We’ve featured an article about how managed antivirus can protect your small business. For this article we’re taking a step back to answer some common questions and misconceptions about antivirus, and why your small business needs to invest in one today.
How do I know if I need an antivirus?
There are several different types of viruses that can compromise your computer systems. Worms, adware, spyware, and ransomware are all designed to infiltrate and cause damage in different ways. Cybercriminals are becoming incredibly savvy in designing viruses that are difficult to detect. But one common way to tell if your small business needs antivirus software is that your systems show signs of a computer infection. These signs can include slowed performance or tasks that are taking increasingly longer to complete. They can include loss of functionality, where your systems are so badly damaged that they can no longer run vital programs.
What if my systems aren’t dealing with those symptoms? Is my business protected?
Not necessarily. Even if your systems seem to be running smoothly, if you are experiencing issues such as random sounds from your computer, incessant pop-up windows or images, or file and folder changes that you can’t account for, then you might have a virus. Other issues that are signs of a virus include an inability to download antivirus programs or run updates and scans, random connections to unknown websites, or sudden lack of space on your hard drives. A virus may be able to infiltrate your system silently, but there will eventually be unexplained changes and issues that can only mean one thing; a virus has compromised your small business.
So the worst thing I’ll have to deal with is lots of pop-ups or a slow system?
A virus that successfully infiltrates your computers is going to have long-term effects that are far worse than a slow system or an annoying pop up. The most devastating aspects of a virus include loss of stored files and data, and privacy breaches that put you and your customers at risk. Viruses cripple your business operations by decreasing performance, losing functionality, and deleting, hacking, and selling private information.
So the short answer to the question of whether or not you need an antivirus is, yes, you need one. Right away.
Now hopefully you aren’t yet dealing with the functionality and privacy loss issues. But just because your systems haven’t been corrupted by a virus doesn’t mean they won’t be at some point in the future. 60% of small businesses close within six months after being hacked, but a strong antivirus security software could make the difference for the success of your business.
Isn’t antivirus expensive?
That’s a valid concern especially in an economy where a global pandemic has put a disproportionate strain on small businesses, and particularly on minority-owned small businesses. But having the safeguard of an antivirus provides what is known as “invisible ROI.” In this example, invisible ROI refers to the fact that the cost of even the most sophisticated and robust antivirus will be less than the cost of recovery if your system is maliciously infiltrated by a virus.
A small business that has succumbed to a virus is going to face an immediate loss of business and income; you have to halt all business transactions while identifying and dealing with the virus. If your business doesn’t have an IT team, you’ll have to pay for experts to do the work of identifying and removing the virus. And even if you do have IT experts on staff, you’ll likely be paying them overtime in order to deal with the virus and get your business back on its feet as quickly as possible.
You’ll most likely need to buy new hardware and software to replace compromised and damaged devices. You may need to put funds towards marketing and recovering your business’s reputation, if your customer’s data was compromised. And on top of all that, once you’ve dealt with all those short-term financial woes, you’ll probably end up investing in a solid antivirus to avoid having to deal with that kind of situation in the future. So in the long run, the most cost-effective measure you could take is to get an antivirus installed before a virus attacks you and preferably as soon as possible.
What should I look for in an antivirus?
As you are shopping around for an antivirus, keep in mind that there are more options than ever before. But your choice doesn’t have to be overwhelming as long as you keep these three areas in mind.
Risks Specific to Your Small Business
Malware comes in all shapes and sizes, but many security risks actually fall under the category of user error or social engineering. For example, an employee that uses the same password for multiple systems, or someone who opens an email without checking who it’s from. If you are concerned about unsafe online behavior from your employees, look for an antivirus that provides multi-factor authentication, password managers, email monitoring, and other checks and balances that can curb bad habits.
It is also important to know how hackers and cybercriminals think. They are often looking for customer records and financial information that they can exploit or sell. Antivirus that works in tandem with online financial processing will help keep your customers’ data safe.
Types of Threat Protection
Consider your business’ needs and the threats that are most likely to be attracted to your system. If you handle corporate data, you’ll want ransomware protection. Regardless of your industry, you’ll need a good firewall. If your small business handles sensitive data via email, then email scanning is an important feature to invest in.
Do you want your antivirus to have a real-time scanner, or a feature that automatically quarantines or deletes a detected threat? These are great features, though some may be overly aggressive and delete files that you might actually need. In that case, look into an antivirus software that allows you to manually select which files and programs to quarantine before deletion. You may not need to pay for the most expensive system with all the bells and whistles, but you should have a good idea of what threat protection is most relevant and efficient for the type of business you have.
Operating System Compatibility
What you don’t want to do is buy a bunch of the cheapest antivirus options and hodge-podge them together. Device compatibility is a serious consideration when looking into an antivirus. Whether your small business runs on Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS, you need to install an antivirus that will work beautifully with your operating system. Not to mention, it is far easier to manage one system that covers all your antivirus needs, rather than have to run regular updates on multiple antivirus softwares.
We hope these answers to common questions will help you as you look for the best ways to protect your small business. If you are ready to learn more, our free IT assessment evaluates nine crucial areas of your business with recommendations for the best value improvements.
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