Among the top security concerns of real estate agents is security in the cloud. When dealing with sensitive information, it's important that the data is kept safe. When Evernote was recently hacked
this forced over 50 million usersâ passwords to be changed. This hack joined a rising number of recent incidents that have included such large corporations as Dropbox
. For real estate agents, this hack means that strong security measures must be implemented and maintained for complete data protection.
In this analysis by Troy Hunt on the science of password selection
, a more in-depth look at how the common internet user creates a password is explored. As can be reasonably determined, longer passwords are harder to crack as it takes longer for desktop computers to process the number of possible passwords before reaching the real password. The truth is, itâs much better to have a long password that you can remember
than a shorter password that can be hacked by a powerful computer. SplashData offers these tips
for the creation of secure passwords:
- Use passwords of eight characters or more with mixed types of characters. One way to create longer, more secure passwords that are easy to remember is to use short words with spaces or other characters separating them. For example, âeat cake at 8!â or âcar_park_city?â
- Avoid using the same username/password combination for multiple websites. Especially risky is using the same password for entertainment sites that you do for online email, social networking, and financial services. Use different passwords for each new website or service you sign up for.
- Having trouble remembering all those different passwords? Try using a password manager application such as 1Password that organizes and protects passwords and can automatically log you into websites. The downside is that using a password manager isn't always possible and it isn't always practical either.
Some cloud storage providers such as Google Drive
and Dropbox offer extra security measures such as 2-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is a measure which requires the presentation of a minimum of two out of the three authentication factors:
a knowledge factor ("something the user knows"),
a possession factor ("something the user has"),
and an inherence factor ("something the user is").
Here is how it works: Once you enter your password as you normally would, a code is sent to your mobile phone or an app that you have previously approved to be used for this purpose. As soon as the code comes through, you enter it and can access the account. How does this protect your data?
If your password is accessed by hackers (keylogger, sniffer, steals your laptop, etc.), they will still be unable to access your account because they will need your mobile phone to complete the secondary authentication. Strong password creation and keeping your passwords secure help prevent any unauthorized access to your data and this is important since, as a real estate agent, a lot of your data is confidential and needs to be protected. The 2-factor authentication measure handles this in the majority of situations, keeping your data secure.
Dropbox 2-factor authentication setup instructions: https://www.dropbox.com/help/363/en
Google Drive and other Google services setup instructions: http://support.google.com/accounts/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=180744
Weak password creations and other poor security measures contribute to the majority of unauthorized accesses. Unfortunately, even with the best security measures in place, circumstances can still happen- for instance, if a hacker steals your laptop and your mobile phone, he will then be able to bypass the secondary 2-factor authentication measure. If the hacker deletes your data, this can be a huge blow to a real estate agent with multiple transactions and contracts stored in the cloud. This data doesnât have to be lost, it can be securely backed up with one of the leading cloud storage backup services such as cloudHQ
CloudHQ provides a secure backup of all of your data. The replication process is automatic and operates silently in the background, invisible to the user. It is continuous replication which means it automatically updates in real-time as changes are made to data, so you never have to worry about losing any data.
Let's use an example. You have anEvernote
account and want to use cloudHQ to protect your Evernote data. You simply create two Evernote accounts. One is your primary Evernote account and the other is your backup account. CloudHQ provides a continuous replication of all data from the primary Evernote account to the secondary Evernote account. If a hacker gains access to your primary account and deletes your data (including from Evernote trash), the backup account will still hold a complete second copy of all of your data.
Strong passwords and security measures are usually enough to keep your data safe from unauthorized access. But if it does fail, the results can be devastating. You can keep access to your data at all times by utilizing the superior backup methods of cloudHQ.
Everyone has questions and concerns when contemplating moving their business to the cloud. This especially holds true for real estate agents because a lot of the documents and files are sensitive and must be protected by the best security measures possible.
- Cost-efficient: Yes, the cloud will save money- a lot of it! No need to worry about buying, upgrading and maintaining local storage options, the cloud storage provider will take care of everything for a small monthly fee. If you need to upgrade your storage space, just upgrade your plan and voila! You will instantly be granted more space. No need to buy and install new hardware. Switching to the cloud usually saves between 30-50% on IT costs.
- Storage: By moving all of your files to the cloud, you are reducing the need for paper files. You can cut back on office space and eliminate the need for large, bulky file cabinets. No need to worry about buying and installing local servers and hard drives, the cloud is all you need.
- Collaboration: The cloud makes it easy for you to collaborate on files and documents with other realtors, clients, lawyers and any other sources you may need input from.
- Project management: The cloud has many services that make managing your transactions a breeze. Basecamp is the ultimate organizational project management tool, but there are other such as Evernote, Google Drive and Dropbox that can help your real estate brokerage make the move to the cloud.
- Mobile: The cloud allows you to work from anywhere that you have access to the internet, and even offline when you don't have internet access.
- Time management: Since agents can perform all of their work in the field without constant trips back and forth from the office, this means a lot more time can be concentrated towards more important work- like showing houses and selling them. Wasted time can potentially slow your sales down, but working in the cloud can make much more efficient use of your time.
- Document management: With a variety of cloud tools such as Evernote, Google Drive and Docusign, documents can be accessed, created, edited, shared and legally signed from virtually anywhere.
- Flexibility: The cloud has many services and tools available that can help a real estate agent in the workplace. The best part- most of these services and apps have full integration with many of the most popular tools and services.
- Security: Cloud security has always been a strong subject of concern, but it doesn't have to be. By implementing strong security measures such as very strong passwords and two-factor authentication, the cloud can be more secure than any local storage you have in the office.
- Backup: Manual backup of all your files and data is a pain but if you don't do it you risk the possibility of data loss which can be critical when dealing with sensitive documents and files. Storing files in the office or on local hard drives is not the best solution as they are still susceptible to fire, floods or other disasters. When you move to the cloud your data stays on the cloud so no fire or flood will harm your data. However, it is still important to have a good backup plan in case your account gets hacked or you accidentally delete important files or data. There are many cloud solutions to handle this and you should pick one of the top cloud backup providers such as cloudHQ. The cloudHQ service runs in the background, transparent to you, providing continuous replication of all changes- if you add a file or make changes to a file, this is replicated to the backup immediately. A solid, secure backup plan is critical when dealing with documents of such a sensitive nature as real estate documents and files.
Going paperless holds many benefits for real estate agents on the go. Paperwork, files and important documents take up a lot of time, it's much better when they can be accessed, created, edited and shared from virtually anywhere. The move to the cloud is full of benefits and is very cost-effective but mistakes can be made.
Here are the top 5 mistakes to avoid when going paperless
: Stay organized no matter what cloud service you are using. Dropbox
has great file/folder organization much the same as Windows folder and file system. Evernote
has incredible organization for documents and small files and the best search features. Basecamp
is the best project management tool available. Google Drive
has a complete set of tools and services to meet any of your organizational needs.
: Different cloud services have different options for setting permissions. Be sure to set permissions and monitor which users and apps can access your documents and files.
3. Poor security
: Make sure you create strong passwords, guard your passwords securely and enable any additional security features that your cloud service provider allows such as two-step authentication.
4. Improper training
: Don't allow untrained employees to access your files stored in the cloud. If the files get accidentally deleted, misplaced or corrupted, this can have serious consequences for your brokerage.
5. Backup plan
: A secure backup plan is the best service you can get when going paperless. A prominent cloud data backup service such as cloudHQ
will keep your data safe by backing it up to a separate cloud storage account. This way, in case data loss were to occur (from accidental or malicious deletion, server corruption, or even if a server just goes offline for awhile) you will still have access to your data exactly as it was before the loss occurred. This can be a huge lifesaver in the real estate business as most documents are sensitive and extremely important.
Basecamp is one of the best all-around project management tools available on the web. This is quite possible the best tool to manage real estate transactions as it allows you to be in control of all aspects of the project. You can create projects and assign tasks to other users while keeping track of their actions within the project.
As an example, let's sell the Bower's house. You create a project and call it something like "My Listings." There is a To-Do list for each project so you can name it something like "Bower Home." Then you simply create To-Dos and assign them to certain users if necessary. Some examples would be scheduling inspectors, home repair companies, open house dates, photos, document signing and more. If you have a coworker or an assistant that's helping you, they can sign in and check the To-Do list, If they have been assigned tasks, they can complete the task and check it off.
Messages are saved under each project as well. You can make a subsection in messages and call it "Bower Messages." This will create an organized database of all communications related to the Bower transaction and this message section can be accessed by you and your team members.
Basecamp has a useful document editing feature called Writeboard. Listings, ads and other documents can be posted, accessed and edited by you or anyone else who has access to the project. Writeboard allows you to view the original version alongside the revised version for easy comparison.
There are plenty of tools available to make work easier for real estate agents but Basecamp is definitely towards the very top of that list. The useful features that Basecamp offers are unmatched for project management and this is especially true for real estate transactions and projects.