To survive, startups need to embrace business security

April 24, 20184 Minute Read

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In his hallowed blog post, Startup = Growth, Paul Graham defined a startup as a company designed to grow fast. “Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup,” he wrote. “Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, or take venture funding, or have some sort of ‘exit.’ The only essential thing is growth.”

The focus on growth is why entrepreneurs hustle to achieve the elusive “spoon curve,” but amid all the efforts to acquire customers, it’s equally important to focus on business security and office solutions that support rapid growth—securely.

Create innovative—but secure—offices

The early phases of a startup can feel like chaos. A small team works furiously to build a product and attract attention from users, while setting up internal infrastructure and an office space that can grow with the company. This is no easy feat. When businesses try to move fast, security can all too easily fall by the wayside—unless an IT leader makes sure it’s a top priority.

You also want to balance a focus on immediate needs (“We need this payroll system up and running now.“) with long-term considerations (“Once we go global, we need office solutions to securely support remote, distributed teams.”). Speed can’t come at the expense of security, but this task is complicated by the need to be innovative about how the office functions. Startups live and die by their capacity to be agile, and they need a work environment to enable that. Research from Nielsen and PwC found that collaboration drives innovation, which is why leading startups, like Airbnb, have designed their offices to encourage collaboration with open floor plans and breakout meeting rooms. It’s these open, fluid, evolving spaces that represent the office of the future.

This move from static desks to dynamic work environments has implications for IT decision-makers, who need to discover office solutions aligning with these values. For example, as employees constantly move around, wireless technology becomes key. Tech like wireless and mobile printing allows employees to remain untethered and print from anywhere. But to unlock the full potential of these technologies, IT must focus on security.

Protect your office now—and in the future

The office of the future is dominated by flexibility. In new companies filled with younger employees, working from mobile devices is the norm. The millennial generation is breaking down the barriers between work and life, and they think nothing of responding to an email at 10:00 p.m. on their phone from bed. From a productivity perspective, this might seem like a plus in the fast-moving world of startup life, but it raises some important business security concerns. If the devices in your office aren’t properly secured and your employees aren’t trained in mobile security, there are plenty of entry points for hackers to break into a company’s network, steal its data, or install malware. For a startup just getting off the ground, this can be a death sentence.

From the get-go, startup IT teams should think carefully about implementing security solutions and protocols to secure endpoints, like mobile devices and printers. Strong authentication and password controls should be a requirement for every employee. You should also consider encrypted wireless communication and sandboxing to keep your security bases covered. New technologies using machine learning and AI to detect malware and other vulnerabilities in mobile devices can help better protect your business, as well.

Aim to scale sustainably and safely

In today’s dangerous cybersecurity landscape, startups can’t simply scale fast—they also have to scale securely. Many of today’s biggest and most well-known startups—like Airbnb, Slack, and Dropbox—have been hacked. But hackers don’t just go after big enterprises, they go after smaller fish, too, and a hack or breach early in a company’s lifecycle can prove disastrous. In fact, data from the US National Cybersecurity Alliance found that 60 percent of small businesses fail within six months after suffering from such attacks.

Security has to be a priority at every level—from the way engineers build code all the way up to trainings for employees on security best practices. Don’t wait to establish security protocols, and make sure you’re investing in technology that can take on some of the security load for you, like printers with embedded security features. In addition to deploying endpoint security software, your IT team should encrypt all company data, whether it’s in storage or transit, and require all employees to use strong passwords and two-factor authentication.

Whether you’re setting up new offices or an infrastructure to support remote workers, all startup IT leaders need to make sure the infrastructure they’re building is secure. From day one, investing in secure hardware and cybersecurity software and focusing on employee education should go hand in hand with your efforts to scale.

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