Sleepless nights seem to be the lot of any small business owner trying to make a go of it in a tough economy. And while you may not be able to control the markets or benefit from bailouts, you can find some peace of mind through improving and protecting improving your data and your network security.
Where to start? Kevin Murray, senior director of product marketing at Symantec, offered up the company's top five areas where it expects small businesses will improve over the next year.
1. Reduce Complexity
According to Symantec: the average small business manages four or more different data protection methods to meet backup and recovery requirements.
"This is overly complex," said Murray. "Business owners will look at solutions that combine backup with data recovery, Solutions that use the same interface and tools for both tasks." He added that business owners will incorporate data protection that's easier to manage, more reliable and helps them make the most out of their investment dollars.
2. Maximize IT Resources
According to Symantec: Limited resources make it challenging for small businesses to manage ever-increasing amounts of data. Poorly managed data increases security risks, infrastructure failure that leads to increased downtime and sketchy regulatory compliance.
"E-mail, file sharing, e-commerce applications and VoIP are all susceptible to outages, failure and disaster," said Murray. "Small businesses will focus on patch management and intrusion protection to keep servers, PCs and laptops up and running." He added that top security issues in 2009 include improving data availability, recovery and storage utilization.
3. Stop Wasting Server Space
According to Symantec: Many small businesses are experiencing a strain on their existing servers and will increasingly focus on consolidating space and lowering costs.
"If you keep buying new servers to accommodate applications such as ERP, e-mail or file sharing, you run out of space and money," said Murray. "Virutalization lets you take one server and run multiple virtual servers on the one piece of hardware. Small businesses will certainly look at virtualization in 2009."
4. Minimize Downtime Risk
According to Symantec: Studies show that after both the 1989 San Francisco earthquake and the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City, 70 percent of firms that could not access their data within three to five days went bankrupt.
Murray said that more SMBs will adopt SaaS applications that will let them store data both on and off the premises. These types of solutions can help minimize downtime and keep the business viable when disaster strikes.
"Small businesses will definitely get more clever about where they store their data," said Murray. "It's not just about tapes in the trunk of your car anymore."
5. Protect Against Network Threats
According to Symantec: Endpoints can be a huge liability if not properly secured.
"Small businesses face a changing threat landscape," said Murray. "Today's attacks are stealthy, targeted and financial motivated. You can't afford to wait until you hear about them on CNN." He added that small businesses will look at threat-protection technologies to manage and secure laptops, mobile devices and other endpoints.
Those technologies include firewalls, intrusion protection and device controls that prevent anyone from loading company data onto USB keys, MP3 players or other portable storage devices.
This article was first published on SmallBusinessComputing.com.