Avoiding the common pitfalls below is important whether you have a home office with remote workers or a business with administrative and support staff.
1. Don't leave IT to an employee who isn't a tech professional. In many small businesses, tech troubleshooting and user support falls to whoever knows something about computers. But if that person was hired to do something else – like accounting or sales – the time they spend on computer tasks is only detracting from their real work, and their lack of professional expertise could be putting your business at risk.
2. Don't rely on manual backup procedures. Backups should be regularly scheduled and automatic. If you're relying on a human to push a button and start the process, you're asking for trouble anytime that person is out of the office or simply forgets.
3. Don't forget that smartphones are basically handheld computers. If your employees are using smartphones for business, those phones need security protection just like their computers do. Smartphones hold increasing amounts of vital business information and should be included in any business-wide security policy.
4. Don't just throw out old equipment. By all means, replace old or failing equipment – but before you do, make sure your hard drives are wiped and that your apparently worthless old computers and printers don't become a gold mine for an identity thief. And then donate it to a recycling program, which is kinder to the environment than consigning your computer to a landfill.
5. Don't assume your employees can read your mind. Spell out the rules for protecting customer data, using social media responsibly and using external devices like USB drives and smartphones. Better to have your policies in writing than to assume your employees will use common sense – and be proven wrong.
6. Don't jump into social media without a plan. Many small businesses have set up Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. But the numbers of businesses – small and large alike – that have suffered PR disasters from embarrassing tweets show that poorly-thought-out social media moves can backfire.
7. Don't skip training sessions. Buying a new printer or laptop will be a waste of money if you and your employees don't know how to use it to its full potential. If you're like most small businesses and you don't employ full-time IT support, it pays to provide basic training for new technology purchases. You don't have to hire a trainer, but everyone on staff should be familiar with the instruction manuals.
8. Don't leave home without your security smarts. Many people assume that work-based e-mail and Internet security are bulletproof, which can lead to risky online behaviour. If you wouldn't dare to click on a suspicious link or visit a strange website from your home computer, don't do it from your work computer.
9. Don't ignore that negative customer review. Online reviews can make a huge impact on the public's perception of your business. If somebody complains about your service and writes about it on a blog or a review site like Yelp, by all means follow up with a response that shows you're listening and you want to address the person's concerns.
10. Don't use pirated software. If you're a legitimate company, you need legitimate software licenses. It's the only way you'll be able to get support from your vendor and it's also the right thing to do.
Tom Moss is the director of products and services for Trend Micro Canada. As a global leader in cloud security, Trend Micro develops Internet content security and threat management solutions that make the world safe for businesses and consumers to exchange digital information.