How To Encrypt Files and Why it is Important to your Business

Making sure your documents are safe is an important step for any business owner. It seems every week there is a new story of how company X failed to properly protect their documents and as a result their client’s sensitive data is now in the hands of someone for whom it was not intended. So how exactly do you make sure your company’s documents are properly protected? Or perhaps you are even unsure if you need to encrypt some of the documents you deal with on a regular, day-to-day basis. Below I have listed an easy to read overview of what encryption is and whether it is right for you.

What is Encryption?

In its most basic explanation, encryption is a method of changing the text and information in a document in to a form that is not easily understood or read by outside eyes. The lingo for this protected form of text is aptly called, “cypher text”. This is done in a variety of ways, from the substitution of letters and number for other letters and numbers to the much more complicated and more widely accepted algorithm method. The more elaborate and byzantine the encryption process, the more difficult time unauthorized entities will have in attempt to crack the code.

The reverse of this generally requires the use of a password of passphrase that when entered, will unencrypt your files and present them back to you in the form of which they were entered. Depending on the type of software or process you utilize, this step can vary.

Do I Need to Encrypt?

The next question you should ask when thinking about your business’s documents and daily procedures is, “Do I need to utilize an encryption service?” The main determiner to properly answer this question is to assess how much of your business is run wirelessly versus in-house. It’s good to remember that the more business or transactions that are run over a wireless network or the Internet further the chances of those documents to be compromised.

Think about how much of the material that you are dealing with is client and company sensitive. Are you working with credit card information, addresses and social security numbers? Content security can go even as niche as to details about the future of your company or an employee that you do not wish to share with the whole. If you can answer yes or agree to any of these questions it is perhaps time to consider the benefits that a software encryption service can provide you and your business.

Encryption Software

Depending on the desired strength of the encryption you are after the costs of such the service will vary. Software with intricate algorithms and mechanics will generally fetch a higher price than a service with less a complex system. However, just because one piece of software is cheaper than the other, it should not be written off as useless or inadequate.

Personal Software

As an overview, there are three general “types” of services currently being used in the market. There is software that lets you take the reins and create your own secure folder or container for sensitive files. This works by setting up a password of passphrase and then the contents of that folder become locked and are only accessible to anyone with such knowledge. The level of security for these sorts of programs, while not as strong as an algorithm service, is quite adequate for small business owners wanting to create a secure folder for employee records or even payroll. Most of these services are relatively inexpensive while a few are even freeware.

Mobile Encryption

The next step up from folder security is using an app. It seems like everything these days is on the App Store and data encryption is no exception. Services like this pair very nicely for those of us that have gone to document storage via cloud technology. These types of services utilize a form of protection that involves the use of a subfolder within your cloud storage drive. Documents that are placed in this folder are encrypted once they enter and can only be recalled when the proper passphrase or code is entered. This type of service is perfect for those of use that find ourselves constantly on the go an needing to access sensitive information in a variety of locations via the use of our smartphones. Prices for these services range from free to $4.99 depending on the provider and the amount of perks you wish to get out of the deal.

Online Services

The last and probably highest form of encryption is made possible by an assortment of service providers on the web. A quick Google search for “online encryption service” will return you with a variety of results at equal varietal price starting at around $120.00 per license and moving up. These are the types of services that you’re going to find making use of different algorithm mechanics in order to keep their clients documents secure. Services such as these generally operate on the large scale side of the coin and are helpful if your company deals with documents by the thousands or even millions. With a paid membership to these sites you will almost always have 24 hour access to a customer service representative who can assist you with any questions or concerns you have when using their product

Remember; assess your needs before committing to a particular product. Just because one service is listed at a higher price point than another, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best and most aptly suited service for you. With a little research and sleuthing around, you can rest assured that your documents won’t be the subject of your next nightly news broadcast.

As a writer and computer enthusiast, David Rocke was helping his friends program their computers and protect their documents for years before he became the resident blogger for Vanguard Archives of Chicago.

Featured image on home page courtesy of Anonymous9000.

Filed in: Encryption, Technology
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