For a small business owner, the tools and technologies you adopt can contribute to increasing the productivity and efficiency of your business and employees. While these are essential tools to help you grow, they can also introduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities you should be aware of. In this article, we discuss how to build a tech stack that will benefit your productivity without sacrificing the security of your business and customer data.
What is a Tech Stack?
A tech stack, also called a software stack, consists of the software, apps and tools your business uses every day to get work done. For example, your marketing tech stack—i.e., the tools used by your marketing team—could include email management (e.g. MailChimp), social media management (e.g. Canva), customer relationship management (e.g. Salesforce) and survey solutions (e.g. SurveyMonkey). Similarly, other teams such as HR, IT and operations could be using different sets of software tools to automate and streamline their daily workflows.
Small businesses often rely on software and technology tools to reduce costs and create much needed efficiencies for employees. The size of your tech stack depends on the complexity of your business workflows. When evaluating these tools, it is important to keep cybersecurity in mind to ensure you are protecting your business and customer data.
Integrating Your Tech Stack into Your Business Systems
To achieve maximum value from the tools you adopt, you will want them to “talk” to each other. In other words, the apps and tools in a stack should be able to integrate and share data between them. For example, if your marketing stack consists of an email marketing tool like Mailchimp and a marketing automation tool like Hubspot, both should integrate seamlessly so you can easily share customer details and campaign metrics from one system to another.
Most software solutions have built-in integrations or use third-party platforms—such as Zapier—to connect the various tools in your tech stack. You may also find that open Application Programming Interface (APIs) are available that will allow the two solutions to interact with each other. With an effective integration strategy, a small business can:
- Maintain reliable and up-to-date information in every app
- Eliminate silos between departments and increase transparency and collaboration
- Reduce manual work and avoid updating the same data in multiple apps
- Get in the best position to grow and thrive long-term
While the benefits of integration make a strong case for adoption, one disadvantage, and it’s a big one, is the security risk. Having several programs integrated into your “single source of truth” platform, which houses all of your critical business information, can allow any hack or fraud to gain access to all of your data rather than only one part of it.
Ensuring Your Tech Stack is Secure
When evaluating tools to add to your tech stack, there are many questions you should ask yourself. These include understanding the value it will bring to your business, value to your customers, overall cost including maintenance and upgrades, and what efficiencies or cost savings it will provide. But most importantly, you need to understand the security that is provided out-of-the-box with the software you are purchasing.
Leading software companies are building their technology with a security first approach. They will publish this information and make it readily available for you to review. Here are a few tips for making sense of technical and security language to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
What level of security do they offer?
There are four key phrases to listen for in their answer:
- Secure Sockets Layer Service (SSL). This standard technology ensures that information sent to and from the vendor isn’t intercepted or read by a 3rd party, who could be impersonating the vendor to compromise your information. The easiest way to determine whether the software you’re using is secured by SSL is the presence of “HTTPS” in the URL of the website or application.
- Secure Authentication: The organization should optimally enforce strong passwords and multifactor authentication to regulate and authorize access to its systems.
- Data Encryption: Encryption ensures that if data is intercepted or stolen by a third party, that there is an added layer of protection and any personally identifiable information is protected from being used in unauthorized ways.
- Internal Controls, Policies and Procedures: The organization you’re working with should be able to clearly articulate its internal policies and procedures regarding security and data privacy. SOC 2 compliance—a voluntary compliance that specifies how organizations should manage customer data—is not the norm, especially for smaller companies. However, this is a standard that’s attainable for technology companies that are serious about policies and procedures that pertain to data privacy and operational security. If you’re working with a larger, enterprise-level vendor, simply ask if they have a SOC 2 that they can submit with their proposal.
What type of support do they offer?
Make sure you are partnering with a company that has clear SLAs (service level agreements) in place so you know what you can expect from them as a technology partner.
Do they automatically apply security patches?
Be aware of who is responsible for applying security patches and upgrades to address potential vulnerabilities in the system. If you are responsible for these, you may want to consider the impact to your budget and the overall lifetime cost of the tool you select.
Adopting new tools and technologies are an important part of any small business when trying to maintain a competitive position in the marketplace. However, the security of your data and that of your customers should remain a high priority. Evaluating these tools doesn’t have to feel overwhelming, but knowing what questions to ask can help you to feel more comfortable when selecting new software and technologies solutions.