Data breaches have the potential to seriously harm your business. An incident response plan can help minimize financial losses and help retain customer trust.

The thread of data breaches is a common component of doing business in the digital age. It might feel as if you’re helpless against this threat and are therefore thinking that you’ll deal with it the best you can if the situation arises. However, advance preparation is a far better approach. The faster you’ll be able to respond, the more you’ll be able to keep damages to a minimum.

Nick Hess, owner of one of a top IT service company in Portland, OR offers the following are three reasons why you should have a solid incident response strategy in place that will enable your team to act quickly in the event of a data breach event.

Preserving Customer Relations and Trust

Data breaches happen in the best of companies, but it’s how you handle the aftermath that sticks in the minds of your customers. If you’re obviously unprepared, you risk losing their trust and their business as well as tarnishing the reputation of your business. You could easily lose the majority of your customer base if a security issue isn’t handled quickly and well, and even though we’re well into the digital age, word of mouth can still make or break a company, and just handling the public relations aspect of a data breach is a nightmare in its own right. Bad press is sure to crop up shortly after the news of the breach breaks, and rumors will be running rampant.

Another possible issue you may face in the aftermath of a data breach is a sharp drop in shareholder confidence if your company is publicly traded. Shareholders are notoriously fickle, and once you’ve lost them, they probably won’t be coming back. A quick glance at the stock prices before and after a major data breach shows a distinct pattern of dramatic decreases in price occurring in the aftermath. When the records of over 100 million Target customers were exposed, Target stock quickly fell by more than 10 points.

Data Protection

It’s becoming increasingly common for data that ends up in the wrong hands to be literally held for ransom by rogue hackers using ransomware. Vital information somehow getting leaked to the public via malicious insiders is another concern. Your incident response strategy needs to be ready to implement on a moment’s notice, and everyone involved needs to have a very clear picture of the role they are to play. Security alerts designed to immediately detect malicious activity, including any possibly coming from inside your organization, are essential to minimizing damage resulting because of the security breach.

Safeguarding Revenue

Even small and medium-sized businesses run the risk of taking a severe financial hit in the event of a data breach — it’s been estimated that as much as 60% of small businesses close up shop within six months after a major data breach event. Large businesses aren’t exempt either. When home and garden retail mega-giant Home Depot experienced a data breach that compromised over 65 million customer debit and credit card information, the total cost of the breach reached $62 million.

Losses of direct revenue aren’t the only negative monetary loss involved in security breaches. Companies also rack up costs for lawyers, forensic investigations, and public relations maneuvers. In some cases, they’re also liable for fines levied by regulatory and compliance agencies.

The faster your team is able to respond to a security breach, the less the associated damage will likely be. If you don’t already have a good incident response strategy firmly in place, consider leaving it in the hands of the experts. A third-party security service will be able to create a customized plan built specifically for the individual needs of your business.

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6 Reasons Why Your Website Sucks (and What You Can Do About It)

Have you ever browsed the website of a big company like Dell or Samsung? Were you impressed with how easily you found what you were looking for, despite the all the complexity of their product lines? I guess you probably were. These websites are built to the highest of professional standards. And as a result, the user experience is seamless.

But all too often, startups fail to emulate the seamlessness generated by the big companies. What seems like it should be straightforward and easy turns out to be a lot more complicated than they imagined. Here are some of the reasons why your website sucks and what you can do about it.

1. Boring headlines

In a world that’s full of low brow content and click-bait, it can be hard for your business to compete. People will click on titles that they find the most titillating, rather than the most informative. Titles which aren’t attractive aren’t going to attract much attention on the internet. They might interest specialists, but not the general public.

Making the titles on your website sexier is an easy first step to making your site more attractive. The next step is to include interesting images and perhaps infographics to reel in even more people. Often it’s just about keeping up with what others in your industry are doing, just to enable you to compete.

2. No blog

If you’ve spent any time browsing the sites of smaller companies, you’ll have noticed a trend over the last few years. They all have blogs. No longer is blogging reserved for foodies and disgruntled youth. It’s a tool that practically everybody is using to drive traffic to their websites. But why?

It all comes down to content. First off, search engines love new content. In fact, they take it into consideration every time they calculate your site’s ranking.

But also, the people looking for your product will probably want to read more about it. That’s why you’ll often find blogs on the sites of companies that sell complex products.

Legal firms, for example, make a point of running blogs that explain how their processes work in layman’s terms. It’s all designed to be helpful, accessible content for potential customers.

3. No website marketing plan

Your website is like the display window at the front of a department store. It’s the public facing part of your business. And it’s got to look good. But all too often, startup websites aren’t fronts for their brands. They’re generic templates that look as if they’ve been thrown together in five minutes.

Building brand identity through your website is an essential part of building a successful business. Because it’s your website that the public and other businesses see, this is what defines you. That’s why it’s so important that it’s good.

Take a couple of hours thinking about exactly what information you want to communicate through your website. What should it be saying about your business? And are there any graphics or logos that you should include to make it consistent?

4. Being too modest

The internet is full of people unashamedly screaming out for attention. Sometimes what they have to offer is good. But most of the time, the content itself is far from ideal.

The problem for the startup, however, is being heard above the noise. This is challenging enough in itself. But often startups will be further hamstrung because they are too modest to seek publicity.

The key to generating interest in your website is to tell your story. It doesn’t have to be War and Peace, of course. It just has to be the story about why your company is unique.

Customers are most interested in your story than you realise. Stories are what draws them into your firm’s brand. It’s what gives customers an affinity with you do. And it’s what gives them something to believe in.

If your startup is an ethical company, you can build this ethical aspect into your brand by telling a story. Perhaps you wanted to set up a chain of healthy, fast-food restaurants because you objected to what the big corporates were doing. This is the type of story that people can really get on board with. And it’s the sort of thing that will align them with your brand.

5. Failing to list on established sites

Even if you do everything right, your website may still get lost in among the billions of pages on the internet. That’s why it’s worth using more established sites to get a leg up.

The first thing that you can do is make comments on other sites. The goal here isn’t necessarily to build links. It’s to create engaging, helpful and meaningful content that will build reputation. As your name floats around the internet, this will divert more traffic to your website and help improve its visibility.

The second thing that you can do is write articles and try to get them published on other websites. This will mean that more people will come into contact with your message. And more potential customers are likely to want to know more about you by going to your website. Guest blogging is an excellent way to get your site known to another site’s audience.

The third thing that you can do is connecting your site through popular social media channels. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are all being used right now by businesses to promote their websites and their content.

6. Failing to use pay-per-click advertising

In the early days, very few people will visit your site, if any. The majority of your business will be done through word of mouth and recommendations. But there are limits to that kind of growth in a digital economy. And that’s why pay-per-click advertising is so important.

Essentially, PPC funnels interested customers to your website, dramatically increasing traffic. PPC is moderately expensive for a startup. But it’s something that can be tapered down once you build your reputation and traffic increases naturally. Often PPC advertising pays for itself. Most small businesses will use something like Google Adwords.

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