Data security means keeping data protected from corruption, unauthorized access, and deliberate or accidental loss. This includes both data on paper and in electronic form.
Childcare providers keep many pieces of information which are confidential such as bank details, medical records, and national insurance numbers. You are therefore obligated to have some means of securing the personal data that they have access to.
Here’s how to build data security into the way you run your setting:
1. Back up your data often
If your management software is provided by a cloud system (this is where an external company hosts your software over a network and you access it via the internet) then they will regularly back up your data and you don’t have to worry. If you don’t access this service, you can back up your data manually by following a step by step guide.
2. Get wise with firewalls
A firewall is a piece of software that checks information coming from the internet and then either blocks it or allows it to be accessed by your computer. A firewall prevents unauthorised people from gaining access to your files by hacking into your network or through the internet.
As well as a firewall, you will also need up-to-date antivirus software, which detects and removes computer viruses. If you are not sure what level of security would be appropriate for your setting, consult an industry expert.
3. Password protect documents
Many applications, such as Microsoft Word, will allow you to set a password to prevent unauthorised access to a document. Go to Tools> Options > Security tab. You will need to select the option to require a password to open the file. This will stop unintended persons accidentally opening your document if they come across it, however it will not necessarily stop an online hacker gaining access to your data.
4. Make sure no one takes data home
Personal data files should never leave the premises of your childcare setting, and should certainly not be taken home by staff members (including the nursery management team), even if they are intending to complete an activity in line with their work.
5. Operate a “need to know” basis
By this, we mean you should only allow each staff member to access data from the areas of the business that are relevant to what they do. For example, you may want to allow your nursery practitioners to have access to children’s data records but keep other details relating to staff members accessible by the nursery manager alone.
Using software like Abacus, you can hide data from certain members of staff whilst allowing access to this data for others.
6. Have a “clear desk” policy
Many businesses operate a “clear desk” policy. Applied to a childcare setting, this means that your staff members do not leave pieces of paper lying around with a child or parent’s data on it. It also means that at the end of the day your office staff have cleared away printed emails, invoices, and put any files relating to personal data in a locked cabinet.
7. Password lock computers
You can lock computers when someone is not using them by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Delete and then choosing the option “Lock this computer.” This will prompt the person to enter a password when they return. To find out how to set a password on a computer for the first time, read this guide.
8. Destroy confidential information
The only secure way to ensure that personal data is kept confidential when you dispose of it, is to shred it. Alternatively, if you do not have a shredding machine at your setting or feel as though you may have too many documents to feasibly do this; you can get in contact with a company like Phs who will destroy the paperwork for you.
What our expert says:
"Many people worry about the security risks of data held on a computer more than the information they have around them every day on paper, this is often not the case. Holding your data electronically and using modern software solutions is often the simplest way of ensuring your data is fully secure."
Head of IT at Parenta