Data Protection for Your Small Business: What to Consider
All businesses, regardless of size, need an active policy on data protection and information management. In what is in many ways a hostile business environment, all businesses need to ensure that they are taking the correct steps to protect themselves and maximise their incomes.
Any business that is seen to be frivolous or perceived to be careless with the personal data of its clients will suffer a loss of reputation and public relations fallout that, in the current climate, could be disastrous. The time it would take to recover and rebuild, as well as the loss of custom in this period, could well spell the end for some businesses.
Data protection is also essential in a legal context; the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), for example, was recently given the power to fine small businesses up to £500,000 for breaches of the Data Protection Act.
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The Data Protection Act
The Data Protection Act means that if you hold and process information about your clients, employees or suppliers, you are legally obliged to protect that information. This law applies regardless of the size and turnover of your business. Under the terms of the Act, you must:
- Only collect information that you need for a specific purpose
- Keep it secure
- Ensure it is relevant and up to date
- Only hold as much as you need, and only for as long as you need it.
- Allow the subject of that information to see it should they request to.
It is also important to remember that when you come to dispose of this data, you also need to do that securely.
While this may sound daunting, the processes of data protection and information management are actually fairly simple and logical, but it does require vigilance on your part as the business owner, something which also needs to be passed on to your staff. An extremely important lesson to learn is that data management is the responsibility of every employee, regardless of position or seniority.
If you would prefer to trust professionals, there are several firms that can carry out the process of data management for you.
While the idea of data protection and management may seem low on the list of priorities of a business owner, the reality is that it is an essential process that is fundamentally important to the operations of any business. But while important, it is something eminently manageable.