Security

The data in the hands of an outsourcing service may be the lifeblood of the client organization. It is, therefore, essential for the client's management to make sure that there are adequate backup copies of the operating data that the vendor possesses. This can often be accomplished by securing from the vendor current copies of the data so that operations could be continued should a disaster — like a flood, earthquake, or fire — destroy the client's data at the location of the outsourcing service. If the client relies on backup data that the vendor has arranged, such as with a firm like the Iron Mountain Depository or Comdisco, then the client must periodically audit those extra copies to verify that they are current, complete, and properly secured. However, even if the vendor does maintain an extra data security copy off-site, by keeping its own backup copy, the client is in a better position to terminate the vendor and resume its own work or use a new contractor. The backup data discussed here must include copies of the current software needed to run the other data.

The other major security concern is the exposure of proprietary information through the outsourcing vendor. Of course, the restrictions on the use of key business and technical data should be spelled out in the outsourcing contract. Whether they are or not, it behooves the client to check on the proper handling of information in the hands of the vendor, by observation, inquiry, and other means. If the contract does not spell out security requirements sufficiently, they should be discussed with and agreed to between the client and vendor, with the terms put in writing, in effect, as a supplement to the contract.

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