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Data Security for Pet Businesses: Protecting Customer Data

Why is data security important for small businesses?

Although you may perceive it as a “nice to have”, data security for small businesses is crucial because it protects customers' and employees' sensitive data, ensures legal compliance, and builds a trustworthy reputation among your customers and vendors.  While the term “data security” may sound dense and scary, we promise you won’t need a cybersecurity degree to understand the importance of customer data protection and how to implement it for your business. We’ll go over best practices for collecting, storing, and protecting consumer data. We’ll also go over preventing costly data breaches, and how software like PetExec can help you through the whole data security process.

How can I secure customer data effectively?

To keep data secure, you must store and encrypt data, backup data regularly, limit which employees can access data, create a response plan to data breaches, and comply with applicable laws. Data storage doesn’t just refer to storing digital information up in the cloud, it also means making sure any physical files in file cabinets are safe from tampering. Encryption sounds like it’s from a movie like The Matrix but basically means encoding information so only the intended party can read it, protecting it from hackers and from any employees who shouldn’t have access to it. Small business software like PetExec will safeguard your data with its AES-256 bit High Grade encryption. Speaking of employee access, only certain staff members should be privy to certain information, and making sure everyone has the correct permissions will prevent employees from leaking data they shouldn’t have access to. For example, your front desk staff might be able to process customer payments when they leave your facility, but an individual caregiver shouldn’t be able to see a customer’s credit card numbers. PetExec also ensures your financial data is secure with its PCI compliance.

What type of customer data should I secure?

For a  pet daycare, grooming, or boarding business, you should secure customers’ information, pets’ information, signed consent forms, security camera footage, and of course, credit card information. Customers’ information can refer to name, address, phone number, email address, emergency contact information, and more. Pets’ information can refer to pets’ names, breeds, ages, genders, medical histories, veterinary contact information, behavior, feeding schedules, and more.  Securing customer data is important because it builds trust between you and your clients. They’ll feel comfortable knowing their information is safe, and will reward you with loyalty. And not having to pay thousands of dollars after a data breach makes data security a win-win.

Customer Information Database Options

You can use many types of software to store and maintain data. This can be as basic as a password-protected Excel or Google Sheet where you log customer information. It wouldn’t have the same sort of relationship-tracking functionality that more advanced software might, but it could work in a pinch. If you’re a computer wizard you can build your own database using software like Microsoft Access. And a cloud-based CRM (customer relationship manager) software like Salesforce might suit some of your needs as well. But if you own a pet daycare, kennel, grooming, or dog walking facility, you probably want software that speaks to not just relationships with human clients, but with pets as well. Getting software like PetExec ensures you’re working with people who love pets and tailor every aspect of their user experience towards you. It’s easier (and friendlier!) than trying to retrofit another type of software to your needs.

Best Practices for Protecting Customer Data

1. Only collect necessary data. The easiest way to keep your data protected is to limit how much data you need to store. The less data you need to collect, the less data you have to secure. So decide based on your business, what data you’d need. Customers’ contact information, pets’ names and health records, credit card information, and consent forms might be enough for a pet daycare, pet grooming, or pet boarding business, but your mileage may vary.

2. Use a secure WiFi network. Just as you wouldn’t want strangers to be able to access your personal WiFi at your house, you wouldn’t want a hacker to be able to get onto your WiFi and steal your information. That’s why getting a WiFi network that’s password-protected, firewalled, WPA3-encrypted, and with up-to-date firmware is important. If you aren’t sure about your WiFi’s level of security, you can ask your internet service provider if your current internet setup meets this criteria.

3. Use secure up to date software. If you’re using small business software to store data, you’ll want software that’s up to date and up to snuff. If your software is out of date, that leaves it vulnerable to potential data breaches. One way you wouldn’t have to worry about software updates is to use cloud-based software like PetExec’s. The software is constantly updating itself and backing itself up in the cloud, so that takes one item off your busy to-do list.

4. Use CAPTCHA when possible. Have you ever had to look at a photo containing a series of numbers and letters and retype those letters and numbers into another field to prove you’re not a robot? Then you’ve used CAPTCHA, which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans apart. All that means is it’s a challenge-based security measure that helps prevent computers from hacking into and breaching your data. PetExec uses CAPTCHA on its login page, so you’ll know it’s only you and your staff logging on to  access sensitive data like credit card information.

5. Know your industry standards. Based on where you serve customers, you may have to adhere to local regulations. If your business operates in Europe, your data security has to be GDPR-compliant. If you work in the Sunshine State, you must comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act. And there’s also compliance standards for any sort of credit card processing, which is known as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. 

6. Maintain company wide data security standards. Ensure there are no gaps or leaks in your company’s knowledge of, and maintenance of, data security. You can do this by establishing clear data security policies that you can place in your employee handbook or address during training. These policies can encompass password policies, encryption requirements, and data breach incident response procedures. You also want to establish a point of contact for all things data security, like a  director of information technology. You can adjust access controls, ensuring that employees can access the minimum amount of secure data possible for them to continue doing their jobs. And you can assess the security standards of your third party vendors to make sure they’re up to code as well.

Commonly Asked Questions

Can I store pet and client data in the cloud?

You can and should store data in the cloud. That ensures you never have to access data with bulky outdated small business software that’s only downloaded on one device. PetExec’s software is all cloud-based, letting you access your data on any device, whenever you want.

How can I prevent data breaches?

You can prevent data breaches by using strong passwords, multi factor authentication, secure URLs, and by creating a data breach response plan. Did you know the average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million dollars? And that an average small or medium business could lose $120,000 per data breach? That type of money could make or break any small business, so learning how to avoid breaches is tantamount to your business’s success. So in order to avoid a breach, you must take several steps. One is using strong passwords – no “password123”s here! Use a mix of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Multi Factor authentication, or MFA, creates a second layer of security after someone logs in with their password by prompting them to enter a code sent to them via email, phone call, or text message. PetExec’s software lets you seamlessly enable MFA for your users. You should also make sure your website URL is secure, leading with https:// rather than http://. Lastly, you’ll want to create a game plan amongst your staff should the unthinkable happen and your data is breached. This involves developing a strategy that encompasses how you’ll identify, investigate, and isolate a breach, and how you’ll notify parties like law enforcement.

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