Running a micro business can be extremely exciting. You’re in at the ground floor of something with immense potential for growth, and you get to shape so much of its development. Sure, you might fail in some ways, but at least those failures will truly be yours — and if you can reach the point of great success, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you genuinely earned it.
It’s also scary, though, particularly if you’re new to the whole thing. So much can go wrong, and you might have a lot of time and money invested in getting results. The area of concern we’re going to look at in this piece is online safety, something that’s grown massively in significance as the business world has steadily moved into the online world.
If you’re going to run a stable micro business in today’s digital landscape (and maybe even grow it substantially), you need to know how to cover the basics of cyber security. To that end, let’s take a look at five key online safety lessons that micro businesses need to learn:
Personal and professional accounts shouldn’t mix
When you’re running a small operation and there aren’t many business protocols in place, you’ll inevitably have a much looser way of working. Your near-total autonomy will allow you to work on things however and whenever you want, and the pressure of getting a business off the ground will push you extra hard. In pithy terms, you’ll have less oversight and more overtime.
And when you’re hammering away at business projects in your kitchen on a Sunday morning, you can easily forget any kind of meaningful delineation between your personal and professional tasks. You can subscribe to a podcast with your usual email account, then unthinkingly sign up to a business service with the same account. This is a problem (as many people who’ve only recently started working from home are discovering).
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Personal and professional accounts must be kept separate. This is due not only to data regulation concerns but also to the need for business accounts to be given maximum protection. If you use the same password for most of your personal accounts, well, no big deal — but if you use those accounts for business matters, you’re courting disaster.
Every business website needs SSL certification
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, but you don’t need to know exactly what that means to know that every business website needs an SSL certificate. When a website lacks that certificate, your browser will object upon loading it up: it’ll say that the site may not be what it claims to be, and that you should probably avoid it just to be safe.
Most website builders these days provide SSL certificates by default, but not all of them. If a business owner uses a free CMS like WordPress, they’ll need to add one manually. Thankfully, there are free SSL certification services available, so it isn’t too difficult.
Customers need reassurance when you’re unfamiliar
The smaller the business, the less likely it is to benefit from numerous reviews and an established brand reputation. This doesn’t mean that it can’t convince people to buy from it — if it did then it would be impossible for any small business to grow — but it does mean that it has a steeper hill to climb when it comes to wrapping up a sale.
When you buy something from Amazon or another big retailer, you don’t need to think about whether you trust the company. It’s a known quantity. Of course your order will go through successfully — it’s Amazon. But when you look at a product on an unfamiliar site, you can start to worry about the prospect of being scammed. How can you know it’s safe?
Image credit: Scottish Government
This means that micro businesses need to put in the effort to reassure site visitors. They need to talk about their customer protections, list the precautions they take, and generally show that they care about keeping shoppers safe.
It’s important to set out security policies
Playing everything by ear can work fine for a small team, but it can’t work indefinitely — and as it starts to expand, the need for set policies grows even more rapidly. What does a strong password look like? How can you spot a phishing attack? How should admin privileges be shared? All employees need to know these things.
It can take a while to jot down a solid list of security policies for everyone to follow, but it’s a vital task that should be done as early as possible to save time in the long run. The alternative of trying to figure it out for a team of thirty employees doesn’t bear considering.
Black-hat SEO generally isn’t worth it
SEO, or search engine optimisation, is obviously a big deal. If you’re going to bring in business, you need to be competing for relevant rankings in Google.
It’s such an intimidating task, though, that micro businesses can be tempted to engage in what’s known as black-hat SEO — in other words, using questionable tactics that Google would undoubtedly frown upon.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
They need to understand, though, that black-hat SEO isn’t generally worth it. It can have solid short-term results, bringing in valuable traffic, but those results won’t last — and the more sketchy tactics are used, the more likely it is that a site will earn a Google penalty and end up ranking much lower than it would have (if it still ranks at all).
This list of online safety lessons for micro businesses isn’t exhaustive, but it can certainly point a new business owner in the right direction. If you’re in that position, learn what you can and work to make your business as safe online as it can be.