By John Tie

Engaging remote employees is now quite common across many kinds of businesses. The significant savings and unfettered access to talent that offshoring ensures has meant that the practice of hiring remote employees has grown rapidly in the past ten or so years.

With so many vendors in play, this has driven prices further down and made the market extremely competitive, which means that businesses who are outsourcing have profited immensely. However every positive turn has a flipside to it. The massive numbers that the offshoring business has attracted and the inevitable price war between vendors to win customers has allowed many bogus entities to slip through the cracks, too. Hence you hear about clients running into trouble with offshore teams, suffering data theft and getting defrauded once in a while.

While the numbers are very low, it happens. To be fair, it also goes with the territory. Putting your trust on offshore entities to do your job will always carry an element of risk. It is necessary that you do your due diligence while selecting and managing your remote staff, not unlike what you would do if you were to hire staff locally.

1. Hire Through a Reputable Agency

Remember how were talking about the price war that exists between offshore vendors to attract clients? It’s great that you have an option to maximize your savings. However, somewhere you need to draw a line and say, “You know what? This is a pretty good deal, but I will now focus on the security aspect and not the price.” You will surprised at how many of the clients who have run into trouble while hiring offshore remote assistants ended up hiring the cheapest available option.

How cheap? As much as 85% to 90% cheaper than local hiring. That’s the point where someone should have asked, “How is it possible to deliver at this price?” Yes, India and Philippines are cheap, but even they have their limits! Any good, reputed agency will easily give you anywhere between 50% to 70% percent savings, depending on the type of resource you choose.

Isn’t that enough? At least a bigger, more reputed agency will have a reputation at stake and has as much to lose from a badly executed project as you. They will be able to provide the best of talent available and will have excellent data security policies. Any good remote staffing company in India will be GDPR compliant, even if many small U.S. businesses are not. In fact, recently I have seen good agencies decline business if the client themselves are not GDPR compliant! Now if you want that sort of diligence, there will be a minimum price tag attached to it. That’s only fair.

2. Switch to Cloud Storage

Switching to cloud storage is going to benefit your business in more ways than one. Cloud storage providers exist due to their good reputation regarding security. It will take some doing to steal your data from the cloud by anyone outside the company. Cloud storage also ensures that you can provide data instantly to your remote employees without compromising on security. The whole process is seamless and safe.

3. Create Tiered Access of Data

This is actually a follow up point of the previous point. Cloud storage allows you to control permissions attached to specific data, which you can then use to give access to only what is required to your remote employees, and even your in-house staff.

One of the simplest and best ways to counter significant data theft or leakage within your employees is by putting in the simple rule of “Need to Know” while setting permissions and access to data. What doesn’t concern your remote employee, won’t even be available to view.

On those occasions where you need to share sensitive data with your remote employees, but don’t want the data to be tampered with even by mistake, you can set “Read Only” filters to the data concerned, while granting editing permissions if and when required only.

4. Sign an Airtight NDA

Offshore remote staffing companies are not governed by the same rules and regulations as you are in the U.S. or EU. They follow the rules of the country they are based in. Ensure that you are signing airtight non-disclosure agreements which are valid legally locally in the country where your vendor is located.

In case you are worried about how to ensure this, it is business necessity followed by almost every genuine remote staffing company. These companies sign legally binding NDAs and non-compete agreements with every single employee they hire on your behalf. In case you find that this facility is absent in a particular vendor, it would be prudent to look for another one.

5. Refrain from Hiring Home-Based Freelancers

Most frauds that one hears related to offshore staffing involves unprofessional ad hoc setups where people with very little experience or malicious intent masquerade as “freelancers.” Or they would call themselves a “boutique” company.

Let me tell you right away that the word boutique doesn’t go with a multi-billion dollar industry. Experienced freelancers are off course there, and trust me they are very, very expensive. A sure way to prevent data theft is to ensure that your remote employees work under a controlled environment. That can only happen in an office; not a café, nor in someone’s garage,

6. Engage Colocation Services

If your work is too sensitive or you would rather not trust the agency’s own servers, you can hire space at a colocation center, or a carrier hotel, as they are known colloquially, in the same location as your vendor. That ways your remote staff will have access to your data without having the vendor acting as a carrier.

7. Establish Uniform Organizational Policies

While your employees may be located in different places, it is a good practice to have a uniform code of conduct for all of them and ensure that it is followed by everyone. That ways you can ensure a safer and more secure work culture amongst all your employees.

There are off course other steps that one can take. I have highlighted the ones that I feel most strongly about. Also, let’s remember that security and due diligence is a continuous process. So while trust is important for business and commerce to flourish, safeguards are important too. Ultimately, can you be too careful? Never!

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