Mike Foreman of SMB/AVG Technologies highlights key issues surrounding the emergence of new technologies and the importance of safeguarding your small businesses with a robust digital policy.

Have you recently considered what the workplace looked like just a decade ago?

It is now barely recognisable, especially for small businesses.

Emerging technologies have unlocked doors that SMEs never would have imagined as accessible. Social networks are providing cost-neutral ways to attract and retain both employees and customers on a large scale, while concepts of work-spaces and hours have become more flexible; smartphones and Cloud technologies allow 24/7 access to business emails and documents.

In a world where technology plays such a pivotal role, it has become essential for businesses to understand the risks associated with these channels and tools so they can be used safely.

That’s why a comprehensive digital policy is vitally important. Here are some of the key points that should be covered:

Keep It Simple

In a written statement delivered nearly a year ago, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced that 76% of small businesses had reported a cyber-breach in 2012. When small businesses often don’t have resources dedicated to the maintenance and security of their IT infrastructure, this is an alarming number that can leave SME owners feeling very powerless.

However, creating a specific IT team or bulking up the existing resource isn’t the only answer. According to Verizon’s 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report, 78% of breaches rely on “unsophisticated techniques” and could therefore be easily avoided. Policing the use of digital channels and connected devices is a good way to start, requiring relatively little investment.

Make the Most of Social Media

Whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or more niche networks, social media can be a very powerful channel to raise awareness of brands, engage with potential customers, or simply test the market. However, before taking the plunge, it’s essential to clearly identify the right tone of voice, and the right employee within the business to be responsible for it. Empowering them with tools that will improve general efficiency as well as maintain high security standards is vital too.

Address Potential Risks

While social networks offer numerous opportunities for business communications, they are also forums where disenchanted employees with an axe to grind, or those without adequate knowledge, can easily turn things sour. Clear guidelines should be in place, outlining the business’s stance on social media and mobile device usage during and outside of work time.

Monitor The Use Of Personal Devices

According to a report conducted on behalf of IT solutions provider Logicalis, a staggering 78% of firms whose employees use their personal devices at work don’t have a Bring Your Own Device policy in place. While it’s a losing battle to stop employees from using their personal devices at work, managing how these devices are used, and protecting the data they access is a better solution. Regular infrastructure audits focusing on the data kept on devices will help identify weaknesses and provide solutions.

Protect Your Staff’s Privacy

Undeniably, a certain level of control over the use of personal devices (namely in the instance where remote wipe might be required) is important, but ensuring that employees’ privacy isn’t invaded is just as crucial.

By law, employees have to give consent over access of their personal data, so clarity is key. What data needs to be accessed and what use will be made of it? A strong digital policy is only as strong as the number of adherents it has. If employees are not completely on board with policy and its founding principles, alternatives must be explored. For additional tips and advice, check this guide to digital policy for small businesses

Mike Foreman is General Manager of SMB at AVG Technologies and blogs about small business issues here. AVG SMB is dedicated to un-complicating the lives of SMBs and the channel partners that serve them. 


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