Proactive Security: More Than Antivirus

By Sheri Atwood, Symantec Corp.  |  Small Business, antivirus, Backup & Recovery

Information is driving the growth of smaller, focused organizations today. In fact, the fastest growing market segment within the world today is the establishment of new companies. These organizations develop and maintain information that is critical to the livelihood of the organization. However, traditional methods to secure information will not work in this new economy. Organizations of all sizes need to focus on ensuring their devices and their information is protected. This is a key role for IT and essential to stay ahead of the competition and remain profitable. However, small businesses often just do not have the time or resources to devote to IT. Consequently, the lifeblood of their business—their plans, records, and customer information—may be at risk from new types of threats as well as established threats such as spyware, malware, and spam as well as from system failures and disruptions.

To guard against these risks, growing businesses need more than simple antivirus. They need multiple layers of protection, but without straining budgets, resources and schedules. In addition, small businesses need a reliable, cost-effective, and hassle-free way to make sure their important information is always available.

Risk and Reward
Today’s small businesses face challenges that likely would have been unimaginable in the past. In the present information-driven and highly interconnected environment, small businesses must operate much like their enterprise counterparts. To that end, IT serves a critical role, enabling companies large and small to participate in a fast-paced, highly competitive marketplace.

The trouble is, while computer technology is fundamental to doing business today, it may also introduce risk—particularly for small companies with little or no dedicated IT specialists on staff. Indeed, security threats are increasing in complexity, number, and frequency and many are now designed to target specific information while also evading detection by a single security mechanism such as antivirus.

At the same time, the volume of information small businesses must protect and maintain continues to expand. As a result, organizations may find themselves at a crossroads, sensing the need to strengthen their IT security infrastructure but unsure how to do so with limited resources.

The good news? All-in-one security products are emerging that offer a complete toolbox of tightly integrated solutions that protect against multiple threats at multiple points and are easily managed and controlled from a single intuitive console. What’s more, a growing number of these solutions also make it simple to regularly back up information that resides on servers, workstations, and even laptops.

With such an integrated, multi-tiered solution in place, even the most resourced constrained companies can be sure their business assets are protected not only against computer-related threats but also against the hardware or software failures and human errors that often lead to information loss.

Threat Protection
As Internet use has increased in homes and businesses around the globe, attackers have created increasingly insidious and potentially devastating threats designed specifically for financial gain. Destructive malware now utilizes popular communication tools to spread, including worms sent through email and instant messages, Trojan horses dropped from legitimate Web sites, and virus-infected files downloaded from peer-to-peer connections.

Whereas past malware was designed to get the user’s attention, current malware quietly exploits vulnerabilities or weaknesses in applications and systems to make their entry silent and easy, thereby increasing the likelihood that an attack will go undetected just long enough for the attacker to find and steal valuable sensitive information.

Spyware and rootkits are just two examples of such malware. Spyware tracks and sends confidential information—that is, information that most businesses would not intentionally disclose—to a third party. And while rootkits do not infect machines by themselves as viruses or worms do, these stealthy components seek to provide an undetectable environment for malicious code to execute.

Even spam is dangerous. Once known simply as unwanted email that clogged inboxes, spam is now used to deliver Trojan horses, viruses, worms, spyware, and targeted phishing attacks.

Clearly, protecting against such a vast range of threats requires more than antivirus. Small businesses also need a firewall to block malicious incoming and outgoing Internet activity as well as antispyware and antispam to thwart these noiseless threats.

The most advanced security suites now include all these protective technologies, accessible as a single integrated solution and often at a more affordable price than individual point products. These multi-tiered solutions may also utilize more proactive technologies that actually analyze the behavior of applications to identify and then block suspicious activity.

Backup and Recovery
According to Rubicon Consulting’s September 2008 online survey of U.S. small and medium businesses, half of small businesses have lost important information from their computers. And only a quarter of small businesses are sure they can recover information once it is lost. Even though data protection is top of mind of most businesses, 47% do not regularly backup their data, according to a recent survey conducted by Forrester.

With more and more important information now residing on computers, including laptops, these statistics point out a serious concern. Small businesses, in turn, must take a new approach to backup and ensure that their backup practices are keeping pace with their information protection needs.

Of course, with few personnel on hand to perform regular backups, it is little wonder that this important activity is often overlooked. After all, backing up servers, PCs, and the like can be complicated and time-consuming. What’s more, the costs associated with traditional backup approaches can add up quickly, with upfront costs for hardware, software, add-ons for various applications as well as ongoing costs for maintenance agreements, storage devices, and more presenting a budgeting challenge for virtually any businesses.

To address these concerns, a growing number of integrated security solutions are now providing backup and recovery capabilities as well. Many of these are offered through a convenient online backup service that is automated, continuous, secure, and reliable. Typically available on a pay-as-you-go model that is based on storage usage, these services enable small businesses to enjoy the same level of information protection as larger enterprises—but without investing in costly hardware and software. In addition, because these offerings are Internet-based, small businesses can have their backup services up and running in a fraction of the time of traditional models.

As small companies continue to look for innovative ways to leverage technology to protect and enhance their businesses, integrated security and backup toolsets offer an effective, affordable, and comprehensive solution. By utilizing these multifaceted, all-in-one suites, small businesses can safeguard their information assets against increasingly sophisticated threats while ensuring that information remains available and protected now and into the future.

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