There exists an age-old battle between the two sides of the software development industry. On one, there are the white hats who design defenses to keep data assets safe, knowing that every breach equals money. On the other side, there are the threats, the black hats, and those with similar skills in software engineering who have turned against the public.
In between, there are the small businesses that have realized they must operate on the Web in some capacity to survive. Without the bottomless resources to pay for the most expensive firewalls and in-house experts to ward off any malicious attempts. As a result, they become the main targets for hackers.
This blog is to present options for small businesses that might be wary about facing the challenge of cybersecurity. By affordable, we consider small businesses without the time or resources to put an IT Department together, or those who want to.
Practical Solutions for Cybersecurity
Before diving into any deeper strategies, the first step should be to protect each asset that is connected to the source individually. Thinking in terms of your main storage as the most vulnerable aspect, we first turn to the “nodes” connected to that server.
The individual computers, phones, and any other device that can access your most protected data can all become entry points. Protecting the main server without securing its nodes is like installing a high-end alarm system but leaving the front door open.
Consider these low-cost solutions as a foundation for more intensive measures later:
- Anti-Virus Programs – Unlike many software products, there is a direct correlation between the cost of an anti-virus program and how effective it is. You might be able to find cheaper options that have fewer features, so how much you spend here should reflect the likelihood of an attack.
- Firewalls – These prevent unauthorized entry by illicit sources onto a machine. Operating on a limited budget, firewalls should be prioritized first, because this is the last line of defense. Firewalls can be placed on any device that connects externally, and modern variations include analytics, which provides vital intelligence.
- Digital Workplaces – Most remote companies use digital workplaces because they want to increase productivity, but these also carry the benefit of external hosting. Containing sensitive communication to a single system cuts down the danger of traffic.
- Safe Browsers – Using Web browsers to access company data is generally safe, but there’s no reason not to extend that protection with a browser that’s made for protection. Several paid and free options exist, but the ideal solution is to have a browser custom-built.
Cloud Computing and Cybersecurity
Cloud computing is a good first option for small businesses who want a straightforward path to safer storage. Moving to the cloud from a legacy system–an in-house database on a physical server, for example–is less of a hassle than most people might think. Cloud providers have a ton of specific packages and migration automation for small businesses taking their first step into virtual storage.
Regarding cybersecurity, data storage in the cloud is inherently better protected than data stored in a local drive. Cloud storage essentially creates a digital copy of your company’s infrastructure and places it on a virtual hard drive, which is really a small portion of a physical hard drive.
While the cloud isn’t an end-all solution, we can assume providers like Amazon (AWS), Google (GCP), and Microsoft (Azure) will have cybersecurity defense that is better than none at all. The main upside is that most providers are aware of these advantages, so they provide affordable pricing packages and even hybrid setups for small businesses that want to keep their local structure intact.
Security Through Virtualization
Virtualization is essentially a localized version of the cloud, where you use one operating system to ‘host’ another. The second operating system functions as if it were installed on the machine directly–the downside is that running two operating systems at once requires a powerful machine to use in productivity.
Fortunately, there are operating systems that are made to serve as hosts for others, which have slim profiles to avoid clogging resources used by their virtual guests. You can even find open-source solutions–meaning: free–that are no less capable than the proprietary versions.
The catch with open-source virtualization is usually that their applications are less ‘packaged’ than their counterparts. That is, applications like Oracle’s VM VirtualBox may not come with 24-hour help desks or certain services you’d receive by going with a paid program (e.g. Windows Server 2022).
Training and Protocols
Getting serious about cybersecurity means you will eventually need to educate staff about any changes, and the cost of this action depends on how complex the solutions are. Value propositions exist everywhere for training at all levels from the expected sources–e.g. Google, Microsoft–and many are free. Even in small businesses that are just advancing into cyberspace, there are packages for live seminars and certifications that are streamlined for specific systems.
Cybersecurity policies and protocols reinforce the purpose of all the defenses you placed earlier. The resulting protocols would stop employees from leaving their passwords on post-it notes, but it will also educate them about how to navigate any of the software. The main emphasis here should be to take what was learned in training and apply it to self-restriction. Like training, find a specialist to draft and/or revise a single doctrine that you can build on when resources allow.
Outsourcing may or may not be an affordable option depending on your business, but it still applies as a possible area for small businesses. For example, many cybersecurity companies will offer free consultations, at which point the cost versus needs comparison becomes more apparent.
The key is to avoid overspending on all-in-one packages when you can find modular services that are far less expensive and more suited for initial steps. We recommend taking advantage of the free consultations—and even spending a little if the fees are low—and then comparing the offers to form a more objective view of their value.
For a more in-depth look at outsourcing, check out this In-Depth Guide to Outsourcing Software Development.
The challenge of cybersecurity might have some small businesses thinking it’s better thinking it’s better to go with the first reasonably-priced solutions out there. And while most can tell when someone’s trying to earn their commission, knowing the needs of your business will ensure that you only subscribe to what’s needed.
Ivana Zec is the owner of Visibilio, a digital marketing agency. With over 8 years of dedicated content marketing and PR experience, she has established herself as a seasoned professional in the digital landscape.