I run a small business, how do I protect my online presence?

This is another installment in our on-going series to help small businesses on the Internet.

Large organizations have hundreds or thousands of IT experts to protect their businesses from spam, viruses, malware, hackers and other things that go bump in the night.  This team often includes specialists in system configuration, software development and IT security.  As a small businesses you cannot afford to hire an army of specialists, but you still need their expertise to protect your online presence.

Let’s start with online risks for a small business

As an online business, I’m assuming you have a domain name, something like ‘mydomain.com’.  You’re probably running a website and sending email using your domain.  However it’s configured and hosted, your domain is your biggest online asset; it is your business card, your showroom, your marketing and your livelihood.  Anything that affects your domain, tarnishes your image and affects your business.  Unfortunately, there are quite a few things that can go wrong.

DNS Risks

Your website sits on a server in a facility along with your email server and many like them.  If you are in a shared host environment, your website could be one of many domains hosted on the same servers.  Similarly, you could be hosting email in a group setting as well.  Customers can find you because the Internet uses a sort of roadmap called DNS that tells your customers’ computers where in the world your servers are and routes traffic through the proper networks to the right servers.

DNS is a robust system but susceptible to misconfiguration and, occasionally, attack.  As DNS points customers to your website or your email server, you need to be aware of changes that could affect this roadmap.  Typically, your Internet hosting provider has DNS configuration tools to help you with your configuration and maintenance.  MxToolbox provides free DNS lookup tools so you can verify how your DNS configuration appears to your customers and others outside your service providers network and ensure they can find you on the internet.

In addition to configuration issues, DNS is also susceptible to occasional attack.  Scammers can try to hijack your DNS and repoint it to their servers to steal your customers’ information.  That’s why MxToolbox recommends regular monitoring of DNS configurations to prevent outages, especially A, MX and PTR record analysis and monitoring.

Learn More about DNS Monitoring

Risks to Email

The biggest risk for a small business is email deliverability.  Issues like blacklisting, server performance, spam, malware, viruses and email system availability can all affect email deliverability and impact your business and online reputation.  At minimum, any business should monitor their domain name and email server IP address for blacklisting.  Blacklisting could be a sign of something more sinister, like malware or viruses.

Learn More about Email Deliverability

Risks to the Website

Operating your own website has its own difficulties.  Content creation and management, ecommerce and lead generation are typically top of mind for small businesses.  Unfortunately, businesses also need to be concerned about the technological risks, which are similar to email.  Viruses and malware can affect your servers, and cause your domain to be listed on blacklists.  Further, system configurations can leave doors open for hackers or make transactions less secure.  Finally, even services for your website could go down or slow down due to load, configurations or installed software, effectively shutting down your business.  This can be compounded by using a shared host environment where multiple domains are hosted on the same server. In this situation, your reputation can be affected by your neighbors, over which you have no control!

MxToolbox recommends monitoring your domain for blacklisting and your website for uptime and configuration issues, at minimum.  This should give you early warning of issues that might become outages.

MxToolbox’s Solution

At MxToolbox, we understand the technical challenges small and medium businesses face on the Internet.  That’s why we created a turn-key monitoring solution that automatically sets up all the monitoring a small business typically needs.  MxToolbox’s Domain Health uses a unique algorithm to determine the best monitors for your configuration so that you don’t need a technical background to protect your online business.  A Domain Health Monitor is bundled with each of our Standard and Pro monitoring packages.

Learn more about Domain Health