6 Smart Steps You Need to Take to Protect Your Online Client Documents

One of the biggest nightmares that haunt professionals nowadays is the threat of losing client documents or sensitive data.

And between you and me, this is a valid concern after all these stories of cybercriminals who sweep in and take everything, leaving a business vulnerable to customer turnover, legal implications, fines, and business failure.

According to Statista.com, in the United States only, there were over a thousand data breach cases that exposed over 155.8 million records in 2020.

To avoid the leak of personal data, more and more governments are introducing data privacy laws to ensure companies collect and store client data under the strict supervision of the law.

In Europe, most businesses, small and big are familiar with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) while for U.S companies, the reference remains the California Customer Privacy Act (CCPA); we’ve seen these famous acts becoming more stringent to safeguard user data which also means that a business failing to adhere to these security standards might result in penalties and legal action.

In 2017 for example, Equifax was fined $575 million for the customer data breach. Whereas in 2019, Marriott was charged with a $124 million fine. Poor handling of customer data cost Uber $150 million in 2017. There are many similar cases where companies paid massive fines for not adequately protecting customer data.

If you have still not started with ways to protect client data, don’t panic. It’s not too late to fix that. 

You can very easily implement simple best practices today in order to improve the way you and your team handle client documents and data on a day-to-day basis. 

We’ve put together a simple guide with six essential steps you must follow to increase client data protection in your business and build trust with your clients. 

Contents

Automate Your Data Collection Process

In 2020, Nordlocker surveyed people in the US and UK and revealed that 56% of participants said they prefer to send files over email, but at the same time, over 67% of the people surveyed said they had experienced cyber-attacks.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Emails were historically built as a way of communicating between two users. The attachment, which was released in 1993, has opened the doors to a more collaborative usage but also brought a lot of questions about the real power of emails for business relationships and client management. 

Let’s put it this way: email is not secure enough for sensitive data exchange– it does not have end-to-end encryption and is stored in clear text. Other people could easily access your content besides the intended receiver. 

What does it mean if you and your team are using emails to manage client requests on a day-to-day basis? 

Well, essentially two main things:

From a pure security standpoint, It simply means that your client’s sensitive papers, private files, attachments, and email information may end up in the wrong hands if your emails were compromised.

This risk increases with the number of people in your team using email to manage your clients.

From a data privacy standpoint, it means that in case of an audit from any of the regulatory bodies that control data protection in your country, the use of email for sharing, requesting, and managing clients’ documents could be a red flag and could instantly lower your chances to demonstrate compliance.

This risk will increase with the type of business processes handled via email (Eg. Client onboarding)

Now, you must be wondering, how about paper forms? 

If you’re still using paper forms to collect data from clients and still store them in file cabinets, no need to mention that this is becoming a major No-No in a digital post-pandemic world.

Paper forms are inefficient, time-consuming, and slower than digital forms. Most clients we’ve met at Clustdoc said that they experienced on average between 50% to 70% of manual errors with paper forms before switching to Clustdoc Client Onboarding.

Studies have shown that with paper forms, the chances of manual error are 1%. If the number seems insignificant to you, let me explain it in simple terms. There will be one essentially useless data point for every hundred entry points. Now, compare it with the amount of data you collect. It seems impactful, right?

By upgrading to an automated data collection application, you could significantly increase your client data collection speed and accuracy by over 25%.  

Our tips to automate your data collection process

Automating your data collection process is a collective initiative which can be implemented fairly easily within your organization.

First, it’s important to identify which processes you usually handle using emails.

Then find the right professional tool to manage these processes. The data collection frequently happens during the client onboarding phase, that’s when you’ll need to collect documents, historical data or instructions from your client to better deliver your service.

Using a document collection system (usually available with any client onboarding tool) you could create needs list templates that you and your team would use on a daily basis to request supporting documents to any of your clients without the use of email. 

This would also allow you to make sure all your team members are following the same document collection process to gather clients data and files while securing the way you request clients documents and capture sensitive data.

Share Information With Only Authorized Stakeholders

Not everyone in your company should have access to critical client information. The more employees and internal stakeholders you have, the higher chances for potential breaches. 

In the age of remote work, creative policies such as a clean desktop policy – encouraging employees not to save files on their computers, is a must. 

But to be honest, there is no manual way to properly ensure compliance at this level.

Our tips to restrict information to authorized stakeholders 

The best practice to reduce the risk of data leak from workers’ devices is centralizing the data on shared platforms and equipping the team with a dedicated tool that will automatically take care of limiting access to just those who need it.

This way, you’ll automatically enforce roles and permissions for each of your company employees:

Keep Your Documents Safe with Strong Passwords

Even novice cybercriminals get unauthorized access to your online documents if you choose a weak and common password for your login credentials. You should use strong passwords and place a multifactor authentication system for your online platforms.

I know that complex passwords can be tough to remember, especially with the number of apps that an average employee needs to have access to.  

Our tips to keep your documents safe with a better password management policy

If you aren’t already using a password management tool, I advise you to use one. Some password manager applications are free for basic usage and save passwords with advanced encryption.

A tool like LastPass can even allow you to share your passwords with team members without revealing your actual passwords, and send you reminders to update your passwords. 

On Clustdoc, most users activate the password protection on the client online interface to make sure each document shared is not accessible by anyone else.

Share Documents On Secure Platforms Only

We have already discussed, sharing documents over email is as dangerous as walking on the brink of a skyscraper.

I am sure you’d agree that email is not a great tool when it comes to file sharing, even if it has an attachment feature. 

Not only is it complicated to find the right documents when you need them, but also, relying extensively on emails to share and receive client documents requires a lot of reconciliation work.

Of course, cloud storage platforms and file sharing solutions are a much better alternative than email.  

Our tips to make sure you share documents on secure platforms  

If you want a solution that allows sharing documents securely in the context of a new business relationship, you can also explore Client onboarding systems. Unlike a CRM, a client onboarding software is customer-centric and allows your end-users to directly interact with your team and send or receive documents easily from a single secure URL. 

For example, using Clustdoc, users have the ability to define security criterias related to file sharing using the highest security measures for data protection through encryption, sharing, and accessibility.

One of the key features allowing this is the End-user 2-factor authentication. It brings an additional degree of protection to the client account by allowing business owners to protect their clients and company from potential security risks.

On top of the built-in security that you’ll benefit from using a dedicated business app for managing clients documents, you’ll also have access to front-end features to increase the security of each file requested or sent through these platforms. 

With Clustdoc for example, business users can set up a password expiration policy for their clients. 

This is a very important feature since most security experts say you should update your password every three months to ensure cybercriminals can’t remain inside your account for a long period if they have hacked your account.

Keep Your Documents Only on Platform’s with Strong Privacy Policy

While reviewing the different options available to your team, you really want to make sure the system you’re planning to put in place not only provides advanced security for protecting your client documents, but also empowers you to meet data privacy rules applicable to your country. 

Our tips to identify platforms with strong privacy policy features  

This is an essential aspect to take into consideration, your ability to comply with regulations will be defined by how many features you have access to. 

A few questions to ask yourself while selecting your future vendor are: 

Clustdoc has built-in security safeguards and complies with GDPR, allowing you to exchange documents safely.

Such features include the ability to capture user consent in the client interface, before any file sharing occurs. 

Collect Only What Is Necessary

The European Commission is very clear about data storage and most data privacy laws stipulate that you can only gather necessary personal data and store it for no longer than is needed for the reasons for which it was collected.

Without a system in place to automatically flush files and information received from clients, it can be difficult to keep track of what needs to be deleted and when. 

Our tips to keep track of the data you collect

If you do not have software handling that right now, we suggest scheduling reminders in your employees’ calendar to review on a regular basis past client records and delete those that are not in business with you anymore.

Clustdoc comes in handy here. On the platform, you can automatically flush past client records from your account after a certain date, for example. 

Looking for a better way to protect your online client documents? 

If client data protection is a priority for your business, Clustdoc can definitely help. We prioritize data security over all other features, ensuring complete protection of documents shared on our application. 

To get started with document collection on a safe and secure client onboarding platform, visit Clustdoc.

I recommend you to read our article on how to collect client documents on time for more information on client document collection.

Clustdoc — Best plug-and-play onboarding automation for small business. Try it out today.​