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How Do Your Clients Want You to Handle Their Data?

By Alyssa Gregory

Whether the client data you deal with is limited to FTP access and passwords, or if you manage financial data and other sensitive and confidential information, having a standard (and secure) system for maintaining and backing up this information is vital.  And many times, the clients’ preferences dictate how this is handled.

There are many ways you can manage client data. This post takes a look at two of the umbrella methods for managing client data – offline and online – and some of the pros and cons of each.

For the purpose of our discussion, let’s assume the data we’re referring to is a combination of links, login information, access details, other passwords and miscellaneous notes. Assume that this information can change and needs to be shared with others.

Offline Data Management

Some people prefer to have all data maintained locally and shared on an as-needed basis. This may mean that there is a master spreadsheet, or maybe even a hand-written document, that is updated as necessary but is the sole and primary version.

While this may seem like an outdated method in many respects, it can be an attractive option for those concerned about the safety of online systems or those who prefer to keep everything in-house and on-hand. You can limit what data is shared, control who has access (at least in some capacity) and ensure the document itself remains accessible.

The obvious and biggest challenge with this method of data management is sharing. Some of the questions that come to mind include:

  • Is the master file parsed out in bits and pieces?
  • Is the entire file emailed back and forth?
  • How big is the master file?
  • What happens when there is an update?
  • Who is in charge of maintaining integrity of the document?

Online Data Management

Online data management involves having a central system or systems where data is maintained, updated and shared. This can be accomplished through a project management system, or even a password management utility.

This is a very effective way to manage and share data with multiple people in multiple locations. Everyone simply logs on to the collaboration site and gets the updated info that they need, when they need it.

The challenge with online data management is two-fold: assuring the data remains accessible and keeping it safe. Questions to consider include:

  • What are the security measures in place on the storage site(s)?
  • What happens if the site goes down?
  • Who controls access to the data?
  • Who manages updates to the data?

What Do You Say?

In general, I tend to think it’s easier to have information accessible online in a secure collaborative environment so everyone who needs to access it can do so. I’ve also found that having only one copy of the information is the best way to handle version control and ensure that everyone is working from the same information.

What do you prefer? And how do you handle it when a client has a preferred method that is vastly different from your own?

  • Karan Desai

    If you have a website you can download a client software (file storage software) for your server and make is simple for you and client to upload and download with a secure parameter. I do that.

  • D

    Yes, how about dropbox? Minneapolis design studio

  • Marco Pivetta

    Big projects NEED to be accessible from anywhere with logging.
    So use SVN or a private GIT repo.
    This makes work less tedious and helps improving control over workflow and bugs.
    @ocramius

  • Chris

    Being a back-end developer, I am much more familiar with Source Control Management (SCM), usually used to maintain up-to-date source code in a team of developers. Git (I use a github.com account) offers a great way of ensuring plain text files (not sure about spreadsheets, could well work) are updated and transferred securely over a secure connection, and is accessible from anywhere. The chances of it not being available online (github going down) are kept to a minimum and so long as the machines allowed access to the repository are kept secure, creates a pretty good starting point for secure data storage. Most clients are happy that this is secure enough, once explained to them.

    As another pointer – I also keep electronic copies of invoices, contracts etc. and their entire version history in the same ‘admin’ repository, for easy, secure access anywhere too.

  • Arran North

    I’m a freelance designer – and have the credentials to most of my clients e-commerce accounts, hosting and other admin areas.

    For managing credentials – I use 1Password, combined with the smart folders feature. I have it teamed up with my iPod touch, which is on me all the time – and it syncs great. Access to all of the credentials I need, whenever I need them.

    http://www.arrannorth.co.uk

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