Small businesses often operate in lean teams, with each staff member behaving as a “jack of all trades.” This attitude can be useful for acquiring customers and putting in the extra effort SMBs sometimes need, but it doesn’t work for data management and security. Cyberattacks are not only a risk to large companies like Target or Sony, but are a costly danger to small businesses as well. According to a report by the National Small Business Association, 50 percent of small businesses experienced a cyberattack in 2014, costing an average of more than $20,750.
Storing, managing and protecting sensitive company and customer data is a cumbersome process that can become even more daunting with an expanding team. With tight budgets and an often non-existent IT department, implementing a strong system becomes even more challenging. Small businesses need a storage solution that is secure, offers cloud access with local back-up abilities and is scalable (that is, robust enough to meet their current needs, but also able to grow and adapt to future demands). Here are four steps a small business should take to set up and maintain a strong, fast and adaptable file management system:
- Identify needs and create a plan. Work with your key decision makers to determine what kind of file access and management the business needs. Does your sales team need access to documents outside of the office, or does your customer service team need to be able to review complete customer records at any given time? Identify who in the organization needs access to which data, and develop a written plan. The file management plan should include who will manage the content and be responsible for data backups and who has access to the most sensitive information. The plan will also help determine what storage hardware solutions best fit your needs.
- Set up a scalable storage server. A network attached storage (NAS) device is an easy and affordable solution that allows designated users to share and access files, media and more from multiple computers and devices. Instead of being tethered by USB cables, users can access data across the business’ personal cloud, via your Wi-Fi network, and still back up data locally. At a minimum, you’ll want to choose storage that gives you the ability to manage permissions and folder privileges. But to maximize your investment, you should look for a drive that can scale. Some storage drives, like Western Digital’s Red Drive, are built from the ground up to combine easily, so that as your business grows, it’s easy to increase the number of users needing access. With the WD Red drive, your employees are able to quickly share their files and back up folders reliably. It also comes with software that enables seamless integration with your existing network infrastructure.
- Optimize systems to maximize performance. Be sure to keep your entire technology network up to date before, during and after installation of a storage server. Ensuring a healthy ecosystem of your storage, router, and modem units is crucial to delivering services to customers in a timely manner and avoiding bottlenecks in the system.
- Enable and manage user access. When storing sensitive company data, restrictions on security and access are your primary concern. Implement a storage system that allows you to grant file access to those that need it, and rescind it for those that don’t. User access should be described in detail in the written plan, so staff know exactly where to place and find the data they need. Small businesses typically try to grow quickly, which means shifting roles and responsibilities. When new employees come on, and old ones depart, make sure you are able to maintain control of all of your data. When an employee leaves, revoke access immediately, and when on-boarding an employee, take the time to review your policies and expectations when handling company data and information.
- Develop a good file naming strategy and folder structure. Keeping your centralized storage system organized, makes it less likely that information will be mismanaged. “Document A” and “Spreadsheet 3” are useless filenames when you are searching through hundreds of documents for one particular file. Use names that are meaningful, but still short. To help with version control, employ a date and initial system that tells you when and who last updated the document. Descriptive folders will also help you and your team navigate media quickly. Designate folders for financial, sales and operations documents to keep everyone organized.
File storage is only one piece of the puzzle to consider when growing your business, but when properly implemented, can save you and your business thousands of dollars and countless hours. There are a lot of factors to consider, but if you take the time to determine your needs and develop an actionable plan for your company now, as well as in the future, it will give you time to explore your options and make the best choice possible.