We live in an increasingly security-conscious world, and never more so than when it comes to data. We've come a long way since the introduction of the Data Protection Act, but some people still aren't sure how to protect their data at work, expecting their employer to take care of it.

Security and the protection of sensitive information from others is something you need to get into the habit of doing. Many Excel spreadsheets are used for confidential information such as payrolls or budgets, so here are some ways that you can protect your work in Excel 2010.

Make the document read-only

By 'marking as final', you can make sure nobody can edit your document - all the facilities for making changes will be removed, but bear in mind that people can still read your document - they just can't alter it. This may help you keep a sensitive document and its information intact, but you may need to protect it further.

Encryption can also be a useful tool, and the ability to make a document or spreadsheet password protected has existed for a while in most versions of the Office Suite. In Excel, it's under the Password option. However, unlike most website-based password systems, you won't get an email reminder if you forget! If your memory isn't the best for memorising passwords, then keep it somewhere safe - and out of the way of potential snoopers.

Protecting sheets or the structure of the workbook is also a good feature to use for Excel. You can 'lock' cells, so they can't be edited, or the formulas played around with. If you need to collaborate on some parts of the worksheet but not others, you can also select an area to remain editable, and another area to remain protected.

This means that you don't live in fear of the untrained colleague or work experience guy or girl getting into your data and causing hours of corrections! Then again, it could be them who teach you how to lock it in the first place...

In tandem with Windows accounts and IDs, you can restrict permissions by certain users. This is especially useful if the Excel spreadsheet is saved on a shared drive or network that is used by other people. If someone is not on your allowed uses list, they can't see the workbook - or at the very least, can't open it to edit it.

Finally, digital signatures are another way to protect the integrity of your Excel workbook. It proves that you're the author, and that it's coming from the correct source. With so many fake identities and 'phishing' scams online, this can be a good option.

You may want to use more than one method of protection when working with a confidential Excel workbook, and a combination of one or more of the above can help keep your data safe, secure, and protected for you and your business. If you think you need more training on Excel or data protection, then a consultation with a security company or training company can help. Remember, you legally have to protect any personal data that you hold, so the more you learn about security, the better!