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Outsourcing your IT – The Compliance Primer

One of the biggest complaints many SME owners have about “doing business” is the amount of red tape they are bound by. Tax law, employment law, and industry regulations all add to the administrative burden – and running costs.

But every British business is also expected to uphold the Data Protection Act 1998. This key piece of legislation demands that every organisation protect any personal data they hold, whether it belongs to clients or employees. According to Principle 7 of the Act

Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.

This is good news for anyone with personal data stored in your systems – but it also adds to the overheads of maintaining your IT systems.

As you would expect, there are some very good reasons for maintaining compliance. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has the power to levy fines of up to £500,000 for every security breach that results in personal data being exposed for instance.

They also have the option to “name and shame” organisations for failing to protect their customers, which could prove extremely costly for your business. 58% of consumers will avoid a provider that has recently experienced a data or security breach

Do you understand “appropriate”?

The issue of data security becomes even more confusing when you try to decide what “appropriate” actually means. Because the Data Protection Act doesn’t actually specify what the Information Commissioner’s Office would deem acceptable.

This apparent vagueness is intended to cope with changes in technology that will allow new, more effective safeguards to be in place. The security systems available when the act was passed in 1998 could not possible cope with modern cyberattacks for instance. Instead SMEs are expected to use their best judgement, performing an assessment of the security measures required on a case-by-case basis.

All of which makes managing compliance even more complicated.

Outsource IT management, obtain compliance assistance

The rate of technology development means that trying to stay informed is almost a full-time job. And knowing how those technologies are applied to making your operations more efficient and compliant is an expert job.

For smaller businesses it generally isn’t practical to employ a full-time IT engineer however. Although your IT issues are genuine and pressing, there probably aren’t enough to keep someone occupied all day every day. But there probably is too much for one person to solve problems and define security strategy.

Outsourcing IT can help to solve both of these problems in one. As well as having resources at your disposal to assist with resolving technical problems, you also gain access to a dedicated team of industry professionals. These experts are able to apply their knowledge and experience to ensuring your IT security provisions provide maximum compliance.

An ongoing service

Preparing your network for maximum data security compliance is not a one-off job, just as the Data Protection Act suggests. With an ongoing outsourcing agreement, your IT support partner can conduct regular reviews into your data protection provisions, and suggest improvements. They can also identify new technologies that they are aware of that will help to further improve the security of your network.

This approach is in line with the guidance supplied by the ICO regarding Principle 7 compliance;

The Act does not require you to have state-of-the-art security technology to protect the personal data you hold, but you should regularly review your security arrangements as technology advances. As we have said, there is no “one size fits all” solution to information security, and the level of security you choose should depend on the risks to your organisation.”

If you lack the skills and resources to carry out these reviews in-house, you will need a trusted third party to assist. Because failing to conduct regular reviews is not an option.

To discover if outsourcing your IT is right for you and your business, have a read of our Comprehensive Guide to Outsourced IT and read all about the pros and cons.