The constant media reports of data breaches and financial losses that accompanied them make it difficult for company owners and chief executives to ignore the need for email encryption, no matter how large or large their firm. These reports aren’t exaggerating, either: About 14 million U.S. businesses are considered at risk for cyber-attacks this year.
You might assume your small business or startup is immune, but in fact such outfits are often the most often targeted in cyber-security attacks. According to a CNBC report, 60 percent of small businesses report having experienced a cyber-attack, and 13 percent aren’t even aware they’ve been penetrated.
“Although awareness is increasing, small-business owners are still not even realizing when they’ve been victims of cyberattacks,” Karen Johnston, technical consultant for Nationwide, stated in the report. “Small-business owners have a misconception that cybercriminals are only targeting large corporations, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Johnston cites phishing emails and computer viruses (often sent via email) as two of the most common and successful forms of cyber-attacks against small businesses in North America. Email encryption is the best line of defense against not only these attacks but many others. Choosing the email encryption service for your operation shouldn’t be a light decision. You need one that will be there for you and properly protect your business against every kind of attack. Here are some considerations you should keep in mind when you research email encryption services.
- Determine Your Business Needs
Every company will have specific security requests and requirements. Health-care organizations, for example, will have much stricter encryption guidelines than retail stores, for example. Not all emails and recipients will demand encryption, either, and these factors may weigh heavily on your decision.
Certain small businesses that deal with micro amounts of sensitive data might use the encryption service that comes with an Office 365 service. However, businesses that routinely circulate and receive sensitive data would be better off using a third-party encrypted email service that’s better equipped to follow HIPAA, corporate governance, and data residency guidelines.
- Hosted vs. Software vs. On-Site Options
The next step is to select the style of encryption. Your options will include a hosted service, downloadable or cloud-based software, or on-site solutions.
Many small businesses prefer a hosted or cloud-based software, thanks to its flexibility and minimal management. This usually requires a third-party service to route the emails through the right gateways, and it’s an excellent and secure option.
Downloadable software is also a great alternative for small firms. It requires more direct management, but many business owners feel greater security when they use a software download.
On-site or on-premise encryption services are suitable for large corporations but aren’t typically feasible for small companies. The maintenance and cost tend to be overwhelming for them.
- Ease of Managing the Tool
When you’re considering the options, think about what it will take to maintain your encryption service. Will you need an IT department to handle everything? If so, your options are much broader.
Very few small businesses have an IT department or even an IT specialist on staff, however. Their best choice, therefore, is a managed solution performed by a third-party provider. It’s easier to operate with full support to answer questions and troubleshoot problems.
- Software Strength
The most common options for encryption software use a 128-bit key or a 256-bit key. The larger the number, the stronger the protection. For a small firm, a 128-bit key should be plenty, but 256-bit key solutions ensure more robust protection, so if you have a company that continually processes sensitive data, this may be the better option for you.
- Works With Your Existing Email
Many email encryption services work only with a particular email provider such as Gmail or Outlook. If you hire such a service, but you don’t use its listed email providers, you’ll have to change your email in order to employ the service properly.
This can be a frustrating cycle, because it’s difficult to communicate the new address with your clients. Finding a service that works with your existing email means you’ll get the most out of the service.
The goal for most businesses is to grow past the small-business stage, so you’ll want an email encryption service that can expand with you. Growth is a wonderful challenge that may entail a lot of changes, but if you can identify software and services that will work for your business both now and in the future, you’ll be much better off.
- Multi-Platform Protection
If your employees use several different operating systems (Mac, Windows, Android, etc.), you need an email encryption service that will work with each of them. The service should also work on desktops, laptops and mobile devices.
This will guarantee more robust operations that will keep your company protected from the onslaught of cyber-attacks that might possibly be headed your way.