Each week, more than 300,000 pieces of malware are released. Headlines about new ransomware or other cyberattacks or data breaches seem to break every day. And while these attacks on big-name companies often grab headlines, 61 percent of small companies surveyed in the Ponemon Institute's "2017 State of Cybersecurity in Small and Medium-size Businesses (SMBs)" report stated that a breach in the previous 12 months. Such hacks are a drain on productivity and resources--both precious for SMBs.

The good news is that a collection of simple tools and practices can help keep your business both secure and productive. Use these seven tips get more done while keeping your business and its data safe.

1. Think holistically

Small businesses often rely on a variety of apps and tools to run their business. These solutions don't always integrate, which can result in workflow inefficiencies and glaring gaps in security and compliance. This patchwork quilt approach makes it hard to get a bird's-eye view of IT. As a result, attacks can go undetected for around 140 days, according to cybersecurity firm Mandiant. To drive efficiency and protect your business, opt for holistic solutions with integrated tools.

2. Look to the cloud

By the year 2020, analysts believe that 78 percent of small businesses in the U.S. will have adopted cloud computing. They do so to lower IT costs, simplify processes, and scale effectively. Cloud-based tools also make it easy for employees to work from anywhere, on any device, and to collaborate remotely.

The right cloud-based tool provider will use state-of-the-art security measures, keep up with changing regulations, and roll out updates regularly, so you will have peace of mind that you are working with updated, secure, and compliant tools.

3. Share with care

Many small businesses work with outsourced partners to cut costs, save time, and solve challenges. Often, employees are sharing sensitive data with these partners with little knowledge of their approach to IT security. Be sure you understand what type of information is being shared with whom and restrict access to sensitive data. If you are using cloud-based tools, take advantage of built-in privacy control features.

4. Don't let shadow IT put you in the dark

Only 24 percent of small business security decision makers are concerned about shadow IT, according to a survey by Osterman Research sponsored by Cyren. This is a potentially catastrophic oversight. Shadow IT refers to cloud-based IT systems that employees use without their organization's knowledge. Odds are your team uses these resources because they drive productivity, but they can also expose you to big risks in security and compliance.

Small businesses should consider replacing these tools with a holistic solution, or at the very least, bringing them, well, out of the shadows. Cloud access security brokers (CASBs) help you understand what cloud-based services your team members are using. Then you can roll out appropriate guidelines and/or secure effective alternatives.

5. Focus on business objectives

With technology, it is easy to get swept up in the "shiny new thing" phenomenon. When evaluating potential technology tools, be sure to consider how they would provide measurable business value. An emerging capability may sound exciting, but that doesn't mean it is right for your business.    

6. Simple is better

Often, small businesses don't have the time or in-house knowledge to determine the best way to implement new technologies. When evaluating potential solutions, consider both the ease of implementation, as well as the ease of use. An effective tool should free up your team's time so you can all focus on what matters--growing your business.

Furthermore, avoid bogging down your team with too many tools and systems. If your processes become too time-consuming, your employees may not follow them.

7. Look to your team

You are investing in solutions to help your team members work more effectively. Make sure you understand the nuances of their day-to-day tasks and the challenges they are facing. Then you can choose solutions that reflect employees' needs. When introducing new tools and processes, be sure to provide training and ongoing technical support.

By considering both productivity and security as you assess emerging technologies and tools, you will roll out solutions that improve efficiency and safeguard your business. Microsoft can help your small business create a holistic security strategy designed to grow with your business.

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