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How to Perform an IT Risk Assessment for Your Small Business

How to Perform an IT Risk Assessment for Your Small Business

Building, managing, administering, configuring and maintaining IT infrastructure for a small business is a big job.

Keeping everything up and running efficiently with as little downtime as possible is of paramount importance. It’s your department’s job to make sure the business is never interrupted for any IT-related reasons. A big part of that is being aware of — and always prepared for — any potential IT threats and vulnerabilities.

A comprehensive IT risk assessment is an invaluable tool that outlines all the possible threats — from extreme weather events to disaster recovery and even cyber attacks — to your organization’s day-to-day operations. Knowing the risks and having a plan in place can help your business avoid disaster. It can also help you recover more quickly and completely when disaster strikes, but the idea of conducting an IT risk assessment can be overwhelming.

What is the best way to perform an IT risk assessment for your small business?

What Is an IT Risk Assessment?
Simply put, an IT risk assessment is a document that outlines all the possible IT threats to your organization. Those threats are then weighted and prioritized according to how likely they are to occur and, if they were to occur, the overall impact they would have on your organization.

Once you identify and understand the possible threats — and the potential effect they could have on the business — you can better decide which threats need to be mitigated and eliminated, along with the urgency of taking action. For example, a small financial institution located in Arizona would probably rank protecting its data from online security breeches higher than protecting against a full-system power outage caused by flooding.

Risk assessments can be performed on all information systems including hardware, software, network connections, applications, cloud services, upgrades and more.

Performing an IT Risk Assessment for your SMB
An IT risk assessment is critical to your business, but it doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming or painful to perform. The driving principle of the assessment is simple: What are the assets in your organization that, if compromised, would hurt the business? Here are three simple steps to help you get started.

Step #1: Identify all your assets.
Take a hard look at all the company’s assets from data to web servers. What are they, where are they and who owns them? Not only is this the first step in developing a comprehensive risk assessment, but it’s also an excellent housekeeping and auditing activity for your business.

Step #2: Identify possible threats.
Next, evaluate all the possible sources of threats. This can be individuals (hackers), as well as competitors and extreme weather conditions. Once you understand the sources, you can start to identify specific threats. Remember, a “threat” isn’t just a security breach, fraud or identity theft. Threats can also include power loss, system outages and complete server failures.

Step #3: Rank threats and vulnerabilities.
Look at the possible threats and make a list of related issues and situations — both accidental and intentional — that could harm your organization and to what extent. Rank threats, identifying which are the most critical based on how likely the threat is to impact your business and how detrimental it would be to the business if an incident did occur.

Formulating a Response Plan
Once you have a clearer understanding of the biggest potential IT threats to your organization, you can start to formulate a plan to address them. For the most eminent and disruptive threats to your business, create a plan to establish a mitigation or elimination strategy as soon as possible. In some cases, this may include a policy or technology change.

Research shows that businesses that want to make the most effective use of their IT resources in managing IT risks have three basic things in common: First, they have a well-structured (and well-managed) foundation of IT assets. They also have a comprehensive enterprise-level view of all risks, so it is easy to prioritize and invest in the right areas. They empower IT staff and lower-level managers to independently manage risks on a day-to-day basis.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, discussion around potential IT threats is not taboo. There is an overall culture within the organization in which everyone in the company is aware of potential threats and discussion around risk mitigation is always open

A successful IT risk assessment is not a onetime event. It is a living document. Once you have performed a comprehensive IT risk assessment for your small business, you should repeat and update the process every year.

To learn more about potential IT threats to your business and how to mitigate risks in your organization, contact our team of experts today at 1-855-AVENTIS.