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Four ways to improve security and productivity across a small business IT network

With business networks increasingly vulnerable to security breaches and constant pressure to increase office productivity, IT managers have a responsibility to ensure employees’ PCs and laptops are not a hindrance in these areas. While specific requirements differ depending on the size and type of business, all managers need to consider potential vulnerability, existing security requirements and available software. This responsibility begins the moment a new suite of machines arrives, or a new hire starts. At this point, four main considerations will help ensure employees are protected in small businesses and new machines are future-proofed.

  1. Update Windows

A common assumption is that every new machine is equipped with the latest version of Windows. This isn’t always the case, so it is important to ensure all of the latest Windows Updates have been downloaded and installed.

The benefits of keeping refreshed with the latest updates are three-fold. Firstly, many updates include security patches that plug potential security flaws in Windows and its components that may render the computer vulnerable to malware and/or hackers. Secondly, updates often fix any bugs or glitches in the operating system and thus help improve its stability and remove any annoying issues. Lastly, updates can sometimes include new features or functionality that benefit end-users.

  1. Install antivirus

For small businesses, decisions around antivirus (AV) programs are often the hardest. All small businesses know that it is a must to install antivirus software but there are so many options on the market, deciding which one to choose can be confusing. Installing a home antivirus solution isn’t an option, but it may be hard to justify to the head of the finance department why the business needs enterprise-level AV.

Luckily, for growing businesses with a myriad of other concerns, there are free options available. It is important to note that free doesn’t equate with inadequate, but is merely a stopgap until the business is in a better position to pay for a fully featured solution. For most small businesses, Microsoft Security Essentials, which comes with Windows, will fulfil their initial needs. As businesses grow in size however, the need to have an enterprise-grade AV solution becomes necessary to protect multiple computers from a centrally managed console and benefit from additional features, such as more sophisticated scanning and rule creation and detailed reporting tools.

  1. Maintain a healthy and optimised network

Another check to complete, on both old and new machines, is to make sure computers meet the company’s minimum hardware requirements for the purpose that the employees are using them for. Something to consider is the ease of performing a full system audit of all computers. System information tools, such as Speccy Business Edition, track every detail of organisations’ endpoints, profile hardware resources and provide performance visibility.

As more and more files are created or downloaded, the laptop or PC will become rundown, causing employees to be less efficient. A machine optimiser, such as CCleaner Business Edition, will protect endpoint performance and extend the life of hardware. As well as speeding up computers and freeing up hard disk space, CCleaner for Business securely erases files, tracking cookies, browser history, passwords and sensitive files which will help keep your company's data private and prevent data theft. CCleaner also clears out Registry clutter which improves stability.

Data loss can have a crippling impact on any business so make sure you’ve thought about data backups and a data recovery tool, such as Recuva Business Edition, to restore mission-critical documents.

Proactively optimising PCs now means reduced IT support costs in future, as well as happy employees as they work on fast, efficient machines.

  1. Get a suite which suits

Until a few years ago, Microsoft Office was the only professional productivity software suite available for any size business, which went along with a high purchasing cost and per-user licensing fees. When Microsoft launched Office Online in 2010, it altered the perception of online-only software. Next came Office 365, which allowed small businesses to get the features and support they needed at a more affordable, subscription-based price. This also paved the way for alternative open source office software to enter the market at reasonable prices, and in some cases, free.

In today’s collaboration-focused business environment where cloud-based technology, SaaS products and file sharing tools are commonplace, some small businesses may see Microsoft Online alternatives suiting their needs. Free SaaS solutions, such as Google Docs, or open-source software such as OpenOffice are created with the basic productivity needs of businesses in mind, including word processing, spreadsheets, email and presentation builders. There are a few premium alternatives, such as LibreOffice, which also include drawing applications and database tools.

When making decisions on the tools available to small businesses, make sure to consider the nature of the business, its level of compliance and any regulations it must adhere to. Although online products offer increased flexibility, there comes attached a higher element of risk as documents are accessed via a password. While high productivity and collaboration are important to businesses, it should never be a trade-off for security.

Paul Yung, VP of Products at Piriform

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens