Many small- to medium-size companies (and even some large ones) tend to follow the allure of using lots of online services in order to provide their online functionalities. This is a GREAT way to save money (sometimes), and it can sometimes make it possible to do very complex things with only a few clicks of the mouse. However, there are a number of potential pitfalls and even some serious security risks for your company when you use these services.
Types of online services
Exactly what are we talking about when we reference 'online services'? It involves ANY processing or storing of data by an entity other than your own. That could be things like eCommerce/shopping carts, mapping/location services, email newsletter systems, to even just storing files in 'the cloud' (i.e. Google Drive, One Drive, etc.).
With each of these services that you use, you take on challenges and even legal risks just by opening an account with the service.
Here are a few of the potential challenges/risks that you may already be facing.
1. Data Security / Privacy
If you are using any service that you don't completely control, there is always the possibility that either data that your systems share with that service or ways that that service interacts with your own systems (like your web site) could lead to a data breach ... or worse, they might be actively sharing or selling your data to other organizations. There are reports of data breaches almost every week from major systems, and there are likely more data problems happening with smaller providers even more frequently that we never hear about.
Additionally, in many locations, some in the US and many outside the US, you are now legally required to disclose ANY third-party system that you use in your online (and offline) systems that have access to client data. Failure to properly disclose that information can result in legal problems that can be very costly.
When you use a 3rd party system for any of our business workflow you are trusting that they will provide that service without any down-time. The reality is that every online system has SOME down-time. The risk is if that down time will happen exactly when you need the system to function. An eCommerce system that is maintained in a part of the world that is opposite your location on the globe may plan maintenance down time when it is overnight for them, but may be the middle of the shopping day for your clients, causing loss of income and client frustration.
Additionally, integrating 3rd party systems into your existing web site or other systems is dependent upon those systems being compatible with each other. As one system gets upgraded, it may result in the other system no longer working properly.
3. Limited functionality
When you go looking for any 3rd party service provider you should have a list of needs and desires for your own workflow. However, it is very rare that an existing 3rd party solution will provide EVERY feature that you want, in just the way that you want it - at least not without some modification. You may be willing to live within their idea of how the process should work, and some systems even allow you to customize their processes - to some extent. However, in many cases you will not have all the functionalities that you want, the way you want them. Additionally, the developers of the 3rd party system may decide to discontinue features that you depend upon, sometimes with no alternatives.
Two potential solutions
Using custom solutions
The best way to avoid all of the issues with 3rd party systems is just to build the system that YOU need directly into your web site and online systems. This allows YOU to determine how things work AND it ensures that data privacy is as secure as possible (if done correctly). Of course, you do take on some of the responsibility that the 3rd party provided, but you have the ultimate control in all these areas. And you can make changes to the systems and processes when you need to based on your business needs.
Manage the challenges
The other way avoid getting 'caught' by some of the challenges is to have a team that works with the various 3rd party systems and your own systems and can watch these issues and prevent any problems. By knowing the systems, and watching their trajectory over time, a good management team can plan contingencies and alternatives before any of the challenges become a problem.
How we can help
Paschen Communications provides both the Custom Solutions to handle business rules and processes that just can't be met by existing 3rd party services, but we also work with existing 3rd party services to incorporate them into online solutions. We can also develop 'micro' custom solutions that extend the 3rd party systems to provide functions not directly provided by the 3rd party.
To find out how we can help you with your need for added functionality and processing, either via 3rd party systems or with custom programming, use the Contact Us link above and let us know your needs.