Keeping the computers in your business, and the data on them, safe is a vital job that you need to be on top of at all times. IT has become so integrated into business processes that the loss of hardware, software or data can raise serious continuity issues. Replacing lost data can wipe out a lot of time that would have been better put towards production and selling. If you can't issue invoices for a period because you've lost your accounts data it could seriously jeopardise your cash flow. Yet surveys of SMEs suggest owners are notably deficient in taking these risks seriously.

How well are you protected against these common IT hazards?

Virus attack and hacking

There are myriad viruses around with new ones being created every day and spread worldwide through the internet. It is inevitable that a computer not protected by adequate virus protection will become infected. Hackers can be prevented from breaking in to your computer by use of a firewall. Sign up for a comprehensive software solution that covers viruses, malware and spyware and includes a firewall from a reputable provider.

Careless, ignorant or malicious employees

The potential for harm from employees is vast, from accidental deletion of data, to virus infection; from surfing the Web, to deliberate copying and stealing of company information. There is no one infallible fix, but a layered programme that incorporates education on acceptable use (and an acceptable use policy), computer safety training, and use of passwords to protect data with access on a need-to-know basis can reduce the likelihood of occurrence.

Hijacked wireless connection

Wireless has become popular as a cheap, fast and convenient method of connecting to the internet. But most wireless routers, the devices used to make the connection to the internet, are set up to work straight out of the box, meaning anyone within range can connect via it. Routers are only secure if they are encrypted with a password known only to the employees authorised to use the connection.

Damaged software

Hackers are continually searching out vulnerabilities in software programmes that will allow them to tamper with how the programme works. As suppliers become aware of these they release updates to restore security. Regularly check for and install updates to keep your applications working as they should.

Power failure

Power spikes and sags as well as straight out power failure can lead to data corruption. Install a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) to protect your computer from power problems and give you time to shut it down without losing information in the event of a power outage

Identity and data theft

Erasing information from a computer is not as simple as dragging files into the trash bin and then emptying it. The data in those deleted files, which may mean trade secrets, intellectual property, customer records and sensitive information like bank accounts, strategic plans, etc, is still present on the hard drive until it is overwritten by new data. Decommissioned computers can still provide access to 'deleted' information unless the drive is thoroughly cleansed with a special software tool for the purpose.

Data loss

If your office burnt down at the weekend, would it mean the loss of your only copy of vital information such as customer lists, taxation records, accounts, personnel records? Stay safe by backing up regularly and storing the data offsite. The method you use will depend on the amount of data and the frequency you do your backup - it can be as simple as burning a CD of data every day and taking it home or arranging to have a backup done automatically over the internet periodically.
A recent Symantec survey of European businesses found lapses in security across these areas was all too common, so it's not surprising that 17% of the respondents had experienced a recent security breach resulting in tangible loss of business, with nearly one in 10 citing a monetary loss as well. Don't become an IT disaster statistic.