By: Kacie Goff
A few decades ago, when companies thought about protecting their assets, they thought about safeguarding physical and financial assets and their intellectual property. Today, though, there’s a new type of asset that needs protection: digital assets. And no one knows that better than tech companies.
As purveyors of assets that are often largely — and sometimes even entirely — digital, you know the importance of keeping tabs on what’s going on in the cloud, online, and on your employee’s and client’s devices. But as the type and number of assets you need to guard grows, keeping everything under the proper protections can feel daunting.
Generally, tech companies should think through protecting three distinct asset types. Here, we’ll give you some basic suggestions to help you put the right safeguards in place.
You might care a lot more about your cybersecurity than your physical security, but it pays to think old school. For starters, your company’s physical assets — particularly its IT equipment, including servers, computers, tablets, and phones — probably store many of your key digital assets.
Plus, you might not think much about the cost of all of your business’s non-tech physical assets, but that’s probably because you accrued them over time. If you had to replace all of your electronic equipment in one fell swoop, for example, your organization would probably be subject to financial strain.
Protecting your physical assets
When workers all congregated in an office space, a combination of the right insurance products (e.g., a business owners policy) and a security system was often enough to protect office spaces — and the valuable IT equipment stored there. But as work shifts to a more remote model, it’s increasingly important to maintain a careful record of any physical assets you disburse to employees who work from home.
Establish a way to keep track of physical assets as you distribute them to your remote employees. When an employee leaves the company, you need a way to know precisely which physical assets they had so they can be returned to the company.
This certainly encompasses everything you have in any business checking and savings accounts, but it doesn’t stop there. You also need to think about anything that could be converted into money for your organization, including shares/stock, and income generators, like office space you lease out to a third party.
Protecting your financial assets
All tech companies should have a solid grasp on all sources of cash flow and all existing financial assets. Then, you may want to think through where that money goes, both as it’s generated as revenue and as savings sitting in accounts.
For example, if a large portion of your tech company’s cash reserves is currently in a savings account, you may want to rethink it. Moving those funds into a money market account can mean not only earning more interest, but also a greater level of protection.
Specifically, most money market accounts offer coverage through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Usually, you can expect up to $250,000 (per bank) to be FDIC-insured. This is a critical layer of protection. Your tech company no doubt relies on those savings for its continued success. You certainly don’t want them in a place where they could be exposed to risk.
Ultimately, the more you can keep all of your financial assets under a layer of protection — namely, FDIC insurance with a trusted institution — the better.
Finally, be thoughtful about who has access to which financial accounts. You never want to be in a position in which a disgruntled employee would have ample access to your financial assets.
Finally, let’s foray into probably the most challenging type of asset for tech companies to protect: intangible ones. The precise protections you need here depend on the product or service your company delivers, your client base, your company structure, and more. In other words, the protections you need are as unique as your company.
Don’t let this stop you from analyzing your intangible assets’ risk exposure and determining what you can do to defend your company. While each tech company will require a unique blend of tools and practices to safeguard their assets, there are three areas where all companies will be well-served by applying some protective measures:
- Cybersecurity: This is not a novel concept for tech companies, but it still bears repeating. No analysis of tech company asset exposures would be complete without doubling down on the importance of cybersecurity. The good news is that as a tech organization, you’re better positioned to understand the myriad of cybersecurity options — and to vet them to find the ideal solution(s) for your business.
- Duty segregation: If your business prioritizes agility or is fast-growing, you might have a certain group of people who wear many hats. Not only does this risk burning out those valuable employees, but it also heightens your intangible asset exposure. When any one individual can access a wide berth of your proprietary information and/or private data, they put your company at risk. Even if you trust that individual absolutely, something as simple as an effective phishing scam could open up your entire organization to unwelcome eyes. By segregating duties and access rights, you mitigate risk.
- Information safeguarding: There are three groups of people that likely trust your tech company with their private information: your customers, your employees, and your investors. Each deserves a thoughtful approach to protecting the information they share. It’s not enough to use a CRM with robust security protocols, for example, if you’re keeping all of your employee data somewhere else. Make sure you have ample protection for each place you store information. You may want to enact two-step authentication for any shared drives, for example.
Ultimately, tech companies benefit from being perceived as leaders in the ever-expanding digital sphere. But an issue with any of your assets can quickly undermine that. While it’s a daunting task, it pays — often quite literally — to sit down and think through each of your asset types and the protection it needs.