Something a lot of people don’t know about me (even those of you who have known me for YEARS) is that I got my start in business selling insurance. I worked for an insurance agency starting at age 17 and got my agency license to sell when I was in graduate school so I could support myself. That said, my professional background has been laced with watching clients (both in my insurance agent days and Liz Theresa era) undergo catastrophes whether it’s a car accident or having a website get infected with malware. Of course not ALL of my clients have this sort of bad luck — I mean, I’m not the Angel of Death or anything — but a good few of them have had emergencies both on and offline.
Just like no one wants to pay for insurance (because you almost never use it – God-willing, of course), no one wants to pay to protect their web assets! And if you think of insuring your web assets, that usually comes down to paying for things like…
- secure web hosting services
- firewalls (to barricade your site from things like DDoS attacks)
- SSL certificates
- spam blockers
- backup services
When you’re an online business, in fact, thinking of what your web assets are is sort of funny to do. You could argue that you have no assets, but what it comes down to are digital assets. So, maybe not your house or that engagement ring, but you got…
- your website (obvi)
- your email lists and/or databases
- any other online billing accounts and services
And this stuff is your responsibility to protect.
I wanted to write a quick post to break down exactly you can do to stay protected and also do a little mythbusting about being attacked on the Internet. Let’s do the latter first.
The most common thing I hear is this: “I’m not important enough to be hacked or have a DDoS happen to me or get malware.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong. So for starters, people who hack do it occasionally for sport and target sites large and small. They do it to say they did in some cases, they do it to “practice,” competitors hire them to do it, OR they do it for any number of reasons. But they do it and it affects everyone. Even YOU, ESPECIALLY YOU!
The fact is that no matter how many layers of security you invest in, it can still happen to you. It’s happened to my large clients, my medium clients, and my smaller clients. It doesn’t matter if you’re in HuffPo or the penny saver. You are a potential target and need to take this stuff seriously. But of course, only if you care about your web presence…
What do I recommend?
- Investing in a private hosting solution. This is always my #1 suggestion since shared hosting companies are growing oversaturated, which makes your website load super slow (because it’s sharing space with other websites hosted on the same server). Aside from loading slow, if one of the other websites on your shared host server gets infected with malware or has a data leak, it puts your content at risk. (Sort of like if you rent an apartment and an adjacent unit is set ablaze, you can lose everything!) Imagine the liability if you have confidential information stored on your database. For this reason, getting on your own server is a good investment because it improves both SPEED and SECURITY.
- Installing a firewall. Sucuri Firewalls are the best value for the money. Envision a firewall to be an actual wall around your website protecting it from the bad guys (if bad guys = fire). Firewalls are crucial for any professionals or small businesses who work with a lot of sensitive data (ie. financial advisors, insurance offices, health professionals, etc). If you’re unsure if you need to invest in a firewall for your specific industry, consult your local insurance agent or preferred company to get their opinion.
- Backup! If you do nothing, be sure to enable backups. An easy way to do this is actually through your local hosting company. They oftentimes have an add-on fee to enable backup services for your site. That way, you know you’re taken care of in case of disaster (you have a point to restore from!)
- Block ‘dat spam. Spam is gross. Plain and simple. One of WordPress’ blights can be spam if you don’t have a spam blocker enabled. Akismet is the best one by far (by WordPress) and is free for non-commercial use and then requires a modest fee ($5/month) for any commercial websites. Alternatively, you can invest in a commenting solution that bypasses spam like Facebook Comments, Disqus, or Jetpack Comments.
- SSL Certificates. Ever see https? No? Well, look at the top of the screen at the address bar! This is called a “Secure Socket Layer” and encrypts the information web visitors enter into the website so it has a reduced risk of being compromised. It keeps your visitor data secure (and who doesn’t love that!) You can generate a FREE SSL certificate online with certain vendors (but you’d need someone like me to install it for you) OR you can purchase an SSL through your choice hosting/domain name provider.
But what’s free, Liz? I don’t wanna pay fo’ things.
Almost nothing good in life is free, Tex. But I will say that these tools can’t hurt you.
- Jetpack Site Monitor – It’s a feature in Jetpack’s plugin that alerts you when your site goes down. This can be pretty nifty to know —- I will say that when I was on shared hosting, my site used to go down at really odd hours of the day and night. Since my switchover to a virtual private server, it almost never does! Really cool stuff.
- Google Webmaster Tools – Aside from having a suite of tools for those passionate about SEO, GWT also scans your website occasionally for malware and can alert you to an issue before it hurts your SEO ranking. (PS malware/hacked websites can actually rank lower if you don’t treat the issue. Sort of like how if you don’t take care of a cold in your body, you can get an infection!)
- WordFence – It’s a plugin that, like GWT, actively scans your site to see if it is compromised and will alert you. Helpful!
Any questions on how to stay protected or just basic questions? Find me on social media or shoot me an email and I’m happy to help!
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