Just what exactly constitutes 'important' information these days depends very much on context, but generally any files involving contact information, financial information and transaction information is considered in the business world to be worth protecting. If a company is privy to this kind of information it is not only in their best interest, but it is their duty to keep this information under lock and key.
We take for granted just how easy it is for others to access our digital information. In literally seconds, a rogue document could find it's way into the hands of a business rival and before you know it you're out on the street, that's just how quickly the world works now. For this reason, it is absolutely vital for all businesses (large and small) to keep their important information completely confidential. But how to go about doing just that? The confidentiality of an offices information should be the responsibility of every staff member in the company (this includes management) and whilst it's almost impossible to guarantee that no information will make it's way into the wrong hands (corporate espionage is always a potential problem) there are measures that can be taken to ensure it's far less likely to happen.
Make sure that every member of staff knows which data they are cleared to access and when they are allowed to access it, underlining the fact that accessing this data without permission could result in dismissal or even criminal prosecution. Make sure that you also get across to your staff that their work computers need to be password protected and that they should consider using a password for their work computers that they don't use anywhere else. Also, try to dissuade them from working on sensitive work in public places and from travelling with important, hard copy documents unless it's absolutely necessary.
Before you invite visitors into the office, be certain that all confidential data is stored away in a secure area. All physical material (papers and physical documents) that could be viewed as 'sensitive' should be placed in a locked drawer and computers should be locked to avoid unwanted outsider access to sensitive data.
Off-site Document Storage
The need to keep backup copies of your businesses most important files is a given, but instead of simply keeping them on a USB flash drive or (more covertly) a DVD/Blu-Ray disk, why not store your backups on an outside server, far from the office? (in fact, it doesn't even need to be in the same country).
Of course you're just as likely to keep sensitive information on your home computer as you are on your 'work' computer, and for that reason it's imperative to remain vigilant at home. Of course you wouldn't expect your friends and family members to be living a second life as corporate spies but unless the necessary measures are taken, information can be stolen from your home computer through the internet. Whereas at the office you'll most likely have an incredibly secure firewall for the whole company that keeps most unwanted hackers out of the system, at home you won't be half as prepared so you might want to think about installing one. A firewall is (besides a terrible Harrison Ford movie that even the man himself would probably rather forget) essentially a virtual wall that prevents incoming data connections and is actually rather simple (and most importantly free) to set-up.
Professional Document Destruction
An admittedly rather grand word for paper shredding, disposing of potentially harmful or incriminating documents is an unfortunate aspect of daily business that simply cannot be swept under the rug. When it comes to digital data, there are numerous software programs, which have been developed specifically to completely eradicate any trace of a document from your hard drive. This is recommended for the times when the recycling bin just doesn't seem 'final' enough.
Note: Amy has worked for a number of small businesses and likes to collaborate with various companies to share her advice and knowledge. She has written this article for Whitefields Document Storage, specialists in storage and destruction.