Viruses are No. 1 problem for small-business computing
RECENTLY I spoke to David Delaune, a computer repair whiz and owner of Pearl City Computer Care. Shops such as David's are on the front lines of technology. Unlike computer manufacturers, these shops deal face to face with end users who bring in their broken PCs and fried hard drives for repair. Small businesses depend on guys like David to keep their enterprises going and he understands intimately what kinds of technology challenges his clients face.
My question to him was: What is the No. 1 technology problem that small business owners face?
To my surprise his one-word answer was "viruses."
There are several good reasons for this.
» The primary reason, David said, was that too many small businesses don't configure their computers with an eye toward security.
"Most people think that if they plug it in and it connects to the Internet or their network, that they did a good job," he told me. "They aren't too concerned or aware of all of the necessary steps to guarantee a safe system."
What David is saying is that it's not enough just to get online. Software updates and patches (even on brand new computers) need to be downloaded on a regular basis. Even wireless routers are not secure right out of the box. Hackers, who constantly look for new ways to exploit security breaches, always seem to find them, and bad people constantly cook up viruses. Software developers respond by coming up with fixes that they regularly offer to the public for free. The trick is to make sure that you follow suit by installing this software as soon as it's made available.
» The second reason is that many businesses don't bother to update expired security software or even to install the right security systems in the first place. New computers, for example, sometimes come with trial antivirus software that expires after a few months, or with inadequate firewall protection. Some companies may not even bother to install antivirus software at all.
Depending on the size and scope of your business, even the "right" software protection may not be enough. Some operations may use a software firewall or anti-spam filter, when in reality they really need a more robust hardware firewall or anti-spam measures to protect them.
» The third reason that viruses wreak havoc for small businesses has less to do with technology and everything to do with human nature. At most small businesses, Internet monitoring -- keeping track of where employees surf the Net -- is non-existent. Some employees feel that that they have liberty to go to any Web site whether they are on or off the clock. This can expose company computers to spyware infection.
So what's the answer? You need to defend your systems on all fronts -- firewall, wireless security, antivirus, anti-phishing, anti-spam and anti-spyware. In addition, make sure the software installed on each computer is kept current with patches, fixes and software updates.
You also need to make sure company computers are used only for business-related activities.
It's a never ending struggle. Even the best antivirus software is not 100 percent reliable. But you can do a lot by staying on top of your software and your employees.