External IT Security Audit – What It Is and Why You Need One

External IT security audits are a great way to systematically review where your business currently stands with its data, network and device security to find out if there are any potential security issues and how to resolve them before any damaging security breaches occur. 

Threats to your IT security include employee practices, natural disasters and malicious attacks such as malware, viruses and phishing attacks. Ensuring you have resilient monitoring and protective measures in place across your emails, data files, network monitoring, data back ups and software updates should ensure your business stays secure and online.

To take you through the process of reviewing the health of your IT security measures, in this article we explain what an IT audit is and why your business needs one, as well as covering some of the most frequently asked questions about IT security audits. 

Keeping your IT network including its software, apps, data and devices secure is imperative to keeping your business running smoothly and staying compliant. Failure to spot and resolve potential security loopholes can be a costly mistake that requires specialist skills to resolve – which most of us don’t have in house. For this reason, an external IT security audit is something that is highly recommended for all small businesses to consider within their annual planning and budgeting process. 

What Is An IT Security Audit? 

IT security audits will review the systems & software that are used across your business every day and are crucial to its smooth operation. This will include the people, data, processes, software, access controls, user verification, policies and hardware your business uses. The output will be a report that illustrates where security is strong and the business is well protected as well as highlighting where vulnerabilities are apparent. At this point the company conducting the IT security audit can work with you and your business to put a plan in place to address the priority areas that didn’t perform very well in the audit. 

Why Do You Need An IT Security Audit? 

IT security systems are designed to protect your business from cyber threats like hackers, bugs and viruses that can manipulate your systems so they break, no longer work as intended, or steal data from them for illicit use. They also work to protect your data in the event of employee breaches and disasters such as flooding, theft of fire. In addition, GDPR rules state that every business must have a privacy policy and protect customer data properly. This means that when you enter into contracts with your clients they expect you to have systems in place that will protect and store their data responsibly, as does the law. You can only do this effectively if you know what this data is, where it is stored and take active steps to protect it from security breaches properly. 

Why Should Small Businesses Pay Particular Attention To IT security? 

Small businesses generally don’t have large IT teams to stay on top of and monitor IT infrastructure and security issues daily which means it’s easier for hackers to gain access while you’re busy doing what you do day to day. If you’re a small business and are not already working with an external IT company for your day to day IT needs, it’s well worth getting one on board to review and audit your IT security. This will help you to understand where you need to take steps to improve or make the budget available to invest in active monitoring of areas that are most likely to experience security breaches. 

When Should You Conduct An IT Security Audit? 

If you have recently installed new hardware, software, new processes for transfering data or are setting up a new business, these are all good times to conduct an IT security audit. Adding new elements to your IT infrastructure can have unforeseen knock on effects to your existing set up so it’s always worth consulting experts in IT networking and security to review this objectively and highlight areas of risk that you may not have previously considered. 

It’s also a good idea to plan for an annual IT security check up – just like you would plan for your annual service and MOT for your car. Getting a professional pair of eyes to take a look at your set up and it’s performance will ensure all of your security measures are up to date and still fit for purpose as your business continues to grow and develop with new software, users and devices each year. 

Is An IT Security Audit Expensive? 

The cost of IT security audits for your business will be entirely dependent on the size of your organisation and the complexity of it’s IT infrastructure. There will of course be the costs of the time and labour needed for the IT professionals you’re working with to advise, project manage and deliver the audit, plus the cost of any new layers of software protection that are needed to be installed post audit which will be based on the perceived level of threat to your business and how quickly you need to act. 

When it comes to any significant business cost, the best thing to do is to weigh up the benefits of not doing the thing you’re evaluating. For example, would it cost you more to repair the damage done by a security breach than install the software that could protect you from one happening in the first place? If the answer is yes, then it’s a no brainer to carry out an IT security audit for your business.

What Is The Process For An External IT Security Audits?

Whether you’re conducting an audit yourself in house or are enlisting the help of an external IT company, the process of the IT security audit will generally follow the six steps outlined below; Data gathering, defining the audit, defining the threats, assessing existing security measures, prioritising and coming up with an action list ready for implementation. 

Data Gathering, Communication & Discussion

Your internal teams will need to be open to sharing their methods and practices for carrying out their jobs with the IT team tasked with conducting your audit. It’s often best to nominate a spokesperson or two from each team who is experienced in the department’s work and processes to funnel key information through to the IT audit team efficiently. They will need to be confident to speak to their team in order to gather crucial data on how individuals carry out their work, what is produced and where data is stored and how it is accessed in order to log this centrally and account for variations in individual methods.

Defining the Audit

Next, in order to define the scope of the audit, a list of all the assets that would require time and money to fix in the event of an IT security breach will need to be compiled. This will include the obvious things like computers and mobile phones to the more subtle things like data held on your shared drives, emails and archive folders. Once you have this list, you will need to decide which assets are most important to your business to protect, and this will form the basis for your security audit. 

Defining Your Threats 

Using your list of priority assets to protect, list out potential threats to each. Threats could be anything from natural disasters like flooding, employee negligence like weak passwords, bringing their own unsecured devices to work or leaving a laptop on the train to external threats such as hackers, malware and viruses. 

Assess Existing Security Measures 

This is the point in the audit where you review what security measures are already in place and evaluate their effectiveness. This is where it really pays to use an external team to prevent any bias or overlooking of key areas internally. Are your employees up to date on the latest hacking methods used? Do they often leave their devices unlocked and display sensitive data? Are passwords regularly changed? At the end of this step you will have a good idea of how good your business already is at defending its most important assets. 


Once you know what your most important assets are to protect and where your weaknesses in protecting them are, you can form a list of priorities to tackle with your security audit action list. To prioritise your action list you should consider how likely it is that a breach will occur against each asset and balance this with how damaging to your business it would be if it did occur.

For example, an email phishing scam is quite likely to happen but it’s effects could be fairly low in comparison to a fiood at the office which would be extremely damaging but much less likely to happen. When running through this scoring method, consider what has happened in your company’s history to date and what the current cyber threats look like. For example, has the business been susceptible to hackers in the past and which cyber hacking methods are growing in popularity and occurrence? 

Action List 

Now the hard work has been done and it’s time for the IT company to list the ways you will reduce the threat of the security gaps identified. This could be with new software, staff training or best practice to reduce the likelihood of damaging attacks or breaches taking place. The team will likely consider email protection and back up, password safety, network monitoring and protection, data backups and software updates when drawing up your action list. It is recommended that you tackle each item one by one in order of priority as budgets for your business allow. 

What Is The Best Approach To IT Security? 

In a word, layering. Having a first line of defense and a secondary layer of protection is the recommended approach for all businesses that want peace of mind that their business operations are secure. With multiple security measures in place, a resilient security matrix is created, meaning that should you come under threat, your company can remain safe and sound, allowing you to drive your business forward.

The first line of defence could be staff training and having policies in place on the best way to deal with managing the storage, access and transfer of data online or it could be something more technical like having an encryption code to access mobile devices through a secured network. 

Whatever your business, it pays to get the right layered approach for you. The results of an IT security audit will pinpoint exactly what is needed based on how, where and when you conduct your business activities meaning a perfectly tailored IT security solution can be built by your IT team or outsourced IT provider. 

Is An IT Security Audit For Me? 

When it comes to IT, the phrase “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” is very true. Most employees or managers at businesses around the country don’t know the ins and outs of their IT set up, and don’t want to know either. We tend to log on in the morning, do our work and log off when it’s time to go home. If something breaks or stops working in a way we’re used to, we call the IT helpdesk. If this sounds like you, it’s likely you have an outsourced IT company on hand to keep the IT infrastructure of your business running smoothly and functioning securely without you even knowing what’s going on in the background. 

If you are aware of an IT security breach, then something has gone wrong and you will need to pay serious attention and take positive steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. We’ve all experienced the nightmare of losing our phone or having it stolen only to realise you hadn’t backed up your pictures, you no longer have access to your numbers and didn’t have security in place to protect you personal data – and we all know what a pain this can be. 

Now imagine that your phone was your business and your entire business contact database had been compromised, the systems you use every day were hacked and taken offline – all because of a small gap or lapse in your security. Not only is this a nightmare to resolve, it won’t go down well with your customers and could even take your business offline until things have been resolved. 

How Can Premier IT Solution Support You With Security Audits? 

The managed IT security services from the Premier IT Solution team are comprehensive and robust to ensure the best possible protection from any external threats or internal data and policy breaches your business may face. We pride ourselves on being able to offer early detection of threats, bespoke security plans for your business based on how, when and where it operates, and ensuring data back ups are in place and easily accessible when you need them.

From security risks and vulnerability assessments, to installing firewalls and fully integrated anti virus software and managing the secure online backup and replication of data, we’re confident Premier IT Solution can bring cost savings and peace of mind to your business when it comes to IT security audits and on-going protection. 

If you’re considering an IT security audit or are unsure if your business needs one, it’s always best to take specialist advise in the first instance to ensure you have all the facts you need to make an informed decision. 

If you would like to talk through any security concerns you have or any element of IT security such as anti virus software, firewalls, or even the possibility of introducing fully managed IT security services at your business, give the friendly team at Premier IT Solution a call. 

Any solution proposed and delivered by the team follows industry best practice and will ensure your business is GDPR compliant. For maximum security, Premier IT Solution deploy multiple security measures to create a resilient security matrix so should your business come under threat in the future, your company and it’s data can remain safe and sound, allowing you to focus on driving the business forward.

Premier IT Solution offer tailor managed IT support covering Server & VMs, Desktop, Network, Security, Mobile and Remote facilities to keep you connected to your business 24×7. 

Get in touch to speak to experts with over 30 years of experience for advice on conducting IT security audits or setting up IT security measures that are perfectly suited to your business needs and budget.

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