Closing time at the bank finds Nick walking to his desk to catch up on paperwork. His best customers visited today, talking new business plans and discussing loans. Though immersed in thought as he walks, he feels a small object underfoot as he steps near the desk. It is a USB drive, and it looks like one his customer used today on their laptop as they previewed their business plan. There is no name on it and the only way to identify the owner is to plug it into a computer to view the content.
While Nick may be savvy enough to resist plugging in that USB drive, this unfolding scene is an all too common real-life malware attack. Once the USB drive is connected it can inject its program into your system and begin secretly forwarding snapshots of the computer screen along with any passcode information that it records as you type on your keyboard.
Perhaps during a normal week at your office someone can be overheard calling out, “Anyone have a thumb drive I can borrow?” While the thumb drive may be owned by a trustworthy colleague, it is possible for the device to have picked up a virus without the owner’s knowledge. Sharing is caring….but not always. Especially when it comes to sharing a USB drive and any potential threats it may contain.
What small businesses often do not realize is that accessing and sharing data among employees and business partners in the field can be more elegant, secure, and efficient than trading USB drives or long email chains. Sometimes employees feel a tension between ease of use and the processes put in place for security. Security guidelines can be enforced, but, at times, creative employees are able to work around or even ignore those guidelines to accomplish what they believe is a higher priority. An associable axiom within the insurance industry says, if you want less risk you will have to pay more. However, if paying less is priority then you will need to tolerate more risk.
The same holds true in information technology. Even so, the price of a reasonable amount of security and IT performance has become much more accessible to the small and mid-size business (SMB) market. More vendors are vying for the IT service business creating this downward pricing pressure.
With that in mind, check to see if your local IT service vendor has support for hosting your shared file servers and Exchange. Better access for your employees across remote locations and improvement on your disaster recovery plan are valuable benefits. Other options for improving accessibility to business email, shared files and document management are Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps. Your team can share files and folders both internally and with business partners, enabling access to files anywhere but with slightly limited editing capabilities. Both services can also be purchased and implemented through many local managed IT services companies. Ian Hardenbaugh at Tech Republic authored a series of articles comparing these Software-as-a-Service options (SaaS), which though they seem to have a slight Microsoft bias, are a pretty thorough treatment. You can download his Excel comparison chart between Microsoft 365 and Google Apps here.
The capability of SaaS office productivity tools continue to improve as Microsoft and Google make large investments in them and demand grows for cloud computing solutions in the SMB market. Being significantly cheaper than traditional productivity suites is also a plus. However, Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 are not for everyone, so you need to consider what is right for your business. If technology is an integral component of how your business functions, you cannot afford to assume cheaper is better. Time spent evaluating options tailored to your users’ needs and functionality they have come to expect will pay off when your IT helps you generate the profit margins, efficiency and competitive advantage you need to meet your business goals.