In our always ticking digital economy, kids grow up fast. Just this weekend—embarking down the same path as many entrepreneurial greats before her—my 4-year-old opened her very own lemonade stand.

And it’s with a heavy heart and the love only a father can have for his daughter that I must say: Darling, your business is in trouble. I have no choice but to give it a one-star review.

Just know it’s not your fault, and I can blame only myself. Let me try to explain.

When life gives you lemons, you buy security software … wait, what?

Now listen to your father as I tell you exactly why your lemonade stand won’t survive Q4.

For starters: It’s staffed by a stuffed bunny and a teddy bear.

I’m all for giving folks a shot, but it took no less than 10 minutes to get my cup of lemonade, and the only other person ahead of me in line was your mother.

Then—at last—I was served, and as I raised the cup to my lips I immediately noticed something was off. I was drinking some thirst-quenching, yellow play dough.

Counterfeit lemonade.

To say nothing of the health violations—this was a slam dunk, class-action lawsuit if I ever saw one.

But if that wasn’t already the cherry on top of this sundae of customer malcontent, there’s more. When I asked for upper management, I had to be told by another customer (again, your mommy) that the owner was taking her afternoon nap!

And still, above all of this, there was one violation worse than any other. Love, you’ve neglected small business security software.

What your small business and a 4-year-old have in common

I could never be truly disappointed with my daughter, for two reasons:

  1. She’s quite literally 4 years old.
  2. By neglecting security software, she’s made the same mistake 90 percent of other small businesses have made before her.

You read that right. Ninety percent of small businesses are operating without security software, according to UPS Capital. If you also lack security software, you’ve ended up in the exact same position as a 4-year-old entrepreneur.

No—in fact, it’s much worse for you. If your business model gathers customer data—and there’s tremendous more that do than don’t—without security software, you’ve entered into business with customers in bad faith.

It is your duty as a small business to protect sensitive customer data. If you don’t have security software, you have failed in that duty.

Unlike the imaginary patrons coming to my daughter’s lemonade stand, your customers are very real. Their identities and even livelihoods are at stake in the event of a data breach occurring on your watch.

The reality of a growing business means going without

Listen—I get it. I’ll tell you what I tell my daughter: I’m a cool dad, and I was young once too.

When budgets are tight, you need to make sacrifices. But don’t skimp on security software. Small businesses need to plan business development, investments, and expansion from a mindset of security first.

But if my doling out of dad advice hasn’t convinced you, let’s ask a security expert. Luckily for us, GetApp has a security analyst on staff, Gitanjali Maria.

I asked Gitanjali some burning questions on security software’s importance to a small business. Our Q&A is below.

Ask an analyst: Do all small businesses need security software?

Many small businesses think, “we’re too small to be hacked.” Can a business be too small for a firewall?

No business is too small for a firewall. Firewalls act as a primary mechanism to monitor and control your network traffic and protect you from cyberthreats.

 Key takeaway:  Every company needs a firewall, but make sure that the firewall is appropriate for your business size and scale.

Is there ever a stage in small business development when security software isn’t necessary, effective, or just not worth the cost?

If you’re a solo business owner or a very small startup with two to five employees, firewall capabilities built in to your Windows or Mac OS and internet routers might suffice. But as your business grows, you must add specialized security protections.

 Key takeaway:  Expand security coverage with hardware and software firewalls with advanced anti-malware, reporting, and administrative capabilities.

At what point should security software be a business priority?

Security should be a priority for any business right from the start. You deal with your own as well as your clients’ confidential and proprietary information, which you wouldn’t want a third party to access. Neither would you want to lose access to your systems and data because of ransomware and DDoS attacks.

 Key takeaway:  Look at implementing the most essential security elements such as anti-malware, patch management, and data backup when you’re small.

Are there particular industries that require security software more crucially than others?

The need for data security is highly critical for firms in the financial services and health care markets that deal with sensitive client information and have tighter regulatory compliance requirements.

 Key takeaway:  As your business (and budget) grows, consider adding more advanced capabilities such as threat detection—and this goes double for health care, finance, or other industries in contact with highly sensitive personal data. The sooner you implement a security plan, the easier it will be for you to scale your IT structure.

Should all small businesses prioritize security software—are there any exceptions or special considerations for this rule?

Small businesses must prioritize implementing strong security systems. Having security software is only one aspect of it. You must also educate your employees on secure IT practices to prevent unintentional data breaches.

 Key takeaway:  Every business is a digital business and therefore every company is a target for an attack by cyberthreats; the only way to prevent this is through employee education and vigilance.

Wrapup: Your business comes of age with security software

Gitanjali doesn’t sugar coat it. Drawing from her recommendations, it is evident that small businesses that lack security software are not equipped to deal with the responsibilities of modern business.

Today’s customers no longer invest their money only into products or services, they entrust their sensitive customer data with your organization.

Although the risks are steeper, so are the opportunities to fill market needs and niches with innovative data-driven solutions.

Security is the priority and must be positioned center stage alongside your other core business interests such as finance, product development, marketing, and sales.

Even consumer security solutions are better than none at all. Start small and scale as your business grows. Beyond hardware or software, employees must understand the importance of security as it matters to your small business vision and long-term goals.

Neglecting security safeguards could mean that your small business never achieves its full potential, so—from day one—instill these habits early to protect your business from security threats and data exposures.

3 recommendations to make buying security software child’s play

  1. Security assessments, security assessments, security assessments: Know what your security needs are before going shopping for software or investing in IT training. If you don’t know how to carry out a security assessment in your small business, Gitanjali can help.
  2. “Et tu, coworker”: There is more to protect against than outward threats and hackers. The truth is, 77 percent of data breaches are caused by insiders. Prioritize security training investments to the same degree as technology investments.
  3. Sifting through the noise of security software solutions is difficult: Believe me, there’s a lot of security products on offer. To make your product search easier, look no further than GetApp’s security software catalog.