CPAs all over Middle Tennessee share a collective sigh of relief when tax day has come and gone. Of course, we know it will quickly come around again. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
And when that flurry of accounting activity is happening, the last thing you want to have to deal with is an IT problem. We get it. Plus, the cost of downtime is approximately $500/hour for every ten employees, according to CPA Practice Advisor. Yikes! So before the next tax season arrives, use this time to make sure your accounting firm’s IT needs and requirements are top-notch and raring to go.
1. Secure your network as if it’s a bank vault.
While an accounting firm may not be holding physical cash, it’s holding clients’ confidential data that should be kept as secure as Fort Knox. From unique logins to complex passwords that change every 90 days, each person on staff should be trained on how to keep your network secure and clean. That includes teaching them how to keep an eye out for malware and spyware, especially if they plan to do any work remotely or from a personal device.
Have your IT specialist set up your Wi-Fi connection for guests on a separate network than the firm’s servers. In addition to a discrete Wi-Fi password, this separation of networks will keep potential hackers one step further from their target.
Once you’re feeling all secure and locked down with your network, have a third party test it to make sure that sensitive information from your clients will really stay private.
2. Now, make sure your files aren’t liabilities.
Feeling good about your network? Awesome. But don’t stop there. Make sure that your files are encrypted and password-protected too. Then, if somehow someone gets a file, he still can’t access it. Personalize each employee’s login to access the files they need.
The fewer people that have access to a file – or things like social security numbers, bank account numbers and financial statements – the less likely it is to fall into the wrong hands.
3. Then, enjoy the ROI of data security.
Long days at the office can be taxing. (See what we did there?) Sometimes you just want to work from home and the comfort of your favorite easy chair. An Accounting Web article states that 51% of accountants can’t view, edit or update client information remotely. This doesn’t have to be the case for your firm. Thanks to cloud-hosting services, like ConceptCloud File Sync, and the breadth of cloud-based accounting software, you can enjoy the luxury of working remotely.
With the cloud, your data is constantly updated and accessible. But even better, it’s fully secure, using advanced technology and privacy controls, and located in a safe, certified environment where it is constantly backed up. Having your data in the cloud also makes it easy to scale up without slowing down.
As a companion to working in the cloud, develop mobile device management (MDM) policies to outline how your team can keep data secure when working outside the office.
4. Have checks and balances for your data.
This is one case where redundancy is a good thing. Having dependable data backup procedures in place will save you from the headache of losing vital information should your network ever go down.
Since the law requires financial records to be kept for a certain period of time, which may vary by industry, use technology to make sure electronic documents aren’t accidently deleted. Microsoft Office 365 and other email systems can be configured to archive data and prevent email deletion by an end user. Additionally, cloud products, like our hybrid solution of onsite and offsite storage, can be the safest and most reliable way to store data and, as mentioned above, data in the cloud is always backed up.
5. Capitalize on easy updates.
Updating every computer in a Nashville accounting firm would be a herculean task if not for software virtualization. Visiting each workstation individually to install or update a program is time-consuming and takes the team away from their client work.
With software virtualization, the programs are installed on a single, designated server that is accessed by all other workstations through a secure connection. This gives them an easy, safe way to update their software and cuts down on install interruptions. It’s just one and done.
6. Set up a shelter.
Establish 24/7 IT support so you are ready in case a network issue does happen – even if it’s after hours. 10% of accounting firms experienced a network failure that caused “major” downtime, according to Accounting Web. No one wants to be part of that statistic, but it’s smart to plan for the possibility.
Dedicated IT support lets you get back up to speed quickly. Plus you won’t lose additional time trying to find someone in the heat of the moment.
Bonus: When IT assistance is ongoing, your system benefits from proactive maintenance and cohesive services.
So, ensure that your IT is just as comprehensive as your record-keeping. It’s important. In fact, we think that if Mr. Franklin were around today he’d say, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and the need for top-notch IT.”
Ready to get your IT systems secure, speedy and ready for next year’s flood of W2s? We can help.