With the recent Talk Talk scandal ringing in our ears, let’s focus for a few minutes on data security. As a small business owner you need to make sure that your customers’ data is safe and secure, and also that you take just as much care about your business data than you would about your personal data.
As a business owner you are responsible for the protection of any data that you hold about your customers. Although most small businesses do realise this, many are not aware of their specific responsibilities. The Data Protection Act of 1998 lays down legal requirements that you must adhere to. The eight main principles of the act are that data must be:
- used fairly and lawfully
- used for limited, specifically stated purposes
- used in a way that is adequate, relevant and not excessive
- kept for no longer than is absolutely necessary
- handled according to people’s data protection rights
- kept safe and secure
- not transferred outside the European Economic Area without adequate protection
With the spotlight being on data security, now is a really good time to review whether you are meeting all the above legal requirements and also the security of any IT systems that you are using to store customer data.
But what about your own business data? For example, your business bank accounts, business plans and financial information, and also the personal information about the people that work for you. How can you ensure that it is secure?
Firstly you need to ensure that it is physically secure in terms of being kept in locked premises. Some organisations use biometric security methods such as retina or fingerprint scanning to access secure areas. Computer data should at the very least be password protected, and passwords changed regularly. There are also ways of encrypting data to ensure that it is unreadable even if hacked.
It is essential to keep backup copies of computer data in different premises in case anything happens to your main premises - but you also then need to ensure that your backup copies as as equally protected as your main copies.
Also be very careful about who you divulge your data to. As a small business owner you will sometimes need professional help with different aspects of your business, but always ensure that data security is paramount. You are perfectly within your rights to check that your suppliers are adhering to the above principles of the Data Protection Act before deciding whether to give them the information they are asking for.
At Fair Business Loans we take your data security seriously. When you apply to us for a small business loan we will never ask you for more information than we need and we will use your data only for the purposes for which it was intended.
We are also careful about the data we use about you from other sources: unlike many financial organisations we do not rely heavily on credit scoring information as a basis for giving you a loan. Whilst we will take it into account as part of an overall background picture, we treat every case on its merit and will take the time to get to you know you and your business before making a final lending decision.
Do take care of your own data and that of your customers, and at Fair Business Loans we will take care of yours!