WOOF! Newsletter

January 16, 2014

Starting Smart & Secure: IT Recommendations for Startups

Many startups use public cloud services like Google Apps and Amazon to get started fast. But these services pose a serious security risk for a startup's new intellectual property. There's a smarter way to start.
There’s plenty of advice out there on how to create a startup. How to pitch investors, how to market your product, how to release and grow.

But there's one area which isn't as well-advised: What IT solutions a startup should use in order to grow fast, work while mobile, and stay secure.

You may want to move fast by jumping onto Google Docs, Amazon Web Services, or a similar public cloud service. However, you’re not only getting fewer features than most businesses enjoy with Microsoft platforms…you’re just asking for security issues.

Every new startup creates new intellectual property. It needs protection.

Here’s what any new company should invest in, in terms of IT, to keep its startup safe.

The Essentials: What Every Startup Needs to Secure Their IP

The essential systems for any new company – especially on-the-go startups – are a place to store files & authenticate users, keep hackers out, and manage their email.
So every startup will need:
  1. A Directory – To authenticate users & protect access to critical files. Best example is Active Directory in Microsoft Windows Server 2012.
  2. Firewalls – To keep unauthorized users out and important data in! We recommend Juniper firewalls – highly reliable, easy to install, and even cost-effective.
  3. Secured Email – Email on a hosted Microsoft Exchange Server keeps your emails off public servers. So it can't be read or scanned by anyone who shouldn't see it.
    (Plus, if you came from a corporate background, you’re already used to Exchange’s features. Many of which you can’t find in Gmail.)
Every one of these can be hosted in a Private Cloud – a reserved space in an offsite datacenter, accessible anywhere. By authorized team members only.

Combined, these three systems enable a startup to do what most startups do now: work from anywhere – but securely.

Why Security is Critical for a Startup

Why is any of this critical? Why should a startup care about securing emails, or keeping away from public cloud platforms like Amazon EC2?

Two reasons:
  • It protects your IP right away, wherever you are when you create it.
  • It prevents spying and data theft.
Jumping into Google Docs and other public platforms runs the risk of both spying and theft. As we’ve mentioned in the past, Google and other cloud service providers cooperate with the NSA to hand over users’ emails, stored files and more.

Even if your privacy isn’t a big concern…your ability to keep working on your product should be!

Without security in place, even a startup is vulnerable to cyber-espionage. You don’t want your intellectual property to show up on a cyber-thief’s radar. And data on a public cloud server is 'easy prey,' according to security firms.

However, hiding it is easy – with the IT security systems described above.

How to Expand IT as the Startup Grows

In addition to covering basic IT security, these 3 essential systems are scalable. Over time, a growing startup can add many more users while staying on the same platforms (and be secure at the same time).

Here are a few more IT recommendations for expanding a startup:
  1. Microsoft SharePoint – An intranet portal to keep your team informed, track projects & documents. Off of public servers, and fully accessible from anywhere.
  2. IT Support Contracts – Servers and personal computers break over time. As your startup grows, you'll need support to keep everything running at peak.
  3. Microsoft Lync Server – A VoIP communications system, run privately so no one has access to your phone & IM logs but you. Lync unifies all communications, helping to reduce costs as a business adds employees.
Like the 3 essentials, all of these can be installed in a private cloud. Protecting your data, and enabling your startup to pick up and move anytime it wants, because your IT is in its own cloud. You just plug in.

Over the course of its life, your startup will create all sorts of IP: product mechanics, programming code, market analysis, documentation, payment information, etc.

Using public cloud services like Gmail or AWS means you're exposed to invasion of privacy from large businesses like Google, or larger agencies like the NSA. You're also vulnerable to having all that IP stolen out from under you by data thieves.

The reason many startups choose these kinds of cloud services is simple – they’re cheap and quick to set up. Made so intentionally by use of large-scale infrastructure. The tradeoff is fewer features, less control over your IT, and a high risk of data loss.

Start smart, with secure IT services. Ask anyone who’s had their corporate trade secrets stolen out from under them. They’ll tell you the investment now is well worth it later.