There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to choosing a technology vendor — data integrity, availability, efficiency, you name it. So, for childcare providers and agencies, where should the focus lie? As shifts in government policy bring a wave of new funding and potential subsidies to the childcare industry, new growth opportunities are emerging. And as the programs and operations grow within providers, more security risks come along with it.
In 2022 alone, over 400 million people were affected by a data breach at some point in the year, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. A data breach, hack, or other lapse in security isn't just a problem for childcare agencies; it also puts sensitive information and data at risk, which could have disastrous consequences for everyone involved. So, as these organizations – many of whom have long depended on paper records and spreadsheets – embark on digital transformation journeys to help manage the uptick in business, the ability to accurately assess the security of vendors will be more important than ever.
IT security is something that hasn’t always been a top priority among childcare organizations. So, let’s explore a few ways leadership can adjust their thinking and address security effectively.
Choose Vendors With Security in Mind
Whenever a childcare provider is looking to engage with a new technology vendor or service provider, the first question to ask is, what kind of security features does the vendor bring to the table? Bringing in any technology vendor presents new risks, especially when entrusting sensitive data to be used or stored in a third-party setting. Equally important to understand is the vendor’s security posture. What does the vendor's security infrastructure entail and has the company fallen victim to any breaches or successful attacks? It’s crucial to build an understanding of exactly what every vendor is capable of and just how important security is in its operations.
Another key consideration when it comes to choosing a vendor should be about where, and how, they store data. Childcare agencies handle vast amounts of highly sensitive information. Shifting regulations and compliance requirements can make things even more complex. If working with a vendor involves moving data to locations outside of the U.S., there are not just compliance issues but also new security vulnerabilities that enter the mix. As the workloads of childcare providers increase, those complexities continue to compound.
Anytime the volume of work builds and stress on teams and systems grows, the potential for human error and malicious actors rises along with it. Fraudulent activity going unchecked can drain resources, hamper progress, and take valuable time away from managing a delicate subsidy process. By maintaining a security-first approach to engaging with vendors, childcare providers can tap into the right tools to better control internal data, detect and stop fraud, and reduce waste throughout the entire organization, ensuring budgets are used to their fullest potential.
Know Where Risk Exists
So far, we’ve covered a lot of what childcare providers should be looking at when assessing technology vendors. But the assessment shouldn’t just be outward-looking. Any organization that wants to transform needs to look inward and know exactly what risks are lurking within existing systems. In the case of childcare agencies, many don’t have the time, staff, or bandwidth to fully devote to improving security. For others, there’s simply a lack of awareness that permeates every level of the organization, meaning that leadership may not understand where risk exists in the first place.
Folding in the latest technology and tools as part of a transformation effort is an important step, but it is far from the sole answer to improving security. To effectively address the risks that exist in an organization, childcare providers need to take a closer look at how they are using their data. Where does information like attendance records, student details, or even a family’s billing go? Are there areas where that data may be left unprotected? Ultimately, getting the most out of any technology provided by a third party will require childcare agencies to reorient their thinking toward security, building a level of confidence and knowledge for solving emerging challenges.
Creating Trust Every Step of the Journey
Data is one of the most valuable resources for any business, including those in the childcare space. Entrusting that information with an outside party is a serious process, filled with opportunities and risks—particularly as providers wade into a world filled with all kinds of vendors to choose from. By prioritizing security in both the assessment of those vendors and internally, childcare providers can act decisively, and confidently when bringing in new technologies.
About the Author
Jorge Robledo is senior vice president of operations at KinderSystems, a childcare management software provider based in Escondido, Calif.