How to Use Computer Security for Small Business


The first-time business computer user has a lot to learn, but security is something he should consider at an early stage. Computer fraud may be the first risk to come to mind, but this possibility is unlikely to be important in the small installation.

When management retains control of much of the detailed work, ‘adjusting’ the books or programs is probably more diffi­cult than in the corresponding manual system.

The least exciting but possibly the most important aspect of security for the small business computer user is the protection and recovery of data files. These include the most vital records of the company such as customer and supplier master files, out­standing sales invoices, order and stock records, wages records or whatever else has been computerised.

Without secure back-up procedures for these files the efficiency and profitability of the company could be seriously affected. The smaller the computer system the more likely it is that the 0ftware will lack sophisticated checking facilities or have bugs that could lead to incorrect or corrupt data. An accidental cut in the electricity supply or a hardware fault may have the same result. In one case mysterious file corruptions were traced to winter sunshine overheating a hard disk unit normally too far back in the room for the sun to reach.

The commonest form of back-up is floppy disk although cart­ridge tape is sometimes available for securing Winchester type hard disks where 10 megabytes or more may have to be trans­ferred at a time.

How often security copies are taken depends on the instal­lation though once every day for records that have changed is really the minimum requirement. This ensures that it will never be necessary to re-input more than one day’s work on a file that is found to be unusable for some reason.

The usual system is to rotate the security disks using the ‘grandfather, father, son’ method. By securing to each disk, or set of disks in turn, there are always at least two older versions to go back to. Early on in the use of new software, or with particularly large files a weekly or monthly version may also be advisable. It is possible that an error in a little-used part of a program, for example month or year end routines may not be noticed for some time.

A register showing the date and contents of each disk is essential to avoid confusion if it should be necessary to re-input data. Also some form of arithmetical control should be kept on accounts data input so that output – debtors lor example – can be verified in total.

Security copies of application programs will also be kept, although as these do not change the rotating copy system is not necessary. It is advisable for the security disks to be kept in a fireproof safe and an advantage of the smaller hard disks is that the complete unit can be put into the safe. For extra protection a copy may be taken home by a senior member of staff each week.’

There are many firms specialising in access control equipment using either magnetic cards or digital codes. If a separate room is set aside for the computer this is a very useful way of Preventing unauthorised access. However, with the advent of the micro it is common for both computer and terminals to be in the open office with consequent threat to company record.

It is not always easy for the untrained person to get useful information from a computer and although access can be pre vented by passwords or log-on codes the greatest danger probably lies in the compressed and authoritative nature of the tabulation produced.

A computer listing of customers or outstanding orders is much more convenient for a competitor or salesman moving on than a bulky card index. Because of the repetitive nature of many printouts it is also much less likely to be missed. A paper shredder can be a very valuable investment.

Loss of the use of the computer is a major setback. The need for a reliable maintenance agreement goes without saying and most of the possible disasters can be insured against. There is however, little value in cash when it is a working computer that is needed. Whether it is fire, water or civil disturbance that is being insured against, it is still advisable to take all possible steps to reduce the risk to a minimum. As computers get smaller the theft of the computer itself, data and all, must be taken into account and it may be preferable to site it off the ground floor and away from outside doors. Protection against fire should be through the use of carbon dioxide or other gas extinguishers rather than water or foam which damage the equipment.

There may be other local users of the same type of computer. If so arrangements can possibly be made for mutual cover against disaster. Sometimes the supplier of the machine will be able to provide an alternative machine until new equipment arrives. However, in all such cases changes in specifications of current equipment could mean it was not available when needed, and the plans should be reviewed regularly.

Filed Under: Uncategorized

Tags:

About the Author: Marie Mayle is a contributor to the MegaHowTo team, writer, and entrepreneur based in California USA. She holds a degree in Business Administration. She loves to write about business and finance issues and how to tackle them.

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.