November 10, 2009, 6:43 PM — In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin and yang is used to describe how seemingly opposing forces are interconnected and interdependent, in turn giving rise to each other. Today’s small businesses are struggling to find their own yin and yang—achieving a balance between protecting their information while also keeping management simple and costs low. Is there a way that these two opposing elements can give rise to each other and result in a stronger infrastructure? The key for small businesses is to leverage new options that provide maximum protection with minimal hassle.
On one hand, small businesses need to protect their information and systems from theft, accidental loss, corruption and downtime. On the other, they need to reduce the burden of technology so they can focus on their business. More and more, businesses find that IT is their life preserver in a sea of information. But if the technology that protects them is too difficult to manage, it can actually detract from their success.
Dark Forces are at Work
To find the right balance, it is important to understand the world around you. Today, hackers and cybercriminals are unleashing viruses, worms, botnets and other malicious threats at a furious pace. These threats are designed to find and steal valuable information—from bank account numbers to your customers’ identities—which is then sold or traded on a thriving underground economy. Moreover, today’s threats don’t announce themselves; instead, they’re engineered to quietly sneak onto systems when an unsuspecting user clicks on a legitimate-looking link or opens a harmless-looking message. Thus, these threats can not only leave businesses exposed to malicious activity but also unaware of their vulnerability.
That’s not all. Valuable information may simply be lost because a critical system goes down. Regardless of how long a disruption lasts, what caused it or how much data is impacted; information loss and business interruptions can quickly bring a small business to its knees. When such an event happens, businesses lose data, momentum and opportunity as they struggle to follow complex and time-consuming procedures to get complicated systems back up and running. They may be able to recover some critical information, but they will inevitably lose data that has not been backed up.
The Yin: A Security Solution that Offers Protection
Internet threats may become more complex and sophisticated, but tools for protecting against them are getting easier to use and more powerful. Small businesses can now put in place a complete arsenal of security tools that are installed as a single, integrated solution. These toolsets include protection against viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware, rootkits and even so-called “zero-day” threats that emerge so quickly that traditional signature-based virus protection tools are ineffective. Better yet, these new all-in-one solutions work on desktops, laptops and servers so that all systems can be protected.
A compelling component of the most advanced suites is antispam technology. Because spam is still prevalent and increasingly used to deliver malicious code, identifying and eliminating this unwanted email is crucial for small businesses. Since these tools are automatic, accurate and effective at keeping unwanted content out and sensitive company information in, small businesses can rely on this technology to automatically keep their messaging environment efficient and secure.
Of course, malicious code is not the only threat to information and information systems. Power outages, system failures, configuration errors, natural disasters and a variety of other events can disrupt operations, bring systems down and wipe out information. Consequently, businesses of all sizes typically have policies and processes in place to routinely back up data and store it somewhere safe.
But these same organizations often find that actually recovering from an event is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. With limited, if any, IT expertise on hand, few spare IT systems and little time to devote to recovery activities, small businesses should consider new backup and recovery solutions that are as reliable as they are easy to use.
The latest solutions automatically create while-you-work backups to keep information loss to a minimum in the event of an outage while also making it simple to recover a single message, a folder or an entire drive. For true disaster recovery, these tools also enable backups to be sent to a remote location for secure offsite storage. The most advanced solutions also enable system recovery—which includes the operating system, applications, databases, files, device drivers, profiles, settings, and registry—to just about any storage device in minutes. To make backup and recovery even easier, solutions are now available that work together with security technologies to trigger a backup when the environment is threatened.
The Yang: Simplicity is Your Strength
Unless it is intuitive and efficient, the administration and management of information systems can be as much of a stumbling block as having weak information technologies in place. After all, unlike their enterprise counterparts, small businesses rarely have dedicated IT staff in place that are ready and qualified to respond to IT problems. In a small business environment, IT issues must be identified and addressed quickly, new technologies must be installed, configured and maintained with ease, software must stay up-to-date and critical business operations run in accordance with company policy and procedure. No matter how dynamic an application or technology may be, in a small business environment its effectiveness hinges on its manageability and simplicity.
The good news? Today’s small businesses have more options than ever before to help them optimize their environments without overtaxing already overburdened resources. Many of the most pressing challenges that small businesses face can be addressed with technologies that are available and ready for rapid implementation.
For small businesses, simplicity is important. And where technology is concerned, simplicity is essential. For a small business toolset to be effective, it must be easy to install and manage. It must also be non-disruptive to the business while positively impacting productivity, easing day-to-day operations and helping meet business objectives.
To address these concerns, small businesses should look for toolsets that provide multiple benefits for information and system security and availability but are provided as a single, comprehensive solution with one purchase. Not only does this simplify administration, it also keeps costs and resource requirements under control which, in turn, frees personnel to attend to more strategic issues.
As small businesses look for ways to survive an uncertain economic climate and position themselves for growth and profitability in the years ahead, today’s innovative technologies can play an effective enabling role. By implementing robust, integrated, yet easy-to-use toolsets to protect their information against current risks, small businesses will reap both short- and long-term benefits and maintain the competitive advantage of doing business better.
Blake McConnell is Senior Director Product Management - SMB Security Solutions at Symantec