Online board portals are an increasingly popular way for firms to host their board papers and related documents. In recent years, their use has really taken off, with directors ever more likely to store and access their board packs online.Partly this growth is in response to the prevalence of iPad use. The intuitive nature of iPads and their ubiquity outside the office has given boards of directors increased confidence in their ability to manage board matters online. They are easy to use on the move, making it far easier to deal with business matters while travelling.
This increased willingness of directors to operate online, coupled with the obvious benefits of portals, has seen growing numbers of firms exploring online solutions for their board papers.
The advantages of a portal-based approach are numerous, from increased security to better compliance with corporate governance requirements. Firms can also enjoy cost savings and more efficient utilisation of staff time by going down the portal route.
One of the questions often asked by firms considering a portal is whether they should self-host it on their own servers, or whether it’s best to choose a portal which is hosted elsewhere.
Firms can assume that hosting in-house will save them money. Sometimes they feel more comfortable from a security perspective with a solution that they are fully responsible for. But there are many issues that firms can fail to take into account when deciding between a hosted and self-hosted solution. You need to think about things like:
- What happens when there are upgrades to the system – new functionality being added, for example? Will this become the responsibility of your IT team? Do they have the specialist capability (and the capacity) to take on this work?
- How will the system be supported? Will users have 24/7 support in case of – for example – password resets or access issues? Would this also need to be provided by your IT team?
- How often are your own systems security checked? Are they tested regularly by independent security experts to ensure they are water-tight? How will you deal with new security threats?
- Can the solution you’ve chosen operate as fully on a self-hosted basis as it can when hosted elsewhere? Board portals are often optimised for external hosting, with self-hosted options not able to offer the full range of functionality.
- Does self-hosting give your board members real-time offline access that mirrors the online experience? With mobile access one of the key advantages of board portals, ensuring that the offline experience gives board members what they need is vital.
- How does self-hosting fit with your regulatory compliance obligations and your disaster recovery plan? Does your in-house system enable you to recover your data in the event that it is lost? Does the security of your solution meet your compliance responsibilities?
There are many benefits of external hosting over self-hosting, and firms are urged to make sure they consider all the implications of the available approaches before committing. With many firms already storing and accessing operational and organisational data on externally-hosted systems, doing the same for your board papers seems a common-sense next step.
If you want to know more about portals, you can download our free guide, Board portals – their implications and advantages, which has lots of frequently-asked questions about an online approach. You can download a copy here.