Information Security

by Andy Taylor

Do small organisations need to bother?

By their very nature, smaller organisations usually have much less in the way of information to worry about. With fewer staff, for example, the personnel records section will be significantly smaller than that of a large organisation, perhaps just one file in a drawer of a filing cabinet. The number of people who might be given access to such information is also much smaller, perhaps just the managing director, in very small companies. This means the level of trust is probably much higher and so the degree of security required is much reduced.

On the other hand, if a small company loses its information about customers, their payments, the cash-flow situation and other related information, the impact could be much more serious and could result in liquidation. The example of the World Trade Centre in 1993, when the building was unavailable for a prolonged period after the attempted bombing, highlighted the need for regular access to routine information for many companies. Some of the companies who ceased to trade after that event were large, but the majority were smaller companies, for whom the loss of access to their information was far more difficult to handle.

It is, therefore, just as important that smaller organisations also consider the real impact of the loss or compromise of their information.

It is also quite likely that they will need to have an increased awareness of those around them, both physically and in a business sense. If a company is critically dependent on one client or one supplier, this could be the biggest source of problems for them. The information about how the single-source supplier of raw materials is doing and threats to their continued operation would be very valuable information to an organisation.

Smaller organisations are frequently sited in small business parks, where collections of similarly-sized companies exist in harmony. Suppose, though, that one of them is a local paint distribution company that stores thousands of litres of paint and other decorating chemicals on its premises. Should the worst happen and a fire break out, the close-packed nature of many business parks might well result either in the fire spreading to other units or at least in the access to those other units being severely limited while investigations are conducted. Such events are fortunately not too common, but they do happen and to ignore the potential consequences would be foolish and short-sighted.