Protecting your business: A guide to liability, security, and responsibility for freelancers

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In a large corporation, no one outside of the IT department has to think about protecting company data. Encryption, backup, and secure email are somebody else's set of problems.

But if you're running a small business - or working for yourself - these are your responsibilities. Fail in any one of them, and you'll lose clients. And eventually, your business

Here’s a breakdown of the essential responsibilities you take on when you freelance, and the steps to take to make sure you’re holding up your end of the bargain.

Protect client data, and your own, with strong encryption

If a client trusts you with their tax forms, their business plans, or a database of their customers, the last thing they want is that information falling into criminal hands.

Encrypt all customer data on your computer, or on any computer under your control. Some services, like File Vault, which comes with Bitdefender Total Security 2015 and Small Office Security, can do this.

Protect that data in transit

The data you email is far more likely to fall into the wrong hands than the data stored on your computer. So you also need a way to protect and encrypt information you transfer over the Internet. This is more difficult than local encryption, because you and your client have to agree on how you'll manage it.

If a client is sufficiently technical, he or she may already have a preferred way to send secure messages and files. Adapting their technique will probably be easier than convincing them to adapt yours (unless you feel that theirs isn't sufficiently safe, of course).

If a client doesn't have a preferred technique, introduce them to your preferred one. I recommend Sendinc, because it doesn't require special software, and you and your clients don't have to share a password.

Don't ignore basic PC protection

If you lose your clients' files in a hard drive crash - or worse - pass malware on to a client, you will lose business. You might also lose a lawsuit.

First, you need an anti-virus program to keep Trojans, worms, viruses, and other malicious code off your PC. Better yet, use a full security suite with antivirus, a firewall, spam protection, and so on, such as Bitdefender Total Security 2015.

Next, back up at the end of every workday. You can back up to an external hard drive with the backup program that came with your operating system, or you can use an online backup service such as Mozy or Carbonite.

And just to be safe, insure

No matter how many precautions you take, disaster can still strike. An accident can destroy expensive equipment. A former client or a former employee can sue you. Sickness or injury could force you to shut down your business for weeks or months.

Liability insurance can protect you from the financial aftershocks of these disasters. And even if you’re a business of one working out of your home, insurance can still prove vital. According to the US Small Business Administration, "homeowners' policies only go so far in covering home-based businesses and you may need to purchase additional policies to cover other risks, such as general and professional liability."

If you already have homeowner's or renter's insurance, contact your agent and ask about covering your business. You should at least find out how much it will cost you before you decide you can't afford it. And remember, it's a tax write-off.

This story, "Protecting your business: A guide to liability, security, and responsibility for freelancers" was originally published by BrandPost.

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