It’s no secret that, in what many have dubbed the “gig economy,” the number of freelancers and the types of work they offer have grown in recent years. According to Forbes, a third of today’s workforce identifies as a “subcontractor”. Millennials make up 40% of this workforce, and 92% of millennials, in general, desire to work in a freelance capacity.
For many small and mid-sized businesses, this has been a welcome development. Freelancers and subcontractors provide flexibility for businesses, allowing them to avoid the expense of full-time employees for part-time needs, as well as the flexibility to hire seasonally, when demand is high.
Still, the use of freelancers and subcontractors without strategically considering how they will mesh with your current employees, processes, and information systems can pose serious risks for your company—especially when it comes to cyber security. A revolving cast of subcontractors, combined with a lack of appropriate safeguards on your network and data systems, is a recipe for disaster.
The good news, though, is that with the right approach to technology, your company can enjoy the benefits of the gig economy—while still protecting your data.
All About Access: Securing Your Data When Working with Freelancers and Subcontractors
In most cases, working with a freelancer or a subcontractor means giving them some level of access to your company’s data—from marketing collateral to your accounting software. It’s crucial then, that companies provide access only to the data that a given subcontractor needs to do their work—and no more. Most modern line of business applications and business-grade file sharing tools allow granular permissions settings for user accounts, and these should certainly be utilized with subcontractors.
Furthermore, it’s crucial to consider how subcontractors and freelancers will access, create, and store data. For example, we’ve recently written about the importance of caution when using cloud storage solutions such as Google Drive and Dropbox. As freelancers come and go, it’s important to have the capability to grant and remove access as needed, in order to ensure your data is safe. So, it’s best practice for your business to avoid the use of free Dropbox or Google Drive accounts—and to require that freelancers don’t use these to store their work for you—as they don’t include business-class security measures and administrative controls. With a business-class file sync and sharing solution, you can grant and remove access to key data, all while providing freelance workers with an efficient way to collaborate with your internal team.
Consider Compliance Implications
Aside from access concerns, your business may also have to adhere to industry-specific regulatory requirements around giving freelancers or subcontractors access to data. For example, HIPAA requires healthcare organizations to get a signed Business Associates Agreement (BAA) for any subcontractor who may have access to electronic protected health information (EPHI). For example, an accountant hired on a freelance contract would need to sign a BAA if she would have access to confidential names, addresses, and billing information of patients. It’s important, then, to be aware of any regulations on your industry, and to work with IT professionals to help you comply with them.
Work with Technology Experts to Develop a Data Security Plan for Freelancers and Subcontractors
For all the reasons listed above, it’s essential for company leadership to work with technology experts to come up with policies and a strategy around giving the right access to the right freelancers or subcontractors. Access to your data isn’t one-size-fits-all, so your outsourced IT provider or internal technology team should be asking questions about what data your freelancers or subcontractors truly need access to when brought onboard.
If you’re looking for a partner to help you navigate using technology to get the most for your business out of the gig economy, Affinity Technology Partners is ready to help your company maintain flexibility and productivity without sacrificing cyber security. Our vCIOs (virtual CIOs) are equipped to have in-depth conversations with each client about how to best implement security policies around non-traditional workers. If you’re ready to tap into the gig economy and utilize freelancers to strengthen your business, contact us today to talk about how a comprehensive, security-focused IT strategy can help you accomplish your goals.