In today’s business environment, you have to wear a variety of hats to remain competitive. The trick with this is working smarter, not harder. There are a variety of ways that you can do this that won’t break the bank.
The first thing to do is making sure your local network connection is keeping unwelcome visitors from getting into your network. If you are using a router/firewall that you got from an office supply or electronics store or what your ISP provided as part of the package deal, that is the first thing I would replace. They are find to protect a home network but not one that a business depends on. You should consider using one meant for SOHO or small company networks. One of the routers in this area that I like is ones from Ubiquiti. They have a variety of options to choose from. This just one option that you can look at. There are also options from some of the large well known vendors that may be able to accomplish the same result.
Another solution is to look for a managed solution provider. In this case, they would manage the router/firewall on your premise. They would also be responsible for making sure that all appropriate patches/updates were applied. In the event of an attack that hadn’t been seen before, with their advanced level of product knowledge, they should be able to react quickly and keep your from being hacked.
Since using a Voice over IP phone system is becoming more and more common, you might want to consider looking at a backup internet connection that you either only pay for when it is used or pay a small monthly amount just for it being there. Either way, it will be a small price for remaining online and available to your clients. As a final line of backup is to have your VOIP provider be able to automatically forward all calls to a specific number when your internet connection is down or redirect a specific line to a specific number (i.e. cell phone) so one phone doesn’t get overwhelmed with all of your phone calls.
Since you probably have some type of web presence, this is another area that should be looked at. If you have a your website hosted with a service that is charging you between five to twenty five dollars a month, you should check with the provider to see what type of protection is in place. Depending on how frequently you make changes to your website, having an automatic backup system in place will help if your site gets hacked or if there is another problem where one or more files required by the server to run get corrupted. Even if this is something you are comfortable with doing, having a service provider in place to help with this may be a far better use of your time and money than trying to do it yourself. There are backup options available that can automatically backup up your website to a service such as Amazon S3 or Dropbox so that the backup of your server(s) don’t reside on the same network/provider as your servers reside on.
It is entirely possible that the managed service provider that may be helping with your office network might be able to help with your website/online presence. It would be a good idea to have your online presence behind a firewall at the provider instead of directly out on the internet. This is for the same reason as your office network, you need to take every reasonable precaution as a lack of presence on the internet or having your webserver hacked, giving your clients the impression that you may not be a real business or one that they should do business with.
By having more than one location being serviced from the same provider might help get you a better rate than just dealing with one location. Since not everyone at your company may be operating out of the same location, this would be another area where a managed service provider would provide some value to the situation. They can help you setup connections with all locations using secure methods so that you only see each other and not the entire outside world.
Don’t get the idea that a managed service provider is the only way to go with what I have been discussing here. If you have those kind of skills in your wheelhouse, then setting this up on your own might be the better choice. If one of your employees has skills in this area and having them do that wouldn’t take away too much time from other things you need them doing, then it could still be a win-win to do this in house. If neither of these option is doable for you, then you still have the option of a managed service provider.
Using hardware or a qualified managed service provider is just one way of protecting your network and information. Social Engineering is another method of getting the information on your network and how to get into it. If you get a call from someone saying they are from your service provider and want to check on a few things or some other excuse, stop for just a second before answering their questions. Does the caller ID and phone number match what you have for them? Even if it does, ask for the name of the person who is calling and a direct callback number for them. Tell them you will call them back. Call them back but using the phone number you have for the company or for their support group. Ask for the name of the person who called you. If there is no one there by that name, you have just thwarted an attempt to get information about your network. This type of trick has been used by companies trying to sell office copier supplies for years to get new customers and sell them supplies of poor quality.
Ronald Nutter is a best-selling author and speaker on technology. He bring over 25 years of experience with a variety of vendor products and numerous vendor certifications to the table. His latest book “The Hackers Are Coming… How To Safely Surf The Internet” helps both companies and individuals with keeping their accounts from being hacked and being the lead story on the nightly news.
Protecting your network doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money. If something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. Take things one step and a time when making changes and you should be able to avoid any surprises.