Privacy and data security are something every business owner should be taking seriously, especially since most data breaches come from human error.
“The weakest chain in cyber security is the human being. It’s the lowest hanging fruit,” shares Technical Support Director at Vircom Yves Lacombe.
The good news is protecting data confidentiality is a task you don’t have to shoulder all alone. Lots of business owners have shared confidential info while fully integrating their assistants into their teams. If they can do it — so can you.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of safely sharing your data with a remote team. Let’s jump in:
Great virtual assistants should be taking time-draining tasks from your hands, so you can focus on what matters most. Handling your business’ confidential information should be part of that checklist.
Since a lot of admin work requires access to confidential files — like passwords and credit card details — providing your VA that information sets them up for success. Imagine the quality of work they can make if they can see the big picture like you do. No more hand-holding or micromanaging. Instead, you'll empower a team that can get results, with or without you. And that’s exactly what you want!
Deciding to keep all confidential information by yourself can mean adding more tasks to your plate. It defeats the purpose of having a VA around in the first place.
Learning to delegate is a crucial skill that any business owner can master to build smart, efficient teams — including handling your business's sensitive information.
If it’s your first time hiring a VA, we totally get the cause for concern. After all, what if there’s a breach? How do you know what tools to use to protect your data? And most importantly, how can you be sure you can trust your virtual assistant in the first place?
You're not the first to ask these questions. In this article, we’ll be sharing 8 ways to confidently and securely share sensitive information with your VA.
Don't bog yourself down with menial tasks by keeping all confidential info to yourself. You don’t need to give your VA access to everything — just the minimum will do!
What you'll share will vary, depending on what they need to do their job. But for best results, here are some baseline resources your virtual assistant needs access to:
Let’s face it: most business owners find it hard to give their assistants access to their emails. It’s one of the most personal parts of your business, after all. Whether it's privacy issues or the fear of missing out, we get it. Letting someone else peer into your messages can be intimidating.
But if you’re like the average professional, who spends 28% of the workday on email alone, there’s a reason why we put this at the top of the list. Letting your VA weed out your inbox will benefit you for years down the line.
And that’s it! Once your assistant receives the invitation, they can already get started. It won't be long now before you'll be hitting that sweet inbox zero goal.
Most of us use our apps simultaneously, with each integral to completing tasks. It’s the same concept for your virtual assistants. They’ll need access to your business’ work apps to give you great results. Now that you’ve delegated your inbox, this should be far easier to do.
Canva, Slack, Trello, Google Suite Apps – whichever you’ve been using to manage your business are probably the same apps your VA needs access to. All you need is to invite them via their email address on your app account.
Some apps allow you to customize access. For instance, there are permission settings for guests, revoking access after a particular time has passed. Some settings give partial access, where certain channels or files are locked.
If you don’t want to provide pro accounts for your assistant – perhaps due to price reasons – you can easily explore the options available and find a setup that works for everyone.
Sometimes, there really is no way around sharing payment info with your assistant. Especially when it comes to tasks like booking plane tickets or paying for Facebook ads. But while it feels tough to let go of your bank info, giving your VA the means to make payments can supercharge your results in the long run.
If sharing credit card information feels like too big a step, there are other safe and accessible options.
Did you know the average community manager spends 30 hours per week, on one social media platform alone? Now imagine how many hours you can save by delegating this to your assistant.
There are two main ways to share your social media accounts:
1) sharing your own login details —
2) — or inviting your VA’s account as a collaborator or administrator.
You can even explore programs like Hootsuite that allow your VA to post as your business on all your socials, from one dashboard.
Imagine how efficient it’ll be if your VA has access to your business’ single source of truth. You'll save yourself the scenario of having to repeatedly act as a messenger.
Say they need to oversee a social media campaign. They’ll need access to the creative brief, your branding guides, and other assets. They need to help you write a grant? They’ll probably need your financial statements.
Without a great file management service, you’ll be doing plenty of back-and-forth with your assistant. Save yourself the hassle through programs like Dropbox, which lets store and share files with ease. You can even add expiration dates for links, for an extra layer of security.
Start sharing confidential data with your assistants like a pro through these 8 best practices:
Every business looks different. But if you were to pinpoint what each business’ major vulnerability is, it would be cash, right?
Anything that interrupts cash flow is bad news for your business. Then again, it isn’t your business’ only weak spot.
If you’re an e-commerce brand thriving in the fashion industry, your designs are vital to the business. What would happen if they were leaked or stolen?
Or maybe you’re building a highly engaged online community. What would happen if someone hacked into your socials?
These are scary situations, but definitely not impossible. Unfortunately, these data breaches happen to the best of us. It’s important to know which confidential files must be protected, so you can plan preventative measures ahead.
Messaging your passwords online to your assistant is a big no-no. Conversations can be hacked, even accidentally shared (it happens!). Even if you delete them, it’s hard to tell what stays on the web.
Through these programs, you can:
Experienced VAs are familiar with these tools, so introducing them shouldn’t be a problem. If not, no need to worry. After you spend a few days onboarding your virtual assistant on these apps, you’ll never worry about password safety again.
It may feel trickier to enforce data confidentiality to remote teammates, especially when you can’t see them in person. But this is easily solved by setting expectations in the beginning.
Sometimes, data breaches happen simply because employees don’t know which parts of the business are private. Protect sensitive information by having a clear document that spells everything out.
Also known as a confidentiality agreement, an NDA is a legal contract that requires your assistant not to disclose anything you underline as sensitive. Otherwise, they’ll have to face penalties.
It may feel intimidating to prepare one, but you don’t need to be a lawyer to craft an effective NDA. It can be perfectly simple. According to Forbes, an NDA has five key elements:
When it comes to sharing confidential information, here's a rule of thumb: share only what's necessary.
Because humans are behind most security breaches, you want to provide only the minimum access your assistants need. This reduces the possibilities for error. It also gives you a focused area of control to manage, in case any breaches occur.
For instance, instead of giving them full administrator access to your social media accounts, why not play around with page role types? Sometimes all they need is the minimum to post, schedule, and interact with your followers.
Or instead of sharing the entire Google Drive, why not consider only the folders they need to perform their tasks? If they need your brand assets to make banging graphics, they probably don’t need to see your financial reports.
The principle of minimum access can be applied in all parts of your business. Use it liberally for peace of mind.
In most cases, data breaches don’t happen because of malicious intent. Sometimes, it’s just plain old ignorance.
Sure, your assistants signed an NDA. But do they know exactly what assets are off-limits? Do they understand the clauses, the risks, and how to prevent them? It’s good practice, for any remote team, to keep these reminders top of mind.
Actively educating your team about good digital hygiene is the way to go.
There are plenty of ways to do this. Sam Santos, CEO of a pharmaceutical company, for instance, holds regular cybersecurity seminars for their staff.
"We had a phishing email problem once, and it was a huge problem. Most of our senior staff don't know how to practice data safety online - like identifying what phishing emails looked like. These things aren't common knowledge as we thought. We're hoping these educational activities will help improve our security in the future."
The truth is, it’s difficult to guarantee 100% security, for any business.
No matter how much state-of-the-art technology you use or how much data training you offer your team, you have to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
This is how most top businesses protect their data: by planning for a breach.
Thankfully, you’ve already identified your business’ weak spots. This part should be easy. With every asset you’ve pinpointed, try listing down the next steps. What happens if they get compromised?
Let’s say your social media accounts get hacked. What should you or your virtual assistant do? Maybe you should revoke all passwords and generate new ones.
Or perhaps there was a credit card breach. What next? Maybe you can contact your credit card company and file a report, stat.
Having a set process in place for any security breach — knock on wood — will give confidence to your team to bounce back from any incident, without interrupting your mojo.
Preparing for a teammate’s departure may seem easier than onboarding a recruit, but don't be fooled. When it comes to maintaining the security of your assets, offboarding an employee is just as important!
When employees leave, business owners tend to focus solely on preparing for their replacement. They’re shocked to discover months down the road that old colleagues are still part of the company chat, social media accounts, and more.
Don’t let this fall to the wayside by having a clear offboarding process for confidential files.
Review the terms of your NDA. What’s the scope of confidentiality obligation? What does your non-compete clause say? Knowing these things can give you peace of mind, knowing your data is in the hands of only those who need to know.
Dealing with data breaches can be a pain. That’s why this guide aims to help you prevent any incidents before they can occur. Most of these problems can be easily solved with one thing: having the right people on board.
Your virtual assistant must be someone that can be trusted with your business’ data. They should be dependable, with a good track record. Ideally, they’ve gone through background checks, where others can vouch for their trustworthiness.
In reality, finding VAs like this can be challenging. And that’s exactly where Shepherd comes in. Skip the tiresome trial and error phase and find the right partner who will value your business’ security.
Our thorough hiring process ensures you have little homework to do. We conduct the initial interviews, communication skill assessments, and even behavior interviews. All you have to do is vet them!
Let us know what your ideal VAs are like and start delegating to awesome assistants today.
You can have state-of-the-art security and spend hours studying ways to maintain data confidentiality. But at the end of the day, having a baseline knowledge of data security practices will help you in the long term.
Sharing information with your assistants doesn’t have to be daunting. With remote work seemingly here to stay, keeping these tips in mind puts you on the right track!
With great digital habits and the right staff, you’ll be confidently sharing data in no time.
There are plenty of safe ways to give access to your virtual assistant, depending on what assets you’d like to share. You can:
Consider password management programs like LastPass or Dashlane. Do not share access over chat.
Virtual assistants can either help delete, delegate, respond or forward emails from your account. You can read more about it here.