found in the dictionary with numbers can be broken by hackers in a pretty straightforward manner. The use of special characters in passwords is a must. Consider using a password manager to help you deal with passwords for multiple sites.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

With two-factor authentication, you are alerted each time someone tries to log in to your company's cloud accounts using a new device or browser. This safety feature enables you to receive a code through an SMS text message, giving you the chance to either verify the identity of the user logging in or block the login attempt entirely.

Disable Integration with Any Social Media App

Having your remote employees log in to your company's cloud storage and backup solution via their login credentials on Facebook, Twitter, and the like is going to open doors to online security threats. Integration with third-party apps will only serve as yet another avenue for infiltration by malicious cyber-attackers.

Be Mindful When Granting Access and Permissions to Employees

Consider carefully who you give administrator privileges to. This cannot be emphasized harder enough. Admin privilege is everything. Your chosen cloud storage and backup carrier offers an intuitive management interface where you can assign employee access levels for stored files, revoke access when necessary, and limit access to "read only" or other status. Use this handy feature judiciously.

Another effective safety precaution for business collaboration in the cloud is to always keep your machine, your antivirus software, and the cloud app itself updated with their incoming security patches. When you get an update notification, it is best to allow it to be installed as soon as possible. Educate and train your employees, too. Everyone should adhere to the company's online security guidelines.

All in all, the digital environment afforded by a cloud server provides a quick, efficient, and inexpensive way to collaborate, streamline business operations, and reach out to potential customers. SMBs should just be attentive to security risks, as well as the best practices to thwart them.


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