10 Top Small Business Security Tools

by SmallBusinessComputing Staff

Protecting business and client data should be top priority for every business owner. Our 10 small business security products help protect against threats both outside and inside your organization.

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When data breaches happen to large companies -- the loss of a laptop with BP oil-spill claimants’ information comes to mind -- it makes the evening news. When it happens to small companies, it could mean the end of the line. If you store any client data, whether it's simple billing addresses or sensitive financial or healthcare records, it's your responsibility to keep that information secure from unauthorized access. And for your own peace of mind, you need to be sure to backup data securely in the event of a hardware failure, fire or natural disaster.

 Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition; small business security
Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition

Small business security takes many forms and a layered approach – where you protect the physical assets, limit access to the data and encrypt the data -- is the best approach. We’ve surveyed the small business security landscape to identify 10 security products every small business owner should consider.

Keep PCs and Servers Safe with Malware Protection

It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Every PC and server in your organization needs to have its own installed, running and up-to-date anti-virus (AV) program. Need proof? In 2010, attackers unleashed more than 286 million distinct malicious programs, such as viruses and spyware (collectively referred to as malware), according to software security giant Symantec.

One of the leading AV packages is Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition. You can purchase a five-license pack ($183.70) to keep your business’ desktops, laptops and servers safe from malware and other threats. The installation wizard speeds deployment, and the centralized management console application lets you check on the status of each machine on the network from one PC.

Importantly, Symantec’s TruScan Proactive ThreatScan technology offers protection from previously unknown viruses based on their behavior, even if a particular virus signature is not yet in the database.

Another strong option is the McAfee SaaS Endpoint Protection SaaS Suite, an integrated solution that delivers protection from viruses, spyware, Web threats and hacker attacks for about $35 per license per year. The email security component also guards against spam and phishing attacks, as well as viruses that circulate via email.

The online-based installation procedure lets you forward the installation link via email to all licensed users for each PC you want to protect. Conveniently, even the management console is online, so you can check on the security status of all your machines, schedule reports and even kick off a scan from any Internet-connected PC.

Other strong options are available from AVG Technologies, which offers an entire range of small business security products. You can select from solutions to that deliver anti-virus protection for desktops/laptops, file-server protection, email server protection and even an edition for small businesses running a Linux server.

Most businesses will be best served by the AVG Internet Security 2011 Business Edition suite, which delivers endpoint security for your laptop and desktop PCs, file server protection to prevent malware from spreading across your network, email server protection against spam, phishing and other email threats, and of course automated security updates plus security monitoring and reporting.

We especially like the program’s Smart Scanning feature, which steps up scan speed while your PC is idle, then automatically switches to low-priority mode when you’re working to conserve CPU cycles. Subscriptions for the AVG Internet Security 2011 Business Edition suite start at $125.99 per year for two machines.

We also like the newly released Kaspersky Small Office Security, which combines the anti-malware protection you would expect with handy extras ideal for small offices. On the protection front, KSOS delivers real-time protection against viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware, key loggers and other threats. It also rolls in anti-spam protection to filter out dangerous and unwanted email messages. But KSOS goes a step further, delivering employee Web-use management features that let you control access to the Internet -- IM, Websites, social networking and the like -- as you see fit.

Still not enough? The suite also includes data-protection tools to schedule automatic backup for all your PCs and servers, create encrypted file “vaults” to store and transfer sensitive data and to prevent accidental or unauthorized deletion, plus a File Shredder to irreversibly wipe files off of your systems so they can't be reconstructed.

And KSOS offers a centralized management console so you can control all settings and tasks from one PC. Pricing starts at $179.95 for one-year license for five PCs, and you can add protection for a file server for just $20 more.

Kaspersky Small Office Security; small business security
Kaspersky Small Office Security

Keep Hackers Out with a Firewall

Hackers are always on the prowl for unprotected computers and wide-open networks. Their automated programs can crawl the IP universe in search of vulnerabilities to exploit, be it to plant a botnet agent to distribute spam or DNS (denial-of-service) attacks. In fact, Symantec recorded nearly 60 million attempts by hackers to gain unauthorized entry into business and home computers in a single 24-hour period.

Your defense against such intrusions is a firewall, which acts as a barrier between your PCs/servers and the Internet to prevent unauthorized inbound and outbound network traffic. A firewall will constantly scan each communication port to ensure the packets of data going through them comply with the set security specifications.

The most common type of firewall is a software firewall, and every one of your PCs and servers should have one running at all times. Microsoft’s operating systems include built-in firewall protection, but many independent lab tests have found even greater protection with third-party software products such as ZoneAlarm Pro from Check Point Software Technologies.

For a yearly subscription of $29.95, ZoneAlarm lets you protect up to three PCs, silently scanning inbound and outbound traffic for threats in the background while you work. It can stop unauthorized programs from sending personal data out to the Internet, and its advanced download protection analyzes browser downloads and warns you if they are malicious.

If your business runs on servers that connect to the Internet, you may want to consider stepping up to a hardware firewall. These always-on appliances act as sentries between your cable/DSL Internet connection and your servers, scanning network traffic for irregularities. Even if your operating system is not working right or the software firewall gets disabled, your network is still protected.

One of the leading hardware firewalls for small businesses is Check Point Software’s $299 Safe@Office 500, a UTM (unified threat management) appliance that provides an enterprise class firewall with VPN (virtual private network) protection, URL filtering (to ensure only approved, legitimate sites are being accessed), messaging security and much more. The product offers a handy wizard-based installation procedure that lets you be up and running without an IT degree, and the embedded software updates itself so your protection is always current.

Small Business Data for Your Eyes Only

Even if you’ve protected your network from intrusion, it is still possible for unauthorized people -- either outside or inside your company -- to access files they shouldn’t. Laptops get lost or stolen, and customer data gets stored on the file server for all to see. Consider protecting it with an encryption program, which uses algorithms to encrypt data before it is stored to disk. Encrypted files cannot be opened without the associated password or other authentication, keeping their contents safe even if the hard drive falls into the wrong hands.

For data stored on desktop and laptop PCs, Large Software offers DocLock, an affordable ($49.95 per PC, or $29.95 during the promotional period) program that lets you password-protect files and entire folders easily. With DocLock, you select the files and folders -- documents, photos, videos, Zip files, PDFs and so on -- you wish to lock.

 Large Software's DocLock; small business security
Large Software's DocLock

You can drag-and-drop files to DocLock to quickly lock/unlock them, or simply right-click on a file or folder icon and select Lock or Unlock as appropriate. You can send locked files via email or removable media (such as a USB drive) without worry that an unauthorized person will inadvertently open the file; since the recipient needs the password you created in order to open it. For advanced users, DocLock lets you choose from among eight different encryption algorithms.

On the server side, Microsoft’s excellent Windows Small Business Server (SBS) added encryption features starting with version 2008 and continuing in SBS 2011 (as well as in the Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate Editions of Windows 7). With SBS, you can have the built-in Encrypting File System (EFS) automatically encrypt files and folders stored on the file server.

Conveniently, EFS is an integral part of the operating system’s file system and is transparent to your users and applications. You don’t need to install any special software to work with encrypted files: Files encrypt when you close them, and then automatically ready to use when you open them. If you change your mind about encrypting a file, simply uncheck the box in the file’s properties.

Don’t Turn your Back on Data Backup

No discussion of data security would be complete without addressing data backup. After all, the biggest threat to your business’ data isn’t viruses or hackers, it’s the loss of data through inadvertent deletion or an equipment loss or failure. You can mitigate the impact of these misadventures by simply backing up your PCs and servers.

If you use the aforementioned Microsoft Windows Small Business Server as your network operating system, you can use its built-in features to back up both files on the server and those on networked PCs. Of course, then you are in charge of setting backup schedules and parameters, maintaining and securing the external hard drive or other media you’re backing up to, and making sure laptops are connected to the network to be backed up. Or you can sign up for one of the many online backup services available and let your PCs back up to the cloud automatically.

One of our favorite online backup services for small business is Carbonite Pro. Simply install a small utility on each desktop, laptop or server, and Carbonite instantly begins backing up files to the company’s online repository. You can easily tell Carbonite which folders and file types to back up (and which to ignore).

Carbonite Pro; small business security
Carbonite Pro

File backup happens silently in the background as you and your employees work, and whenever a new file is created, Carbonite can back it up within minutes; if a laptop or other machine is off-line, the backup happens the next time the machine is connected.

The program encrypts files before they are copied to Carbonite’s servers, and they remain encrypted at the company’s secure, distributed data centers so no one else can see them. If disaster strikes and you do need to recover a file of entire directory, the Restore Wizard guides you through the process.

For multi-computer use, Carbonite Pro offers an automatic invitation feature, where you invite your employees to join in and they simply click through the email to install the application. For the business owner or IT administrator, a Web-based dashboard makes managing the system easy. You see important information such as the backup status of every computer and how much data is backed up.

Carbonite Pro subscribers get unlimited phone, email and chat tech support for account administrators, and there’s no charge for licensing individual computers or servers. You simply pay for the storage you use, starting at $10 per month for up to 20GB of data.

Keep and Eye on Things -- from Anywhere

When it comes to security, nothing beats an extra pair of eyes to watch over your physical premises. And thanks to the Internet and inexpensive webcams, you don’t need to spend a lot to get a video security system.

The Logitech Alert 750i Master System is a complete video security system you can set up yourself to keep an eye on your place of business. The bundle includes a camera and all the software you need to configure remote viewing and recording. The system uses your existing electrical outlets and wiring, so installation is hassle-free.

Once set up, you can log in to a secure site to monitor your property live from anywhere via a smartphone or PC with a Web browser. You can even receive instant alerts to your email and mobile phone anytime there is motion on your property. And the built-in microSD memory card slot and included 2GB card lets you record up to a week of HD video even if your PC is off.

The base system with one indoor camera costs $299.99, and you can add up to five additional indoor ($229.99) or outdoor ($279.99) cameras.

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This article was originally published on Thursday Apr 7th 2011
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