Nothing undercuts a client’s confidence in their commercial real estate broker’s competence quite like the sight of that would-be representative fumbling through a pile of papers, looking for that one fact or figure that would seal a CRE deal. As the minutes creep by, the awkward shuffling begins to seem laughable and unprofessional: a clear sign that the broker wasn’t quite as prepared as they really should have been. By the end of the meeting, the disillusioned client has broken the deal and ditched the brokerage, leaving the real estate professional to collect their now-useless pile of papers.
Commercial real estate is an industry built on sensitive data. Clients rely on their representatives to not only have a grasp on all of it, but also to access particulars on-demand and keep any sensitive information safe from potentially malicious interlopers. As one writer for the Forbes Real Estate Council puts it in an article on the subject: “CRE investment firms are in the business of collecting, storing and selectively sharing valuable and time-sensitive information […] Whether it be in related to acquisitions, development projects, financing deals, leasing, asset management or property management, CRE firms need quick and easy access to their information.”
That access, however, isn’t always easy to maintain. Increased accessibility often comes at the cost of security – and compromised security, as we all know, can leverage a painful financial and reputational cost on clients and brokerages alike. According to a 2016 Cybersecurity Market Report published by Cybersecurity Ventures, companies will likely spend in excess of a trillion dollars globally on information security between 2017 and 2021. That said, these measures can only protect against outside threats. Companies with traditionally-stored data still risk losing sensitive client information to misplaced record boxes, outmoded hard drives, and mistakenly-deleted files. Thus, brokers are reduced to downloading or printing the files they think they’ll need before they leave the office, and hope that they won’t be subject to a situation like the one at the top of this piece – fumbling to provide information they don’t have access to beyond the bounds of their secure office network, and hoping that the data they need is safely tucked away at the office.
Those days of strategically sacrificing access for security might just be in the past. With the rise of secure and centralized cloud platforms, brokerages can rest assured that client data is both readily accessible and safe from outside intrusion. Once established, two-step authentication ensures that the only people who can reach a client’s data are those authorized to do so – and the flexibility of the cloud allows them that access beyond the bounds of a brokerage’s office.
Now, this isn’t to say that shifting over to the cloud allows companies to relax when it comes to cybersecurity. Third-party intrusions can come from unexpected vectors; they might piggyback on a compromised vendor, or hijack a usually reliable business associate’s credentials and authority. Companies need to complement their cloud-based security measures with comprehensive training in cybersecurity best practices, install effective firewalls and intrusion detection software, regularly schedule penetration testing, and make certain that their in-house IT team is equipped to respond in the event of a breach. If a brokerage can execute these measures, the cloud will provide them with the security and access the company needs to effectively safeguard and utilize their client data, in and beyond the office.