By Trent Cotney

More business is being transacted online than ever before. In our personal lives, we’ve become accustomed to using the internet for banking and shopping and for connecting with friends and families through social media.  This comfort with internet usage is carrying over to our professional lives with businesses shifting more of their operations to cloud-based solutions.

Within the last few years, we have seen this shift within the roofing industry. Building owners and facility managers who are responsible for the roofing needs of a portfolio of buildings across large geographic areas are benefitting from online portals. These portals are offered by roofing contractors to make it easy to access building data, review work history, submit work orders and even make payments for services performed.

Online portals for roof management offer convenience, 24/7 access and keep records organized and in one place. However, the more data that we put online, the more attention needs to be paid to cybersecurity and protecting that data from attack or theft.

When looking for a contractor that can meet the needs of national corporations, cyber-security should be part of the discussion. Data should be accessed through encrypted, secure websites that meet the standards such as those used by the financial industry to protect sensitive transactions and data exchanges.

Be sure to ask not only about the security behind accessing the system but also the security of the data. Hacking is just one risk with online data storage but there are others that need to be addressed as well. Where the data is hosted and if redundancies are in place for server failure or downtime are important features to take into consideration. The contractor should have a plan in place for business continuity and data recovery.

If a company has facility managers throughout the country who will need to access the portal, the ability to set varying levels of user permission becomes very important.  Some users may need the permission to submit work orders and approve estimates whereas other users may just need view-only access in order to track the progress of work being performed. Limiting what data users can access is a key feature that can help protect data and keep it secure. Activity logs are also an important feature for web-based portals to have as it provides insight into who is logging in and what changes and requests are being made by that particular user.

Responsibility for security doesn’t just rest with the contractor who is offering the portal. The building owner needs to also be active in protecting the data by committing to taking measures that enhance security such as using strong passwords and two-factor authentication.

The contractor should have a policy in place that clearly states what is happening with your data, how it is protected and how your privacy will be protected. It should also address liability if data is lost or compromised and provide a plan for how those issues will be resolved.

Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Trent Cotney is Florida Bar Certified in Construction Law, a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), General Counsel and a director of the Florida Roofing Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors Association (FRSA), General Counsel and member of the Governance Committee of the National Women in Roofing (NWIR), the Treasurer of the West Coast Roofing Contractors Association (WCRCA), and affiliated with almost a dozen other roofing associations. For more information, contact the author at 866-303- 5868 or visit www.RoofingLawyer.com.