Calculated risks for online businesses

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

There’s enough to worry about in business, without focusing on online marketing. There’s plenty of advice on how to make the internet work for your business. In short:

  • A simple to use website
  • An active social media presence

In many ways, this is a revelation. Before, businesses had to rely on word of mouth, customer loyalty, and drop in clients. Now, you can reach the world with the click of a button. While the internet is excellent for reaching a wider audience, it does come with some inherent risks. 

 

Malicious Malware
This is malicious software that aims to infiltrate or damage your computer network. Think of this as theft of the modern day. Only, you can’t install CCTV and alarms to protect you. Instead, it’s necessary to use firewalls and antivirus software. Most internet providers offer a firewall. Check it’s up and running before you do anything. This basic software will warn you of any unsafe websites before you go onto them. In some cases, it may stop you accessing dangerous websites altogether. But, this software alone won’t be enough to protect you. This is only the front line of your defenses, and malware can slip through the cracks.

That’s why you need to consider installing a good quality anti-virus package. This is not the place to cut corners or go with the least expensive option. This will offer a wider range of protection and will identify problems on your systems. Make sure to keep this updated, and do virus checks at least once a week. That way, you can rest easy that nothing has snuck past your defenses.

It can also help to have some understanding of how malware can get in. That way, you can be aware of what to look out for. Chances are, your antivirus will protect you anyway, but why take the risk? You need to look out for suspicious websites, and links that let the virus in. It’s also worth getting help with spam, as this is a breeding ground for problems. Not to mention that it will block your email accounts with unwanted mail.

It takes time and in most cases money but you should do everything you can to protect your network. Once a virus gets into one computer, it can spread like wildfire. Make sure to brief anyone using your network about what to look out for. Ensure your antivirus software covers your network as a whole. The reasons for malware vary. It may be that a hacker wants to destroy your system or use it to spread a virus further. Or, it may be that they want to get hold of private information and account details. Whatever the reason, your business could take a severe blow if malware takes hold.

Rules Are There For a Reason
It’s important to outline rules for your employees when using business computers. This is the only way to ensure your network stays secure. If you have no control over what sites your employees visit you have no way to keep things as safe as they need to be. Most importantly, reiterate that business computers are not for personal use. Scrolling through the internet can lead to a lot of trouble. It may also be worth installing blocks on personal websites. Of course, it won’t be possible to block every single one. But, putting a block on the main offenders will help. It may also be worth installing a monitoring device. This can seem extreme, but it’s a sure way to keep people playing by your rules. You don’t have to watch the devices if you don’t feel comfortable. Having the software there will be incentive enough. It’s even possible to install software that alerts you when keywords are used. That way, you can keep an eye on things without impeding privacy too much.

The Internet Never Forgets
You also need to consider the fact that nothing ever disappears once it’s been put online. Never before has there been such pressure and scrutiny on businesses. If you make a mistake, it’ll be hard to put it right. In many ways, you’ll never be able to completely move on from it. That’s why it’s important to be cautious about what your business posts on social media. It’s worth entrusting your social media accounts to one person. The perfect person for the job will be creative (like J & A Creative Group!) but will also understand what’s appropriate. Speaking about controversial subjects, or expressing personal opinions, could mean trouble. Things blow up on Facebook and Twitter very quickly. If you’re involved in one of these ‘Twitter-storms,’ your business will find it hard to move forward. To make things clearer, set out guidelines about appropriate Tweets and updates. In many ways, it’s common sense stuff. Stress the need to keep things neutral. Even a tongue in cheek comment could be taken the wrong way.

As well as ensuring your business accounts are clean, you’ll need to be careful on your personal accounts. It’s also worth stressing the importance of this to your employees. Even if you think there’s no way for people to trace your account, it’s not worth the risk. If you express unpopular opinions or make offhand comments, your business could suffer. Same goes for your employees, of course. Whether they like it or not who they work for is common knowledge and can easily be tied directly back to the business. Express that they have an image to uphold, even in their personal lives. Explain, too, what repercussions bad online behavior will have. Make your represntatives want to keep up the good name and reward personal behavior off the clock that adheres to this. 

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