Virtually Anything

Archive for September, 2007

Confidentiality and the Virtual Assistant

Posted by collinsadmin on September 24, 2007

Confidentiality is of huge importance to the small business owner in this ever changing technological society.  Every day, secrets are exposed, online and off, through carelessness or harmful intent. Confidentiality and trust have become major issues in outsourcing work of almost any kind.

I repeatedly hear the questions, “How do I know you won’t sell the information I give you to somebody else?”, and “How do I know you will be careful about protecting my information from exploitation?”  These are valid questions, which should be asked of ANY assistant, whether they are in your office, or outside your office.

Virtual assistants are small business owners who have worked hard to get their business off the ground.  They have spent hours and hours researching their industry, creating a website, creating logos, and marketing just like you have. It could take months maybe even years before their business is thriving, and they have invested heavily to get that result. It isn’t just a job to them. It is their passion, their life, and their livelihood. No thinking business owner will risk their hard work over an issue as important to the client as confidentiality. If an in-house assistant is careless about confidentiality, they may receive a reprimand or lose their job. If a VA is careless, they lose much more, because they are much more dependent upon their reputation to secure additional work – there are no laws which say you cannot tell someone EXACTLY why you fired them.

Information must be protected from accidental loss, as well as from carelessness and outside threats. A computer virus is costly to both the client, and the virtual assistant, but the virtual assistant has the most to lose. They lose time, may have to spend money for repairs, and they lose credibility, and if important data is lost, they must make restitution to the client. Anti-virus, anti-malware, and anti-spyware software are essential components on the computer of any virtual assistant. A firewall, encryption software (for encrypting emails on request), and security passwords are also basic elements that a virtual assistant installs and uses.

Print information is just as vulnerable as the technological information. The simple precaution of shredding and then burning all sensitive documents when the project is completed ensures that the information is destroyed in a way that cannot be reconstructed. Sensitive documents can be protected during the project, by storing them in a locked cabinet. The key is kept with the VA.

If you have confidentiality concerns about hiring a VA, here are some questions you can ask them:

  • 1. How do you secure confidential information on your computer?
  • 2. How do you secure confidential printed documents?
  • 3. What do you do with confidential documents at the conclusion of an assignment?
  • 4. What is your policy in regard to sharing information between clients?
  • 5. What do you consider to be confidential information?

The answers to these five questions will give you valuable information in regard to selecting a diligent and careful assistant, so you can begin to build a long term relationship with a professional who will aid you in growing your business.


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What Does Your Online Presence Say About You?

Posted by collinsadmin on September 12, 2007

Recently I saw a post on a forum that I belong to asking what would come up on the internet if you googled your name or your business name. I then realized that with the power of technology, you could either make or break your business. In fact, last month I was looking at my website stats and I saw that there were people visiting my site from another site and I wondered what site it was because I had never heard of it before so I clicked on the link. To my horror, it turns out the site was written in what appeared to be Turkish and I don’t read nor do I speak Turkish or any other language other than English. But what concerned me the most was that the only words that I could decipher were not nice words.  It turns out the site was some kind of over 18 site.

So I panicked and I went into a forum asking for somebody who spoke Turkish or whatever language it was to look at the site and see why my site was being referenced in it. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find anywhere on the site where I was being referenced.  I have not had any visits from that site since but it just goes to show you that if you put a presence on the web you have no control over who links to it.

Now I’m not knocking the web because as I have stated previously, if it wasn’t for the internet I wouldn’t have my business right now. But this also brings me to another subject about an internet presence, online forums.

I do belong to some online forums, although I don’t participate as much as I probably should, but I do keep up with reading the posts. On one particular SNS site that I belong to there has been a ton of bickering and fighting and name calling etc. A lot of the forums on that particular site do get indexed via google and if it was me that was involved in the spats, I would be appalled to see it anywhere on the internet.

There are a few people on this site (and others I’m sure) that are very argumentative. Anything you post, they will find fault with it and are not ashamed to post their thoughts and then a full-fledged “flame war” has erupted.  I have lost a lot of respect for some of them who have become part of these “flame wars”.  Some people that I admired and looked up to have just completely lost all respect I once had for them.

So what does this have to do with business? Everything, if the moderator of those groups would not have deleted those messages they would have been placed on the internet for all the world to see. What would you have thought if you were looking for a particular business or a particular name and you googled them and you saw the name calling, the nastiness etc on the internet.  Would you want to do business with them? I wouldn’t.

The thing about the internet is it allows people the security of being anonymous.  It gives people the courage to say things they normally wouldn’t say in the “real world.” But remember, if you slip up one time and are nasty to the wrong person, your name could be tarnished forever on the internet. Or you could spend $10,000 for somebody to go on and put good things about you on the internet to save your reputation.

 Which sounds better biting your tongue or spending $10,000 dollars to fix it? Remember, what you say today could come back to haunt you tomorrow.

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