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What SMEs should be doing to protect their digital assets

May 8, 2012

Mobile devices: laptops, netbooks, tablets, and smartphones, to name a few, have become not only ubiquitous but essential tools in our personal and professional lives. Companies of all sizes are now faced with the reality that employees would like their business and personal lives to blend, often preferring to use their personal mobile devices to conduct business.

After years of resistance, organisations are finally having to accept the fact that they cannot impose too tight restrictions and should instead look for ways to support rather than limit the use of personal devices for business.

This openness, however, poses some serious challenges, especially for resource-strapped small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It is relatively easy to control company-owned equipment. It is usually vetted by IT departments or service providers and the data on it can be tracked and monitored. Personal devices undergo no such scrutiny and, under the European Data Protection Act, it would be illegal for an employer to try to control or monitor data on an employee’s personal device. A recent survey commissioned by EVault found that in 94% of businesses employees hold company data on their personal devices. On average, 20% of employees within a business had such data stored on one or more mobile devices. When asked about their contingency plans for data loss, 47% of companies admitted that they had no such plans in place.

Data loss costs companies an average of 3.5% of their turnover. It is not difficult to understand why personal mobile devices are more prone to loss, theft or damage than business ones. Personal devices are sometimes used by other family members, including young children; they can be left unattended inside or outside the house; they are taken on holidays and to family gatherings, and owners rarely take suitable security precautions with their personal devices. With this in mind, the average expense of data loss is only likely to go up, costing companies time and money – not to mention the inevitable loss of reputation.

So what can small companies do to ensure business data on personal devices is protected against loss?  Cloud computing offers a number of possible solutions. First, using a basic cloud service for data storage protects any company data against inadvertent loss, for example through technical faults on the device. If this is coupled with a strong security solution, it also guards against data misuse. Another welcome side-effect is synchronisation between devices for distributed data. Any device with the proper access rights will be able to access the latest version of the data, thereby eliminating the ever-present risk of inconsistency.

Cloud computing has evolved in the past few years and can now offer much more than simple online backup. Companies can now choose from a variety of pure-cloud or hybrid deployment options, offering different levels of security and efficiency. Bundled solutions are especially attractive for SMEs that do not want a complex service-level agreement or the additional overhead of having to manage this data in-house.

A few things to look for in a cloud-connected storage solution are:

  • A dedicated solution built explicitly for online backup, not adapted from older solutions
  • Native disk-to-disk rather than disk-to-tape backup
  • Built-in support for multi-tenancy and data-optimisation features
  • Data protection and disaster recovery capabilities
  • Disk or cloud optimisation
  • Options for SaaS, software, appliances, or managed service-levels
  • Ease and flexibility of deployment, ideally on a single platform
  • Support across a range of hardware and device types
  • Strong partnerships with leading security and virtualisation solutions to allow a best-of-breed bundle

In addition, your cloud storage provider should employ best practices in online deployment and offer a scalable solution which, for example, allows for unlimited additions of devices and plug-ins. Finally, a transparent pricing structure makes all the difference. Make sure you are only paying one fee that includes replication and cloud storage. Look for options to reduce your rates as your business grows, or additional discounts for pre-payment.

Cloud-connected storage is an ideal solution for SMEs allowing their employees the flexibility of using their preferred mobile devices for work, while taking the hassle out of managing and protecting that data. Choosing the right partner for your needs is of vital importance, so make sure to have a checklist and compare available offers and configurations.

About the Author

This article was written by Andy Brewerton, Country Manager of EVault in the UK & Ireland