Paperless offices require digital storage of documents, which often means utilizing an online document storage service. These can be in the form of a real estate specific back office system, or can be a general business document storage service.
Regardless, DO NOT assume, because they are in business, it is safe to store your documents with them. Below is a series of questions you should ask and receive satisfactory answers to, before utilizing any company for this purpose. Keep in mind, though most are very professional and do have all of these items addressed, there have been some surprising answers I have come across, while asking these questions.
For example, one company I questioned indicated that they stored all of their information in PDF format. This meant that I could retrieve all of my information back should I want to leave, however, I could never search for data based on information in document and I could not re-enter the data into another real estate transaction management system easily.
Another company indicated that, though they do store the data and back it up, they did not guarantee to me that it was backed up. I was told if I wanted a guarantee, I should copy each document onto my hard drive as well. Part of their training actually included how to back up each document to your computer!
The last example of an unsatisfactory answer is when I was told I could retrieve my data, by downloading each document individually. When dealing with hundreds of 1000’s of files and documents, which would accumulate over the years, this is wholly unacceptable means of retrieving data.
Please be careful and receive acceptable answers to these questions before trusting your most precious data to any company!
Security Questions for Online Data Storage Companies
• -Who owns the data?
• -How is the data secured?
• -Is the data encrypted?
• -How often is data backed up to server?
• -How is the power supply to the server protected?
• -Is the server mirrored by another server?
• -Is the mirrored server in another city? Where are they located?
• -What format is the content when we get the data back? (SLQ, CSV, PDF? other format?) (Needs to be in a usable format once retrieved. SLQ and CSV more likely to be compatible to be imported to another program.)
• -Is there a tool that allows client enabled bulk back up to hard copies on regular basis? Or will you provide us with back up hard copies? How often?
• -How is data protected from employee access and theft? (Personal data such as we are providing is valuable to ID thieves and other crime markets.)
• -Who has access to servers?
• -Do employees sign NDC? Can we be provided with a copy of the agreement?
• -How do we retrieve our data if want to change service providers?
• -What happens to our data if company fails or enters bankruptcy?
• -Have you ever had to restore data?
• -Have you ever lost any clients data?
• -How long have you been established?
Now you are prepared. Good luck with your paperless office!