80percent_wfhThe flexibility to work remotely has become a coveted benefit for today’s workforce, with more than 80 percent of U.S. workers saying they would like to do so at least part time.

This arrangement also provides valuable flexibility for employers. The seamlessness of today’s remote work environment allows companies to hire the best person for the job, regardless of where they’re located. This can be especially beneficial for small businesses because it can greatly reduce the overhead required to expand into new regions.

All of this means that your business likely has a lot of employees doing a lot of work away from their desks. Whether they are permanently remote, working from home on occasion or simply finishing up a project during business travel, the result is the same.

While this can be a boon for overall productivity, it also means that company information must be accessible from outside the friendly confines of the office. Without proper precautions this can put your business at risk for disruptive and expensive security breaches. Here are three ways to help ensure your information stays safe:

1. Training and awareness

Employees are a common point of security failure because hackers and thieves can often rely on laziness or a lack of awareness to create soft spots in any security system. The issue is exacerbated when workers are out in the wild, beyond the watchful eye of an IT manager or anyone else who is savvy about safety.

This is why the first step in protecting your company’s data should be ensuring that all employees are thoroughly trained and understand the importance of adhering to security policies. Every employee should go through a security training that directly addresses common risks associated with remote work.

Many companies make the mistake of assuming that some security issues are universal knowledge and thus don’t need to be covered. Even the most rudimentary concepts such as the need to password-protect any device used for business (nearly 1 in 5 workers don’t) or the potential dangers of unsecured public WiFi networks (95 percent of people use them for work at least once a week) should be reinforced during trainings.

2. Encryption

One of the easiest ways for a criminal to get their hands on sensitive data is by accessing it directly through a worker’s device. Physical theft or loss accounts for about 15 percent of all data breaches. If an employee’s smartphone or laptop isn’t properly protected it can make getting at your company’s information a trivial exercise.

Physical theft or loss accounts for about 15 percent of all data breaches.

Implementing desktop encryption can greatly enhance the security of company laptops and render info on a lost or stolen computer inaccessible. Such solutions also take some of the responsibility for security off of employee’s shoulders by enforcing necessary security policies and automating some of the protection process.

Email encryption systems can also provide an added layer of protection for specific messages that contain particularly valuable or sensitive information. This can be a lifesaver for businesses in heavily regulated industries (such as healthcare) or for which compliance is an ongoing concern.

3. Using the right tools

Businesses with remote employees naturally must use more tools for online transfer and storage of documents as well as real-time communication and collaboration. The proliferation of these technologies has been key to making remote work more productive and painless. They can also create glaring security holes if not implemented and managed correctly.

One common problem is that many of the file sync and share services we’re most familiar with are designed for consumers. If the company does not provide adequate tools then these are likely the first that employees will adopt to serve their needs. While these tools are not inherently unsecure, they may lack many of the protections your business needs. Using unsanctioned services also puts information outside of company control and make accessing your records as easy as compromising an employee’s personal account.

Adopting a company-wide file sync and share solution can cut potential issues off at the pass. It gives your employees the tools they need to store and transfer documents with ease, while ensuring that the company maintains control and protects sensitive information.

You don’t need to be an IT expert to protect your information. Check out the Small Business Security Playbook for a more comprehensive guide to identifying and limiting risks facing your business:

The Small Business Security Playbook

This free guide will help you find common threats within your day-to-day business, providing simple, real-world advice for addressing them.