5 Steps To Creating Your Small Business Data Security Plan

Data Security concept photo depicting a laptop with a lock on top of it

Did you know that the average cost of a data breach in 2021 was $4.24 million? Cybercriminals are not exclusively after big companies – they also have small businesses in their crosshairs.

The problem is that small businesses don’t invest as much in cybersecurity as corporations, thinking that their data is not valuable enough to be targeted by cybercriminals. This laid-back approach makes them easier targets. In fact, more than 50% of small businesses were targeted by hackers in 2021 alone.

How can you protect your small business, minimize the risk of cyberattacks, and keep your sensitive data safe? You need a data security plan.

Here are five easy-to-follow steps to create it.

What is a data security plan, and why is it important?

Source: IBM’s Cost of a Data breach Report 2021

To understand data security plan, first you need to know what data security is. Data security is the practice of keeping your business data safe from cybersecurity attacks and other risks such as unauthorized access and corruption.

With this in mind, we can say that a data security plan is a list of various procedures and policies that define how your business and staff handle data.

It can include strictly enforced policies and general guidelines. For instance, an enforced policy can be “All workstations need to have installed and updated endpoint security products”, and a general guideline can be “All employees should logout before leaving their workstations.”

A data security plan outlines how your organization responds to data breach events and what security steps to take to protect sensitive data.

Why should small businesses develop such a plan? A recent IBM study found that out of all data breaches, 44% of them compromised customers’ personally identifiable information. Apart from keeping your customer data safe, having a data security plan offers other benefits, such as:

  • Staying compliant with industry regulations
  • Avoiding noncompliance and litigation fines
  • Preventing data breaches
  • Building a trustworthy brand image
  • Avoiding data corruption.

If you find these benefits valuable and decide to create your small business data security plan, the following steps should guide you throught the process.

Create a data security team and identify relevant regulatory standards

Your first step is to create a data security team. You should bring in your key employees such as IT specialist, and HR including your legal consultant. Having such team is crucial because it will make all the following steps straightforward and transparent.

If your staff doesn’t have proper knowledge of cyber security, then you should start with organizing relevant training to ensure they are up to date with the most common threats and best security practices.

Having a data security team will help you identify risks, create and enforce data security policies, and identify all relevant regulatory standards to meet as an organization.

Assess your business-specific potential data security risks

Every small business is unique, including the specific data security risks it’s exposed to. One of the most important things you must do is identify thoses risks.

You and your data security team should analyze your business processes to identify vulnerabilities. You can assess whether the software you use daily exposes you to certain risks, and make sure your employees know about the most common cyber attacks. That way your data-sharing practices can stay safe and secure.

Make a list of current data security safeguards

Once you have the list of the potential data security risks, you should list all existing data security safeguards. It can include a wide range of practices and assets, from antivirus software to good employee online behavior.

It will enable you to cross-reference these two lists to identify potential gaps. It’s an excellent starting point as it helps you see which security risks are currently not covered by your ongoing safeguards.

Classify data assets and develop a response plan

Identifying and classifying data assets is essential to creating a data security plan. You must know which data sets include sensitive information and where they are stored.

It will help you classify data using various factors such as storage and access vulnerabilities.

Your data security plan should also include your response to the worst-case scenario. Having a response plan in case of a data breach can help you avoid chaos if a breach occurs. It should include specific actions your team and clients should take in case of a data leak.

Keep your staff up-to-date with data security risks

If you want your business to be able to execute a data security plan, your team has to be on board with the latest best practices in cybersecurity. You should definitely include staff cybersecurity training in your plan.

Given that there are constantly new threats, you should consider making your cybersecurity training an ongoing activity. It will help you turn your staff into a valuable asset for preventing cyberattacks and keeping your data safe.


As an owner of a small business, you have access to limited assets and resources. Nevertheless, it should not prevent you from having a solid data security plan. It will help you identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks specific to your business, meet regulatory standards, avoid costly penalties, keep your sensitive data well-protected, and know what to do if you suffer a cyberattack.

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