How Hiring A Database VA Can Improve Productivity And Reduce Operating Costs
Today’s business world is very different from even 25 years ago.
Practically all business processes these days are in some way influenced by or directly performed with digital technology.
Whether that is the way you communicate with clients and vendors, or how you set up advertising campaigns.
You will probably struggle to find aspects of your organisation that don’t in some way rely on technology.
For many business owners this has been a steep learning curve, but modern technology has enabled even small companies to make more reliable and effective business decisions. And at the core of this is data.
The more data you collect about your processes and industry as a whole, the more you can analyse and quantify into actionable information. And the more information you have the better your decision making process will be.
On this page we will look at exactly what is involved in storing data and what kind of responsibilities you have.
We’ll also look at how you can effectively and efficiently outsource your database management with some very significant operational benefits.
If you want to find out how to outsource this admin work as quickly as possible then contact Outsource Workers today.
We’ll provide you with the advice and service you need, making it a more hands off experience.
Where To Store Data
For the more technically mind it this might seem like an obvious topic, but it’s still worth pointing out that there are numerous options.
The good news is that even a dedicated database with custom setup is not something that only large corporations with dedicated IT teams can implement.
Here are the main choices you have.
Love them or hate them, but spreadsheets are still a very easy and powerful tool to use for organisations of any size.
You don’t need to be a database expert to start creating different sheets with various tables. And all the tables can be easily modified and adjusted with little more skills than clicking and typing.
There are many intermediate and advanced features that allow you to analyse data and display it in graphical ways.
The advantage is that it’s a very cost effective way to start collecting and storing data.
And most of your staff are likely going to be used the most commonly used features.
While spreadsheets work great to store and collect smaller amounts of data, they can quickly become a bit of a bottleneck.
Managing access to spreadsheets is not that easy. And if you need to provide limited access to certain data, then you’re looking at decentralising it all into multiple documents.
Once you get to a stage where you’re collecting lots of internal and external business process data, then you will likely need to look at some database system.
There are very affordable and licence free options available, but you will need some technical skills to get them set up to your specifications.
Smaller databases can also be stored locally on a computer in your office, which can help to keep costs down. But as you’ll learn further down, there are risks involved with such a setup.
The alternative is…
Remote Server Based Storage
In most cases, having your database stored on a PC in your office isn’t a major problem.
But you could end up with reliability issues with access and speed, especially if it’s not a dedicated PC or server.
If you just have a small database and you’re starting out with collecting data, then it’s a perfectly OK option.
For larger databases and especially more sophisticated analysis it can quickly become very slow on a locally installed computer.
The good news is that remote server installations are not expensive and if you have a web-hosting provider then it may already be included in your service package.
Another option is cloud data storage and we have a dedicated section coming up.
Benefits Of Cloud Storage
Cloud storage and support systems are a hot topic in the IT industry.
Chances are that in some way or another you’ve encountered Cloud systems without even knowing.
Services like DropBox and iCloud are available for free and are perfect examples of cloud storage.
Essentially, they are services that allow you to save files to, where the servers that actually store them are this virtual facility.
You essentially cannot say for sure where the data is stored, nor should you care.
Here are a few reasons why it’s such a great option for smaller businesses.
Very Affordable Option
Unless you have huge data storage needs, you will be able to find very cheap and even free services.
The important thing is to stick to a reputable provider that has a track record of highly secure connections.
Because you aren’t renting a server or even part of one specific server, costs can be kept down. But from an access point of view it will be as easy and straightforward as connecting to a local computer in your office.
Easy To Expand
One of the truly great advantages if cloud services is that as your requirements change and grow, your service provider can quickly adapt and expand your individual allocation.
You might need to pay extra for large storage space and fast access, but this is a good complaint to have.
Basically, you don’t have to worry about upgrading server hardware to keep your processes running smoothly.
Excellent Security Options
Companies like Google, HP, Amazon and IBM are household names and provide some of the largest and most secure cloud services.
Encrypted access is standard and specialised connections can also be accommodated.
Some people might argue that the larger providers are more susceptible to attacks because they are so large. But at the same time, these businesses have the largest budgets to deal with security.
Easy Access From Anywhere
The whole idea of cloud storage is that it’s not a dedicated single location that you have to get access to.
Your data is stored in a large pool of servers and you have one universal access point.
This means that you can easily access the data you need from anywhere with an Internet connection.
In summary, you don’t sacrifice security for ease of access.
Securely Storing Data
When it comes to data, you have to be very careful how and where you store it.
You can compare it keeping written notes about clients in a filing cabinet. If there are personal details in there then you want to make sure it’s safely stored.
In this section we’ll take a look at some simple tips to help you store all data more securely.
Prevent Easy Onsite Access
We regularly hear about major new stories of large corporations like insurance companies and banks being hacked and personal financial data being stolen.
These are most often remote attacks where the attackers can be located half way around the world.
However, one very common form of attack involves direct access through your own computers.
Often referred to as social hacking this can involve people connecting to your local WiFi or someone walking up to an unattended computer.
The best way to protect against this is to not allow public access to your local network and always make sure that computer screens are password locked when unattended.
Enforce Strong Password Policies
Another very common reason that systems get hacked is because people choose passwords that are too obvious.
Anything from spouse to children’s names are or often used as is and it doesn’t take too much detective work to find these things out.
A good policy is to have passwords that combine upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and special symbols.
You should also look at implementing a system whereby the password has to be regularly changed.
Essentially, you want to have passwords that cannot be guessed and are regularly changing. This makes you far less likely to become a victim of hackers.
Implement Security And Malware Systems
Prevention and monitoring are two of the most important aspects of keeping any sensitive or personal data secure.
To prevent breaches you have to ensure access to remote data is only possible through encrypted channels.
Encryption protocols like SSL and very common on all modern data systems and you should take full advantage of them.
But systems can also be forced open through viruses and other malware.
Keeping all your computers and servers scanned for any malicious software and attacks is vital to any business these days.
The good news is that there are many monitoring options available that can be easily implemented.
Unless you are fully trained ins setting up, maintaining and securing database you will need the help of someone with the IT experience.
At Outsource Workers we can help you find a very cost effective way by using a virtual assistant for this work.
Just contact us today and find out exactly how we can help you get set up.
Data Security Laws On Personal Information
In the digital age of today, privacy and data security have never been more important.
We’re constantly providing sensitive information about our personal lives, health and finances to other companies. And a certain trust is placed that this information does not get misused or accessed by unauthorised people.
To help protect private information and personal data, there has been a Privacy Act in place in Australia since 1988.
Obviously things have changed a lot since then, but the general idea has stayed the same.
The Privacy Act
The privacy act defines what kind of information about an individual is protected.
Whenever a specific person is identified with any kind of information about them, then the Privacy Act applies. It gives individuals certain rights like being informed about who is using the information and in what way.
Individuals also have the right to know how their personal information is being stored and how it is being protected.
Requests can also be made to get access to all the information being stored. And if necessary, complaints can be made to the Information Commissioner.
But what does this mean for you as a business?
If you store any data that can identify a person, then you have the responsibility to keep that information safe.
At a minimum this will likely include things like names and phone numbers, but more on some examples in the next section.
You are entirely responsible for the safe storage of any personal information and you have to be aware that any of your clients could ask you about what information you store.
Most importantly though, you have to follow certain actions should you ever encounter a data breach.
Such breaches can be serious and we will go into what you need to do in such events below.
Examples Of Sensitive Data
As part of your data collection strategy you could be storing industry data from many different sources.
That type of data is not of concern when it comes to privacy laws as long as it doesn’t identify people individually.
But as soon as you record someone’s name and any other personal data you have to make sure that you do your best to keep it protected.
More likely than not you’re regularly collecting information like names, addresses and phone numbers. But you might also be storing client’s financial transitions including cheque payments, bids and credit card details.
If this type of information got into the wrong hands then it can cause significant financial damage and a lot of distress.
Who Should Have Access To Data
Any data you collect should be secured in some way.
You don’t want hackers or other malicious attackers to alter your data that you use to make business decisions.
Even if this is non sensitive data, any problems with it can result in bad decisions being made.
When it comes to personal info that falls under the Privacy Act discussed above, then you need to approach things a little differently.
First of all, you need to figure out how confidential the information is.
It’s entirely possible that all your staff need to access names and phone numbers and therefore you would want to give them access to such information. But once you get into more sensitive information you have to be more careful.
Not everyone in your organisation needs to be able to see past financial transactions. Or information about payment details like credit cards.
This should be reserved to as few people as possible.
Essentially, the more damage that can be done with the data, the more restricted the access should be.
Approach From A Need To Know Perspective
The best way to approach all your stored data restrictions is from the need-to-know basis.
For each employee you need to decide whether their work is reliant on having access to certain information.
This is not something you should look at light hearted.
Look at this in detail and only if you can identify specific business processes should you make the data available.
By taking this approach you will quickly come up with certain roles that have specific access, making it easier to apply the same to multiple members of your team.
Avoid Public Access
Allowing access to your data for anyone and everyone is always a bad idea. Such open doors can quickly be exploited, and you certainly don’t want people to intentionally or accidentally alter data that is used to drive business processes.
Even non-sensitive information should be stored securely with password access.
If all your staff have the access privileges, this still keeps it restricted from access outside your company.
Dealing With Data Breaches
The unfortunate reality is that data breaches happen on a regular basis and they even affect some of the largest companies with huge security budgets and teams.
The important thing to understand is that you have certain obligations if you fall victim to such an event.
In this section, we will give you the high-level details so you know where to start.
Secure The Data
The very first thing you need to do is change all passwords and completely restrict access to ideally just a few administrators.
This will ensure that the breach is contained and that other malicious attacks don’t occur. You can even go as far as completely stopping access to the database for a while.
Once a breach has occurred news can quickly spread in hacker circles, and what started as one breach can become an even bigger issue.
Notify Police And Government Agencies
If the unauthorised access is on data that can seriously do harm to an individual you have to notify specific authorities.
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is the first place to contact.
There are online submission forms for doing this and it should be done as soon as possible.
You will also want to notify the police as hacking personal information is a criminal offense.
Both the OAIC and law enforcement will be able to provide advice on the matter as well.
Contact Your Lawyer
Data breaches can be very serious, especially if you are recording credit card and other financial information about clients.
Dealing with them in the best possible way will require legal advice to ensure that you’re as protected as possible.
A lawyer should also be consulted in order to draft a statement to contact those people affected by the breach.
Inform The Affected People
You will have to contact all the affected people whose personal information has been accessed.
However, such a contact letter should be reviewed with a lawyer, as there are potential liability concerns.
Even if it’s just information like name address and telephone numbers, this can be used for attempting identity theft.
Individuals and organisations have the right to understand this in order to take actions to avoid such fraud.
Backing Up And Archiving Data
No matter how secure and advanced your database systems are, you will have to put systems in place to back up and archive on a regular basis.
Over time, you will be investing effort and money into gathering all this data. You certainly don’t want a simple hardware failure or onsite disaster to erase it all, never to be seen again.
While most database systems have the ability to automatically back up data, it’s important to understand the differences between backups and archives.
Why Backups Are Important
Computers can fail and they do so all the time.
Given the amount of data in use today, it’s a very slim chance. However, it’s a risk you want to avoid.
When you back up your data on a regular basis, then you have the ability to load a copy of it, should your main database fail for whatever reason.
The good thing is that back systems can be completely automated, so you don’t have to worry about manually triggering the copy.
A good practice is to have backups run at least on a weekly basis. But if you are making lots of changes every day, then a nightly backup is the safest option.
How Is Archiving Different
Archives are not directly used to retrieve data in the event of a failure.
Their main task is to retain a copy of your data as of a specific point in time, with the aim of using it for future reference.
Sometimes the archiving will involve removing it from the active data set.
Archiving is also performed a lot less often and is an approach to retain information in the long term.
It’s not mainly used for short term access and disaster recoveries.
Onsite Vs Offsite Storage
This applies both in the virtual and physical sense.
If you have a locally running database in your office, then you want to make sure that you have backups (a) on another computer/server and (b) in another location.
The same is the case for remote servers.
You don’t want to have your backups stored on the same server or in the same location.
If a disaster event were to occur then both the active and backup set of data can end up being lost.
The safest approach to take is to have your backups far away from the original active set.
Why You Should Outsource All Database Maintenance
For some businesses, the amount of data they collect and store is large enough to require full time staff.
Maybe even a team of dedicate IT people. To do this would require quite a large investment and your operating costs involved with an in-house IT team are very large.
For smaller businesses such an expense is just not possible, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options when it comes to data collection and storage.
Outsourcing database setup and maintenance is a perfectly viable option, and here are the main reasons why you should be doing it.
Highly Technical Task
Unless you or one of your staff has expertise in database management, you won’t want to take this on yourself.
It takes a lot of time and effort to become proficient at such a technical task. And because it’s not Dollar productive work, you should certainly not be taking this on yourself.
What could take you moths or even years to learn and get right, will take an experienced virtual assistant a matter of days. And you will make sure that it’s set up correctly from the start without creating security or technical risks.
Security Monitoring Takes Time
Keeping an eye on database security and staying up to speed with updates and malware protection is a time consuming effort.
Once your database is set up, there is still a lot to be done to monitor it and ensure that it performs at an optimum level.
Again, this requires certain expertise that the majority of small or medium size enterprises simply don’t have in-house.
Having a dedicated VA to perform regular health check on your databases is the ideal solution
Skilled IT staff in Australia are not cheap.
Years of training and education comes at a cost, and the more experience they have the more they are going to charge.
However, you can get database administration services by very similarly skilled and trained people by outsourcing to the Philippines.
You will find extensive information about the education and training of Filipinos on our home page.
Essentially, their second and third level education is highly advanced and competitive and when it comes to IT skills there is no shortage.
If this is an option you want to pursue then don’t skip over the next section.
How To Hire A Database VA
On our homepage you will find the entire hiring process you can follow to find, interview and hire your own VA.
That process only needs some slight modifications, which we will highlight here.
Technical Database Skills
During your interview process you will want to focus on asking about their database skills.
This has to go beyond the basics of running a simple query and needs to focus on their understanding of designing and setting up the systems.
You also want to focus on challenging questions regarding the integration with different analysis tools.
Just setting up the database so you can collect data will only provide part of the solution.
Without the ability to display the data in the form of actionable information you won’t gain much insights.
Understanding Of Security Protocols
Keeping your data secure is very important and we have identified the different responsibilities you have above.
One of the important ongoing tasks your DB assistant will have to perform is monitoring of access and malicious attacks, as well as providing all the security updates available.
Experience With Different Databases
You also want to test your applicants for experience with different types of database vendors.
There are many options out there from simple Microsoft Access or MySQL to highly specialised Oracle or IBM systems.
Having someone with experience in different options will enable you to make the best choice for your needs.
And if the need arises in the future then you have the expertise at hand to move to different systems.
The alternative to doing this yourself and possibly taking 4 to 6 weeks to get setup is to work directly with our team at Outsource Workers.
We can take care of the entire hiring and initial training process and you can be ready with a dedicated database VA in less than 2 weeks.
Just pick up the phone to contact one of our advisers today.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does It Take To Hire A DB Virtual Assistant?
If you go through the process outlined on our homepage and above then you can will most likely be set up and ready to go in 4 to 6 weeks’ time.
It’s not the easiest task and you may need to go through it a few times to get the right person.
Alternatively, you can let Outsource Workers take care of the whole process and be ready to go in less than 2 weeks.
We have the experience and expertise to speed this process up for you.
Will The VA Have The Necessary Skills?
Third level education is of very high quality and Filipinos are extremely computer literate.
Skilled IT staff with experience and enthusiasm are readily available.
Their database skills are fully up to speed with the latest technologies so you won’t have to be concerned about quality and reliability of the service.
Will There Be Language Barriers?
Filipinos widely speak English in everyday life It is the second official language and is extensively taught in schools.
Socially, the Philippines is also very similar to Western countries, so you shouldn’t expect any social barriers that might become difficult to deal with.
Are There Security Risks Involved?
When you allow new people access to sensitive data then there is always a level of risk.
The same would be the case if you hired someone locally in Australia.
The way you can deal with this is by using non-disclosure agreements (NDA) and even working on gradually allowing access to personal information.
That way you can slowly build up trust and ensure that data security is not put at risk.
How Many Hours Will I Need To Hire Someone For?
In the initial stages of setting up a database the amount of work can be significant.
The ongoing maintenance stage is entirely dependent on how many people have access for data entry purposes and how large your database is.
The best thing you can do is talk to one of our advisers who will be able to help you work out the time needed.
Just pick up the phone for free advice on getting a dedicated database VA.