Have you experienced network security problems that have cost your small to midsize business valuable time and money to fix? In our hyper-connected world, it would be an incredible rarity if you haven’t.

As we’ve often talked about here on the blog, smaller firms have become big targets for hackers, and perhaps you realize that you need to increase digital security across the board to prevent your business from becoming a victim.

No matter your reasons for wanting to raise your business’s cybersecurity profile, you may be confused about the best way to get started. There is an overwhelming amount of advice out there, and it can be difficult to sort through. The important thing is not to let information overload prevent you from taking action to better secure your business’s network.

In that spirit, the following are nine tactics you can begin employing right away to strengthen your network security.

1. Make sure you have a dedicated IT staff

It’s true that many smaller businesses don’t have the budget for a full-time IT support position in-house. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a dedicated IT services staff. (And merely deputizing the people in your office who “know about computers” to take care of all of your network security and technology issues doesn’t count!)

So, how can you have a staff if you don’t have an IT person?

The answer is managed IT services like those we offer to Toronto-area businesses here at Technical Action Group. Managed service providers (MSPs) provide small businesses the ability to add a proactive team of technology professionals as outside contractors, often for much less than the cost of hiring a full-time employee.

MSPs are focused on security and always paying attention for threats to your network, which can end up being priceless when it comes to stopping devastating attacks on your systems. Plus, they have many other practical benefits beyond security expertise, too.

2. Train your employees to be cybersecurity savvy

Your busy employees occasionally make mistakes, and this is the reason that human error plays an enormous role in data breaches. Sometimes criminals actively attempt to trick your team members into giving up passwords or account credentials, but often, data is mishandled entirely by accident. Laptops or company mobile phones are lost or stolen, or data-exposing viruses are inadvertently downloaded because an employee didn’t recognize a phishing email.

Investing in ongoing cybersecurity training and testing programs for your employees is wise, as it may save your company thousands (perhaps even millions) of dollars on disaster recovery efforts should a breach occur. With this training, employees will learn how to avoid scams and verify information, among other cybersecurity best practices. Recommending and implementing these training programs is another technology to-do item that managed IT service providers s can help your Toronto business with.

3. Have an up-to-date, network-level firewall

Do you already have a firewall device protecting your internal network from the wider connected world? Many businesses do, though some run firewall software on individual workstations only. Locking down your entire network through a dedicated firewall, including printers, other office machines, and mobile devices is a smart move. But, if your network firewall is old and slowing down, it may be doing more harm than good.

4. Install anti-malware and antivirus software on every workstation in your office

Recent industry surveys have shown that about 10% of PC users do not have any type of anti-malware or antivirus protection installed on their machine. (And nearly two-thirds of Mac users skip it, too!) Unfortunately, the internet today is rife with things like ransomware and other viruses just waiting to infect your computer following one errant click. Your busy employees shouldn’t have to spend their time worrying about whether or not they’re safe online, which is why you need enterprise-level virus and malware protection.

5. Keep software updated

Once you’ve installed anti-malware and antivirus software on your computers (or subscribed to a cloud-based service), it’s imperative that you keep those resources updated with the latest virus definitions or program fixes released by the software publisher. The threat landscape changes every day, and if you are not keeping up with updates, your protection decreases over time.

Similarly, don’t ignore updates to other software and operating systems you use, as security patches and bug fixes are often deployed this way. Updates may help programs run better, or they may remedy security vulnerabilities.

6. Lock devices

While setting up passcodes on mobile devices and requiring users to log back into their computers after they’ve been away for a period of time may be annoying, locking devices in this way is the first line of defense against unauthorized access. As we mentioned earlier, accidents happen and phones or other company devices get lost or stolen. Fully unlocked devices leave your company’s data accessible to anyone who finds or picks up those misplaced or unattended devices, and that could easily lead to an expensive data breach.

7. Use two-factor authentication

In the past, securing your accounts with a username and password was enough to keep hackers out, but these credentials are easy to steal and also easy for cybercriminals to simply break through in minutes. Two-factor authentication, like requiring a separate security code sent to your phone in order to access your email, adds a layer of security protection to any account or asset. Whenever possible, set up these multi-step verification processes to protect your data.

8. Use an off-site backup system

Having a dependable and reliable backup system at an off-site location has long been a security best practice for keeping your company data safe. These systems may involve cloud-based services or simply having an employee take physical backup discs home with them on a regular basis to store away from the office. Some of the largest data breaches on Earth were fixed using off-site backups, which proves just how powerful having secure duplicates of your most sensitive data can be.

9. Actively monitor your network

The key term here is “active.” You need to be planning ahead for problems, as well as keeping up with maintenance tasks on your network. For example, do you even know who has access? Lots of businesses don’t delete old user accounts, and would you realize it if a former employee was still using their email or accessing files on your network?

With a managed IT service provider, you’ll never have to worry about monitoring, account permission issues, or even backups if you don’t want to. And if you’re in the Toronto area, TAG is ready to be your network security, preventative maintenance, and 24/7 network monitoring resource.

Have questions about creating a more secure business network? Get in touch with us here at Technical Action Group and let us help today!