It’s a bird, it’s a plane … it’s HR in the cloud! If you want to be a small business superhero, using cloud-based HR software can supercharge your efficiency. But, in an ever-changing “tech” world filled with security concerns, you need to make sure your data is protected.

Superheroes must wear the right armor to fend off foes, and Web-based HR software is no exception. It takes multiple layers of sophisticated security measures to fight cyber dangers and keep your information secure.

What, exactly, are those cloud security measures? Rather than slog through lots of painstaking research, check out this overview of important security features. It might not get your pulse racing, but it will give you a better handle on what matters with online HR software. Armed with this information, you’ll be well on your way to selecting a fast, powerful and safe HR software solution.

Data privacy and security is about assuring consumers that the trust they place in a consumer product brand is warranted.
— DeLoitte University Press

Is the Cloud Safe?

Before we dive into online security, let DeLoitte University Press define what it means when we say data is stored in “the cloud.” It’s a buzzword that is often misunderstood. First, it doesn’t mean your information is floating out in the air somewhere. It just means the data you enter and manage on a website (the cloud-based HR Software) is stored on a server that allows you to access it quickly and easily from any Internet-based device — anywhere, any time. That’s the cloud. But what’s important to understand is that your information is stored somewhere — and you want that somewhere to be safe!

A Strong Password Makes a Strong Gateway

An ironclad password is one of the first lines of defense with information privacy. Often times, passwords are too simple, making it easy for hackers to tap into accounts and steal personal information. A weak password is like an unlocked door — easy to open with very little effort. The key to avoiding problems is making sure passwords are complex, unpredictable and impossible to guess.

One way to test a software program’s security is to create a mock account with a very simple password and see if the program accepts it. A program that doesn’t prompt you to create a more sophisticated password may be too simplistic to trust. Strong passwords typically require eight characters containing at least one number, one letter and one special character such as “!”,“@”, “#”, or “%.”

According to security solutions provider SplashData, the most commonly used password in 2016 was 123456. If this is your password, change it immediately. The more common the password, the more likely your account could get hacked.

Is the Backup System Secure?

Cloud storage is only as good as the backup system used to maintain it. When choosing a provider that will store your information on a server, make sure the business offers multiple backups at multiple geographic locations. That way if one storage system fails, the data is safe somewhere else. Basically, the goal of data backup is to ensure you aren’t putting all your eggs in one basket.

You can also create your own backup system with a data export feature, something a good software provider should offer for added peace of mind. This allows you to export your data and store it as you wish. One additional consideration: What happens if the company that’s storing your information goes out of business? Find out the procedure for retrieving your data in case a company closes its doors.

Choose a provider that has been in business a long time and has a favorable BBB rating. You can check ratings at Better Business Bureau.

Why Data Encryption Is Critical to Cyber Security

Secure data storage is one thing; keeping it safe while it’s traveling from your computer to the server is quite another. This brings us to data encryption, a process that alters your information to a codified jumble of letters and numbers.

With encryption, online text can only be viewed in its original form if it’s “unlocked” with a special cyber code. That way, it’s unreadable by anyone who comes across it and doesn’t have the unscrambling code.

Your data is then converted back to a readable format when you access it for your own use.

Protect Employee Data in the Cloud with Secure Systems

When it comes to reliability, the individual online service is as important as the overall system providing it. Web apps must be carefully designed to eliminate potential vulnerabilities upfront, and then regularly audited and tested for ongoing security. Also, a reliable operating system will be kept up-to-date with the latest security patches and periodically “hardened” to remove any risks in functionality.

Although vital with any Web app, these safeguards are especially important when dealing with sensitive employee information. HR compliance is paramount for employers, and the stakes are that much higher if data is compromised.

Here are four ways to determine if you’re dealing with a trusted site:
  1. HTTPS: The S signifies the website is using Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, a communications protocol for protected Internet transactions. If there’s no S, don’t enter any private information.
  2. Badge Verification: You should see a “secured and verified” icon somewhere on the site. Even better: A page with a certificate and verification information appears when you click on the icon. You can also look for a site lock trust seal, which displays the name of the website verified, and the date of the last scan and the company’s information.
  3. Lock Icon: You can check if a website is secure by clicking on this icon, usually located to the left of the URL. A pop-up should display, showing web permissions and security certificate information.
  4. Website Privacy Policy: Such a policy includes information on how your data is collected, how it’s used and the security measures in place. Be wary of any site that doesn’t highlight its privacy policy.

Do You Know Who Has Access?

Access is everything and when you’re talking about business data security, less is more. The more users with access to sensitive information, the higher the risk. To safeguard customer information, companies must control and keep track of who can handle company data. And appropriate measures must be taken if those individuals leave the business.

Additional considerations:
  • Is data protected with technology controls that limit access?
  • Is information classified into such categories as restricted, confidential, and public?
  • Is password control adequate?
More breaches are caused by simple password intrusion than any other method and it can be a nightmare convincing customers to take even the most basic self-protections.
— Source: Digital Guardian

What You Need to Know About Retention

When using Web-based applications, you need to be aware of how much data can be stored and for how long. Find out how many years’ worth of data is stored, and make sure you understand the procedure for getting it back. Also, is it being stored in compliance with federal or state recordkeeping requirements?

Check the provider’s retention policy for specifics. Key elements of a data retention policy include:
  • Which data will be archived?
  • How long will data be kept?
  • Is data organized so it can be searched and accessed later?

Picking the Perfect Partner

Choosing an online partner to support your business and HR responsibilities is a big decision. It’s in your best interest to do some digging and double-checking. You want to be certain the provider uses the latest, most sophisticated security measures to protect your business information.

Beyond checking for specific details on the site, it’s smart to ask:
  • Do you provide phone and email support?
  • What are your terms of service?
  • How many years have you been in business?
  • What is your Better Business Bureau rating?

By carefully researching your options and asking a customer service rep the right questions, you can better determine if a cloud-based software provider deserves your business and can safely protect your confidential information.

Key Cloud Safety Takeaways:
  • When information is in the cloud, it can be accessed from any Internet-based computer, tablet or smartphone.
  • A strong password is one of the best measures to protect confidential information.
  • Choose a Web software provider that has a secure backup system, uses data encryption and has firewalls in place.
  • Other important questions to ask a potential provider include:
        — “How long do you retain data?”
        — “How many years have you been in business?”
        — “What types of customer support do you offer?”

Go Forth and Conquer All Your Employee Management Challenges

For forward-thinking small businesses, online HR software is new and exciting territory. Cloud-based software brings speed and efficiency to formerly cumbersome and time-consuming processes. It also offers a superior level of cloud security when you’re working with a responsible, reputable provider.

Still not certain if online HR software is in your future? Check out this HR Software Quiz for help making up your mind.

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