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If you're like most entrepreneurs, travel is a critical component of your business. Laptops, smartphones and other tech gadgets can help you stay connected when you're on the go, but they also represent potential security problems. From lost or stolen laptops to data gleaned by hackers from unsecured internet connections, every entrepreneur needs to be aware of the risks and take steps to protect themselves, their hardware and their data.
"You have to embrace security before you embrace convenience," says Paul Michael Viollis Sr., CEO of security consulting firm Risk Control Strategies. Wireless hot spots may tempt entrepreneurs looking for a quick internet fix, but Viollis advises against jumping onto public hot spots unless you are absolutely prepared to deal with the security issues. "The best and most secure way to communicate while you're traveling is with a highly encrypted laptop kept in your possession at all times. You can connect through the internet, but you should be connecting through a secure VPN tunnel into your secure server," he says. He recommends similar encryption measures for your smartphone.
Bradley Skaggs, 40, principal and co-founder of Skaggs Design, knows what it's like traveling for business. The design agency he started with his wife, Jonina, 41, has been bicoastal since 2000, with offices in San Francisco and New York City. Because their client base stretches to Australia, Iceland, Japan and the United Kingdom, Bradley has seen his share of airports, and his MacBook and smartphone travel with him. His first line of defense includes some basic security and backup precautions. "The login is protected. The real secret is that we back up a lot," he says. "We keep as little sensitive data as possible on the MacBooks. [The more] data we can keep central and backed up on our file server, the better off we are. We take only what's necessary and easily replaceable on the machine." All the company's laptops back up automatically when they connect to the network.
It's one thing to safeguard your data and another to safeguard your hardware. Keeping your laptop in sight at all times may sound like common sense, but the number of laptop thefts that occur says otherwise. Laptop cases may not be your best traveling companion. Says Skaggs, "Everybody who has a laptop doesn't use your typical laptop bag. Sometimes it's just a handbag, and we have a sleeve that goes inside to protect it. It's not so obvious-looking." Beyond that, Viollis recommends using biometric security like a fingerprint reader on your laptop. Should your laptop get lost or stolen, nobody else will be able to access your information. "We lease all of our computers, and they're insured. It's really the data that's important," says Skaggs.
Prepared entrepreneurs don't have to waste too much time worrying about security when they're actually out and about. They use proper encryption, secure their laptops with biometrics, keep an eye on their gear and have data backups available. Take these steps ahead of time yourself or enlist your IT person to help you get set up. When it comes to security while traveling, prevention is still the key.