Confidentiality is of huge importance to the small business owner in this ever changing technological society. Every day, secrets are exposed, online and off, through carelessness or harmful intent. Confidentiality and trust have become major issues in outsourcing work of almost any kind.
I repeatedly hear the questions, How do I know you wont sell the information I give you to somebody else?, and How do I know you will be careful about protecting my information from exploitation? These are valid questions, which should be asked of ANY assistant, whether they are in your office, or outside your office.
Virtual assistants are small business owners who have worked hard to get their business off the ground. They have spent hours and hours researching their industry, creating a website, creating logos, and marketing just like you have. It could take months maybe even years before their business is thriving, and they have invested heavily to get that result. It isn't just a job to them. It is their passion, their life, and their livelihood. No thinking business owner will risk their hard work over an issue as important to the client as confidentiality. If an in-house assistant is careless about confidentiality, they may receive a reprimand or lose their job. If a VA is careless, they lose much more, because they are much more dependent upon their reputation to secure additional work there are no laws which say you cannot tell someone EXACTLY why you fired them.
Information must be protected from accidental loss, as well as from carelessness and outside threats. A computer virus is costly to both the client, and the virtual assistant, but the virtual assistant has the most to lose. They lose time, may have to spend money for repairs, and they lose credibility, and if important data is lost, they must make restitution to the client. Anti-virus, anti-malware, and anti-spyware software are essential components on the computer of any virtual assistant. A firewall, encryption software (for encrypting emails on request), and security passwords are also basic elements that a virtual assistant installs and uses.
Print information is just as vulnerable as the technological information. The simple precaution of shredding and then burning all sensitive documents when the project is completed ensures that the information is destroyed in a way that cannot be reconstructed. Sensitive documents can be protected during the project, by storing them in a locked cabinet. The key is kept with the VA.
If you have confidentiality concerns about hiring a VA, here are some questions you can ask them:
1. How do you secure confidential information on your computer?
2. How do you secure confidential printed documents?
3. What do you do with confidential documents at the conclusion of an assignment?
4. What is your policy in regard to sharing information between clients?
5. What do you consider to be confidential information?
The answers to these five questions will give you valuable information in regard to selecting a diligent and careful assistant, so you can begin to build a long term relationship with a professional who will aid you in growing your business.