Vendor relationships are crucial for small businesses who lack the resources to produce everything in-house. By working with the right vendors, you can maintain a competitive presence in your industry even as a small company. While vendors offer a wealth of benefits, they also come with some serious risks. Make sure you’re smart about your vendor relationships and always keep the proper provisions in place to protect sensitive data from outside sources.
Limit Access to Company Software
The right software solutions will streamline business activities with your vendors. Working with the same systems makes it easier to coordinate orders, deliveries, and payments. However, you don’t want to give outside vendors unlimited access to these platforms, particularly where sensitive company data is involved.
Protect your information by setting up vendors as managed users. Choose a platform that will allow you to monitor the activity of these users and access their accounts within your system. As an admin, you should be able to specify which applications are accessible to your managed users, limit their available storage, and terminate user accounts as needed. This will give vendors limited access so they can get to the data they need and nothing more.
Draft Non-Disclosure Agreements
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If you share sensitive business information with your vendors, have them sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) as part of the on-boarding process. This crucial document will prevent vendors from sharing your trade secrets to others in the industry. The NDA should include:
- A clear definition of what information is confidential and what is excluded from the NDA
- How long the confidential status will last
- The types of permissible disclosures, such as those requested by a court order
Standardize your NDA so you have the proper documentation ready for all vendors associated with your business. With minor adjustments, you can then have all your necessary legal documentation at the ready when you’re bringing a new vendor into your company.
Include Security Provisions in Your Contract
Your business may have all the best security systems in place to protect your data, but is your vendor held to the same standards? Hackers who are after your data will always look for the weakest link in the supply chain. In many cases, this is the vendor who has access to sensitive information but lacks the appropriate security measures.
Include security provisions in your vendor contract that specify how outside companies will protect your data. Specify all the necessary safeguards including prompt patches and upgrades to security software when available. Outline all the data that must be protected by these safeguards. Include essential rights in your contract that give you permission to perform security audits and request security questionnaires at regular intervals. Never assume that your vendor has adequate security in place. Make sure this is required in every contract.
Smart vendor management strategies will ensure that your information stays safe, even when outside sources have access to the data. Implement the right policies and procedures early on to make sure your vendor relationships are properly protected.