If you were to ask 100 people to define the American Dream, you’d get 100 different responses. From owning a nice house and car to hitting the road and never looking back, the ideal life is different for everyone. I’d be willing to bet, though, that there is a common theme running through every description, and that is one of freedom and independence, defined differently for each individual, but with the same essential DNA.
Many of our clients define freedom as not having a boss and being able to run their own business. There’s something undeniably exciting about calling the shots, making your own decisions, instituting your own weird version of casual Friday, and, most importantly, rising and falling based on your own vision. Our clients who take this step often start their businesses out of their homes. A home office is like an incubator for future businesses. However, those who decide to do this have to be aware of a few factors, the most important of which is network security. If your home is a castle, your home office has to double up on the buttresses and moats.
First Things First: Setting Up Your Home Office
When you’re setting up your home office, there are a few things to take into consideration before you even start. It’s easy to say “we’ll work out of the garage,” but it isn’t as simple as that. Make sure you have a proper power supply, especially if there is an engineering or otherwise physical component to what you’re doing. Make sure that you aren’t going to be constantly harassed by neighbors, explaining to them what you’ll be doing. And most importantly, make sure you are zoned for business.
There’s a dreamy, punk-rock ethos to starting the business in the garage, but, as it often does, the heavy hand of bureaucracy slaps the dreamer awake. Not every small business needs to bother with rezoning – many don’t – but if there is going to be a noise component or if traffic in the neighborhood is going to be altered, there might be a lot of paperwork for you to fill out. The Small Business Association has a comprehensive list of what you need to think about.
Employees, Servers, and Networks
We once had a client with a plan to develop a superior smoke detector, one that wouldn’t go off when it shouldn’t, and that was sensitive to particulate matter that could provide warnings before it got too bad. It sounded impressive and he was going to set up the business in his home. His plan for his network, however, stopped at a handful of computers for his handful of employees, who would be sharing design ideas and customer information. He assumed that because everyone was on the internet, they could share data pretty easily. However, there’s a difference between sharing it easily and sharing it safely.
What he needed was a network that would create a seamless and safe way to share information, and he needed a reliable company to help set up the switches and the workstations. It wasn’t as complicated as the smoke detector, but it is a different skill set, and one that doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with your vision. If you don’t have the right tools, though, your business might struggle to survive due to redundancy, errors, and downtime.
One question a lot of small businesses have is whether or not they need their own server. This is slightly different now due to the growing importance of the cloud, but a good rule of thumb is that if your business has a central location (i.e. your garage), you should get a server if you have 10 or more employees. A server does many things, but the most important are Data Sharing, Data Access, Virtualization, and Application. As your business grows, getting a private server is what can take you to the next level.
Closing the Door: Data Security for Your Home Office
Of course, none of this matters if your data isn’t secure. If you are just using a handful of private computers – the BYOD model – you’re already at risk from employee negligence or carelessness, such as leaving a laptop in a cab or responding to a phishing email with sensitive personal or company information. When at home, if just using standard WiFi, you are at risk of people being able to tap into your network if it isn’t secure enough. Don’t forget that all small businesses are vulnerable – just because you aren’t Target doesn’t mean that hackers, crackers, and thieves won’t target you. If you have a business, you’re a potential victim.
So make sure you secure your WiFi, train your employees in both basic and next-level security, and, if you aren’t a tech-savvy person, don’t just wing it. Get data security and data backup for your home office. Data backup helps ensure that you have continuity of service even if something goes wrong in your physical location. Working with the right company helps you keep the beat.
Being an entrepreneur is exciting, and it’s getting easier than ever to strike out on your own. But there are also a lot more considerations to take into account. Before, you just needed a locked file cabinet and maybe a good, solid baseball bat and a dog to keep your data safe in your home office. Now you have to worry about bored teens stealing your customers’ credit card information. But if you plan your network and server with the pros, and take steps to establish data security and backup, there’s a much better chance that a budding client base will beat a path to your door.