If you’re self-employed (a side-hustler, freelancer, solopreneur, remote worker, or digital nomad), it’s likely that you love the work you do and enjoy the flexibility, autonomy, and work-life balance that such a career offers. I know, because I do too! However, such a work-life style isn’t risk-free, particularly when it comes to your most important piece of equipment; your computer.
Without the support and expertise of an IT department behind you, your computer and the data it holds will be much more vulnerable to threats than would otherwise be the case.
"I've lost EVERYTHING!"
I recently spoke with someone whose laptop was infected with ransomware.
Ransomeware - Simply put, ransomware is malicious software (or, malware) that locks up your files so that you can’t use them. The only way to unlock them is to pay a ransom to the person(s) who infected your computer.
She had lost ALL of her business data! Invoices, client records, project files, EVERYTHING! And to make matters worse, she had no backup! My heart really went out to her. I dreaded having to tell her that there was nothing she could do.
“But why would I need a backup? All of my files are synced to the cloud!”
Her heart sank when I explained to her that while cloud storage is an invaluable tool for keeping your files accessible from any device, it doesn’t replace a traditional backup. This is because such cloud services synchronise automatically and continuously, which means they mirror the state of the files on your computer. So after logging into her cloud storage account online, sure enough all of her synced files were also encrypted. What a disaster!
How Did This Happen?
There were several factors that contributed to the original ransomware infection, as well as the inability to restore the data, but to put it simply, this all happened because her computer was a single point of failure, as we say in the tech industry. There were no contingencies in her working practices.
I’m going to share with you my top 3 Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery tips to prevent the same situation from crippling, or even destroying, your business.
1) Install Security Software
All Windows 10 computers come with Windows Defender pre-installed, which does provide some security. Historically, I haven’t been a fan of Windows Defender (the reason is probably the subject for another post) but it has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years. One of its newest features is ransomware protection, which prevents malware from locking up your files without your permission. This is an excellent and much-needed addition. Having said that, in my experience it's always best to invest in an additional security product.
When it comes to which product to choose, a quick Google search for reputable products will yield some good results. I would always advise paying for a product instead of using a free one. There are many free security solutions on the market and some of them are very good, but when it comes to the operation of your business there are some things you shouldn’t skimp on.
Whichever product you choose, as a bare minimum, it should include these features:
If you tend to work away from home using public WiFi at coffee shops, libraries, workspaces, etc, another essential feature would be a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This will ensure that data you receive and transmit over a public internet connection remains private.
2) Always Have a Back Up
I can’t stress enough how important it is to make a backup of your files (or even your whole computer) on a regular basis, at least once a week. The more regularly you backup, the more up to date your backup will be, and the less data you’ll lose if you’re forced to go back to a previous version of your files.
Keeping a backup in the cloud is a good idea. This will make it easy to recover your data from any internet-connected device if you suffer an equipment failure. However, you must ensure that your cloud backup is not merely a synchronisation of the files on your computer. File synchronisation isn’t a bad thing but it isn’t a backup substitute.
It’s also a good idea to keep a physical backup on an external hard drive but you should avoid keeping the drive in the same place as your computer for long periods of time. Keeping your computer and its backup drive in the same place is a big risk as it negates the redundancy of the backup. For example, if both devices are in your backpack and you’re robbed, (or suffer some other misfortune) then you’re pretty much screwed. This will sometimes be unavoidable, especially if you travel a lot, but for the most part you should keep the two devices in separate physical locations.
3) Invest in IT Support
Let’s face it, most people in any modern industry use a computer for their work but that doesn’t mean that most people are tech savvy. While you may be extremely adept at using your computer, the chances are that if your business is something other than IT Support, you won’t be as good at fixing or maintaining it as an experienced professional. The same is true of me when it comes to my car. I drive my car regularly and I consider myself a good driver. I can even change a tire and put water in the radiator to stop it from overheating, but besides these most basic things, the job of fixing it when it breaks down is best left to my mechanic.
Any IT support service you subscribe to should include the following, as a bare minimum:
But what about the cost?
To the owner of a one-person business, IT Support must sound like a costly investment. This doesn’t have to be the case. IT Support is no longer restricted to large companies who can afford to employ an army of geeks. Many IT professionals are freelancers and one-person businesses, just like you, so the cost needn’t be prohibitive.
Cost will vary depending on who you choose to hire, but you go with a self-employed service provider you should expect to pay no more than £50 per month for everything discussed in this article.
To summarise, to prevent a catastrophic event from crippling, or even destroying, your business, ensure that you have these three things in place:
If you're interested in protecting your computer from cyber threats and data loss, I have a Remote IT Support service that's specifically for the self-employed, remote workers, and owners of a one-person business, with three affordably-priced packages to meet your needs.
For more information, feel free to reach out to me directly.
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