HOW TO PROTECT YOUR ONLINE BUSINESS IN SIX STEPS
When you run an online business, your presence and digital assets are everything you own. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people will try to harm your reputation, steal your data or otherwise hack into your systems and do damage. Even negative reviews on social media have an impact on your brand and how others see you.
E-commerce counts for around 17.5% of all global sales, but with more and more people getting online each week, expect this number to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years. With more opportunity comes more competition, and not everyone is going to be polite about climbing their way to the top.
Protecting your online business must be a multi-faceted approach covering different angles. While it’s impossible to think of every possible scenario that might harm your brand, here are six steps you can take to protect you from most problems.
1. BACK UP EVERYTHING
An online business is a bit different than an offline one because it exists solely in cyberspace. While you might sell physical goods, the way you share those products with the public is through your online store. If you sell a service or digital product, you have even more of an investment in backing up your work. Invest in an online cloud storage solution for all your digital assets.
Regularly back up your website. You can set automatic backups with plugins or through the control panel of your website. It’s also smart to create more than one copy. For example, you might have an external hard drive where you back up your content and then also a cloud-based backup that runs automatically every night at a specific time. If one system fails, you won’t lose all your hard work.
2. KEEP YOUR MONEY SAFE
When you think about financial crimes, your first thought likely goes to someone hacking into your system and stealing account numbers. However, there are many different forms of financial theft, and it’s vital to protect yourself from all of them.
One form of financial theft comes from inside your organization in the form of someone you trust embezzling money. While you might think this wouldn’t happen and fully trust those who work for you, more than one company owner has been blindsided by a trusted person stealing from them. Put safeguards in place, such as more than one accountant and someone who regularly double-checks account activity.
Of course, outside forces also try to tap into your accounts and steal money, so change passwords often and be on guard against giving out any personal information someone could use to access accounts without your permission.
3. SECURE YOUR WEBSITE
Securing your website from hackers protects your users’ data, and is a requirement under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules instituted in May 2018. If you fail to secure personal information, you might be liable to fines under GDPR, so it pays to ensure your users’ data is safe.
In addition to protecting the information, you need to protect your site from hackers. The last thing you want is for a potential customer to visit your site and run into a hacked page that displays something embarrassing or gives site visitors a virus.
4. MONITOR SOCIAL MEDIA
Around 38% of online users say online reviews play a significant role in their online purchasing decisions. Peer reviews are even more powerful. However, the way we interact online has changed in the last five years or so. People now turn more frequently to social media to gather feedback from others.
It pays to monitor social media for mentions of your business as well as reviews. While you might not be able to remove a negative review, the way you respond to it is telling. Do you try to address the issue and rectify the problem? One note here: Never argue with customers on social media, even if they are fabricating the story.
5. TALK TO A LAWYER
If you want to protect your online business from lawsuits and missteps, invest in time with a business lawyer. A skilled lawyer helps you navigate the legalities of owning a business and ensures you have all your T’s crossed. For example, if you own an online publishing company, a lawyer may advise you to put a disclaimer on your submissions page or help you draw up contracts to use with your talent.
A lawyer can also advise about the best way to protect your assets, review your site for the potential for lawsuits and answer questions about regulations you must follow for your specific business type.
6. STUDY THE COMPETITION
Part of protecting your brand is making sure you know the competition out of the same playing field. Spend time studying what your competition is doing, and look at both established brands and new ones. Are they offering something that might draw your customers to their brand rather than yours? You may run into a few ruthless business owners who actively pursue your customers and try to steal them. Be aware of their tactics, so you can counteract them.
Study the competition not to repeat what they are doing, but to be aware. While you can learn from their business models, you need to have a voice for your brand that is unique and stands out from the crowd.

BREATHE
Running an online business takes a lot of time and focus. There are pitfalls you must dodge as you walk down the path of business ownership. Don’t get so bogged down in the day-to-day details of securing your online brand that you forget to take a breath and enjoy the fun of being your own boss. Pay attention to the finer points of security, but avoid worrying too much.
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