Small Business Tips For Preventing Data Loss

A frustrated man sits at a desk with his hands over his face.
| 09.25.22
Sarah Prais

Data loss is a big problem facing small businesses. Imagine losing important customer financial data or the personal identification data of your employees. You can implement Data Loss Prevention, also known as DLP, into your small business strategy to help address the potential issue. Why? It’s simple—small businesses aren’t exempt from experiencing cyber attacks, cybersecurity issues, or general data loss that could severely impact your business on a financial and even personal level.

DLP helps ensure that sensitive data your small business has obtained over time will not be lost, stolen, or misused by any unauthorized parties. Typically, this policy is put into place to protect your business from both internal and external threats, but please keep in mind it is also a great idea to consider that your employees might accidentally lose or misplace highly confidential information. Consider training your employees on cybersecurity, so they are the very first and best line of defense instead!

Data Loss Prevention for Small Business

All data needs to be properly secured to avoid any serious mishaps down the road. Data can be:

  • At rest- stored in the cloud, on a hard drive, or any other method.
  • In motion- by email or file transfer
  • In use- being accessed for use by an employee

Causes of Data Loss
There are two causes of data loss impacting small businesses:

  • Internal Threats - Around 88% of companies cannot detect insider threats. Essentially, an employee can pose a security risk by misplacing or misusing data. Even the really well-trained ones can slip up sometimes and download malware without even realizing it. This happens through email and online links that look so enticing anyone might make that mistake, but proper training might prevent it.
  • External Threats - Data loss definitely occurs more commonly from outside hackers and cyberattacks. Sadly financial data and personal information is often the first hit and can be the easiest to access. Make sure your passwords are strong! They can hack their way through weak passwords and poor security.

How to Prevent Data Loss 

Small businesses simply might not have all the resources that larger businesses might have to protect themselves against larger-scale cyber and data attacks. With a DLP plan in place, you’ll be better prepared. It is a great idea to install DLP software and tools such as antivirus software and a firewall. Consider updating your tools frequently and running tests to ensure effectiveness with your IT team.

Back up all data. Back up your data immediately, then put backing up your data on a schedule. Many businesses back up their data daily or weekly and before and after any significant event. Consider backing up your data and storing it in a separate location as a failsafe. You’ll want to back up your data frequently and keep it safe in the event of a natural disaster, electrical short, deletion, or cyberattack. 

Create a DLP policy. Keep the policy clear and concise for all employees to understand that cybersecurity is a critical issue that everyone can participate in and engage in protecting not only their data but the company’s data overall. Here are some tips to get you thinking about what to include in your DLP policy:

  • Create suitable storage and archive locations for accessing data. 
  • Have a documentation system with restrictions (passwords), so not everyone can access or download data. 
  • For BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) employees, consider VPN access to company software, so when they are on their personal devices, they are still secure on company grounds. 
  • Consider complex passwords, frequent password resets, and MFA (multi-factor authentication).
  • Obtain cyber insurance to protect your small business in the event of a data breach.

Train employees. It is recommended that you train your employees on cybersecurity procedures. Consider training them on data loss prevention software first and foremost and, of course, educate them on your DLP business policies. Show examples of phishing, whaling, security breaches, and what suspicious email looks like! Employees need to see all of these items in action so when it happens to them in real-time, they will know what to do and not ever click the link…no matter how tempting that trip to the Bahamas looks!

Implement data loss prevention solutions. Consider cloud data loss prevention services and software so your data is not stored locally, or used, or transferred inappropriately. Those services ensure that any data en route to the cloud is encrypted. There are two basic types.

  • Network DLP focuses on the following: emails, phone calls, texts, and FTP (file transfer protocol) networks. It can scans for any tracking and reporting software that shouldn’t be there. Some services have additional features that can alert employees if there are policy violations which saves you time and money on retraining.
  • Storage DLP focuses on data at rest. Any data that your small business has on hard drives, flash drives, or any other static systems are addressed with these solutions. They identify the files at rest and prevent data from getting into the wrong hands.

Small business data loss is serious and costly. In 2018, a Cost of a Data Breach Study found that the average cost of a data breach was $3.86 million, a 6.4% increase over 2017 globally. Put the preventive measures in place, train your employees, and have a DLP policy. That way, your small business will not be part of those data loss metrics. Protect your business’s success, and keep your data secure from cyberattackers that would love to wreak havoc on your professional life!

About the Author

Sarah Prais is a content creator who enjoys blogging on a myriad of topics both professionally and personally. She loves spending time with her crazy dog, and watching anything on Shudder with her fellow horror fan—aka boyfriend.