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The security shopping list

Businesses of every size could use more digital bulletproofing. Do you have what it takes to defend against hackers and electronic thieves? Here are some products that put a bit more teflon into your security system.

If you’ve started your own business any time recently, you’ve probably been seeing the word overhead in your sleep. The list of supplies, service, and personnel you need to get up and running seems so endless that it’s a wonder your funding lasted through the day you opened your doors.

But if you have any sort of technology presence in your new venture–i.e., more than one computer–you mustn’t scrimp on IT security needs. As equipment and services grow more sophisticated, so do the ways to hack into them and otherwise compromise their integrity.

Below are seven security categories that you’ll probably need to address if you haven’t already–along with a recommended product in each category to use as a jumping-off point as you start shopping. As soon as you realize that the security of your computers has a direct impact on your bottom line, you’ll sleep more soundly knowing you’ve put a solid padlock on your business.

Antivirus

Consider antivirus software the aspirin in your security medicine chest: the bare minimum you should have on hand. Because this is such a crucial category, and because antivirus protection comes in so many different varieties, you’re going to want to shop around for a product (or suite of products) that suits your needs to a T. While the Norton and McAfee lines of antivirus products are versatile, deserving market leaders, a good all-in-one brand to consider is Trend Micro’s PC-Cillin. For $59.95 MSRP, it includes spam and spyware protection, wireless device protection, customizable firewall, privacy data protection, parental controls to block unsavory sites, and a year’s free tech support via a toll-free number.

Content filtering

Content filters are progressing far beyond the clumsy programs that screened out breast cancer pages in an effort to block porn sites. As the seamy side of the Web continues to grow, so must your effort to keep it at bay, whether for the sake of your family or to prevent liability issues at your place of business. One company with an especially impressive array of filtering products is PureSight, which offers products (starting at $60) for home users, ISPs, schools, and large-scale enterprises.

Firewall

Think firewalls are just for the big boys? Not anymore. Privacyware’s ThreatSentry Small Business Edition ($99 per server) protects Windows 2000/2003 Web servers from an array of documented hacking and exploitive techniques including worms, buffer overflows, hybrid attacks, and various other types of security threats to Microsoft Internet Information Services. And just so you know what you’re getting into, Privacyware offers a free 30-day trial.

Physical access control

Keeping bad guys from getting to your computers via your broadband connection is challenging enough. But the task now is to keep your company’s security from being compromised by inattentive or (worst-case) malicious employees. Of course, the most effective (and cheapest) tool for controlling physical access is education: Close out of your e-mail account when you leave the room, keep all servers securely locked up, and so on. But if you feel that’s not enough, you might want to look at a vendor such as Courion, whose Password Courier ($50 per user) regularly automates the process of resetting passwords for everyone in your company.

Online backup

Backing up your hard drives is a crucial, if entirely too easy to neglect. And it becomes especially thorny when you have staff and their laptops on the road. So why not let somebody else handle it all remotely? U.S. Data Trust’s LiveVault online backup service is an automated service (starting at $166 per month per server) that continuously backs up business server data, archives it in a secure, offsite data center, and makes it immediately available for recovery anytime. And if you lose data, an online backup service can turn back the clock to the exact moment disaster struck, or anytime before then.

Security policies and training

Of course, all the firewalls, antivirus software, and VPNs in the world won’t make your company secure if there isn’t at least a baseline security procedure being taught and implemented. If all your people really understand is “Don’t use your middle name as a password,” it might be time to turn to a company like Global Knowledge, which offers a traveling series of two-day seminars on security for non-security professionals and executives. Many of their seminars can come to you as classroom courses as well, starting at around $1,400. If you’re the boss, you owe it to your company and its employees to lead the way when it comes to being security-savvy.

Wireless security

Has your office gone wireless? If so, congratulations: You’ve earned the responsibility to be extra diligent. While security holes in wireless technology are being patched every day, you’ll still want some help to stay safe from emerging vulnerabilities. WatchGuard Technologies’ Firebox SOHO 6 Wireless products boast an integrated 802.11b wireless access point, 4-port LAN 10/100 switch and remote management capabilities. Starting at $649, the scalable Firebox SOHO 6 line could be just the way to keep all that busy air around you safe and sound.

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