5 tips for how to keep your small business network more secure

5 tips for how to keep your small business network more secure

It’s certainly no understatement to say many of today’s businesses rely on a network to maintain a connection between shared devices, coworkers’ computers and, in some cases, even their customers’ devices. But the more devices, hardware and software that rely on a business’s network connection, the more susceptible that network could be to instructions, malware and other computer viruses.

This is why small businesses need to be up to speed on network security, including how to establish and maintain a secure network. If security is set aside or placed on the backburner to address later, then serious vulnerabilities could exist and allow unwanted access to cause serious problems.

However, with these tips, you can rest assured that your small business is well-protected from any of those issues.

What is network security?

Before we introduce tips to keep your business’s network more secure, we should explain what is meant by the term “network security.”

Network security is any activity that maintains the usability and protects the integrity of the data that is shared back and forth across the network. Proper security measures serve as access gatekeepers. Plus, proper network tools should be able to identify, isolate and remove threats that might alter, delete or hold ransom the data on the network.

These tasks are all completed through many different controls and policies that have been established by different layers of security.

1. Secure all wireless access points

The first step to establishing a more secure network for your small business is to secure all wireless access points (WAPs). A WAP serves as the connection point for any Wi-Fi enabled device in the office. However, they can also be used by hackers to try and gain access to your network.

To secure these points, you need to take several steps, including:

  1. Change the WPA encryption key on routers.
  2. Change or mask the SSID, or the name of the network your business uses.
  3. Turn on encryption for WAPs.
  4. Change any default passwords or encryption keys.
  5. Use two-factor authentication, which requires an additional step to gain access other than simply providing one password.

2. Set up or strengthen a network firewall

Firewalls can be considered a first line of defense for a business’s network. Most routers already utilize a form of firewall, but you can go further to keep your data secure.

A firewall is hardware, software or often a combination of the two that work together to control access – or remove access – as needed in order to keep a network safe from threats or suspicious activity.

Firewalls keep track of all traffic and data that comes into or leaves a network, always on the lookout for activity that may violate its predefined cybersecurity protocols. The strictness of these protocols can be increased or decreased based on a business’s security needs. They can also scale with your business as it grows.

But firewalls aren’t just traffic cops. They can report certain attempts to violate company internet use policies and block certain forms of content or certain websites altogether.

3. Keep hardware, software and apps updated

As with any other form of technology, the hardware, software and apps that your business uses to actually conduct its day-to-day operations can become outdated. Not only do outdated devices and services hamper productivity, but they also can pose security risks.

The older your hardware, software or apps that your business users, the more likely it is that a hacker has identified its vulnerabilities. These weaknesses can be used to gain access to, corrupt or even steal a business’s data – or even the business’s customers’ data, too.

Updates can serve as a patch for these security flaws and close up those vulnerabilities, preventing them from being used against you. Some software updates can’t be applied to older hardware models, so regularly performing updates could flag outdated hardware that needs to be replaced.

4. Train employees on cybersecurity best practices

A network’s security is only as strong as its weakest point. Unfortunately, the weakest point is often an untrained (or improperly trained) employee.

However, employee mistakes that could lead to security breaches are preventable as long as you do train and educate employees on how to keep business and customer data secure while using the network and accessing the internet.

Instruct employees to:

  1. Avoid leaving files open on shared computers.
  2. Never click on any links from sources they do not know and trust, including on emails, private messages and websites. This is commonly known as phishing.
  3. Always keep their devices updated.
  4. Don’t share company devices with others.
  5. Use strong passwords and not share those passwords with others.

There are more cybersecurity best practices to cover with employees, but this list offers a good start.

5. Perform a network audit

Finally, the only way to know exactly what condition your business’s network is in is to perform a network audit. An audit is a great strategy for identifying where the network may be vulnerable due to security flaws.

An audit can also:

  1. Show how well a firewall is performing.
  2. Indicate the health of your business’s hardware, software and apps that are being used.
  3. Suggest backup frequency.
  4. Install and update anti-virus and malware protection.

Once you have a completed audit in hand, you will know what additional action needs to be taken in order to fully secure your network.

ANP can secure your small business’s network

Even with these tips, managing the security of a small business network is no simple task. It can take constant oversight, updating and refining over time to make sure the network remains impenetrable and safe from outside threats.

That’s why many small businesses – and larger ones, too – elect to partner with a managed IT services provider who can take care of their individual network security needs and provide assistance in many other IT areas.

With Advanced Network Professionals, our clients not only benefit from increased security, but also the better performance and productivity that can come with a network that is operating as intended.

Interested in learning more about how our services can help your small business achieve its goals? Then request a free quote. Simply tell us what services you require and we will be in touch.

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