Why are IT and Cybersecurity Measures Important for Accounting Firms?
A key part of an accounting firm’s primary function is to receive and share highly confidential information from clients. This kind of information could include bank information, tax returns, legal documents, and other personal details clients would not wish to be public knowledge. Clients trust their accounting firm with the transfer of such confidential information, and a strong, secure IT support system is exceptionally important in building this initial trust.
By making use of an external IT support team, accounting firms can direct all their internal resources towards their clients. By extension, when an accounting firm builds trust in an external IT support team, clients can build trust in the accounting firm.
Similar to the transfer of highly confidential data, it is also important for accounting firms to demonstrate their commitment to safe and secure storage of client data. Whether an audit is ongoing or completed, clients must be satisfied that their accounting firm is safely storing any and all data related to the audit. The trust between an accounting firm and its clients continues even after an audit has been completed.
Reputation & Accountability
Accounting firms have a reputation to uphold, and a strong IT presence is essential to maintaining that reputation. If an accounting firm experiences a breach – no matter the size – due to a lack of investment in IT solutions, the firm’s reputation suffers. Potential clients will walk away and turn to the competition. The presence of a strong IT support system – or lack thereof – can make all the difference for an accounting firm. If a firm demonstrates their commitment to IT, then a client can begin to trust them. As the world shifts from the physical to the digital, an accounting firm’s reputation hangs on their ability to embrace this change.
Accounting firms are also held accountable by their clients and by the government. If an accounting firm’s system is breached and client information is stolen, then the firm is held accountable by the government and must answer for their mistake. A commitment to IT security from the get-go can eliminate the pressures put on an accounting firm by the relevant government sanctions.
It’s no secret the world has gone almost entirely mobile. It is almost an expectation that the smartphones we carry with us everywhere will have the same processing power and abilities as our technology at home or in the workplace. Accounting firms must embrace this new, mobile world in order to remain competitive.
By working with their external IT support system, accounting firms can ensure their mobile communication is just as secure as their desktop communication. It is safe to say that once an accounting firm can securely send and receive client documents while on the go, then their productivity increases. Work can be done on their smartphone while on the way to a client meeting, and clients can trust that their accountant is always within reach. As methods for mobile communication become increasingly present, clients have a certain expectation for the speed at which their accounting firm communicates with them. Faster, secure communication is key for law firms to stand out amongst the crowd.
How an accounting firm embraces the use of smartphones in their day-to-day client relations speaks volumes for their adaptability and reception to change – which can mean all the difference when it comes to signing on new clients.
Data Storage Systems
Digital storage – more specifically, storage in the digital cloud – is another key way in which accounting firms can remain competitive. Nearly gone are the days of boxes upon boxes of client information that require storage. Maximize your time, money, and ability to help clients by moving to a cloud-based data storage system.
Cloud storage is becoming more secure each and every day with advances in IT support systems. Storing client information in the cloud also reduce the time it takes to uncover pieces of data crucial to an audit. With just a few clicks, accounting firms can search and uncover the correct file. With physical paper storage systems, it could take hours or even days to find that file. The time spent searching through boxes of paper could be better spent elsewhere.
To further cement the firm’s place in the digital world, another cloud-based measure an accounting firm can take is to digitize all documentation. Cloud-based tools such as Evernote can efficiently convert paper documents into digital ones. Accounting firms can work to reduce the need for physical storage and move their firm into the digital world with document digitization.
Cloud-based tools for sharing documents, calendars, and task lists can enhance an accounting firm’s productivity. These tools help get every employee on the same page and make the transfer of data fast and secure. The quicker tasks are accomplished across the firm, the better the firm can serve its clients.
How Can Accounting Firms Implement IT and Cybersecurity Measures?
Email, laptop hard drive and mobile encryption is an important way an accounting firm can implement IT and cybersecurity measures in their day-to-day business. As more digital documents are transferred, it becomes increasingly more important for that transfer to remain safe and secure. With mobile communication on the rise, that security must also transfer over into the mobile world. Accounting firms who invest in data encryption across email, laptop and smartphones can safely guarantee the security of their clients’ sensitive information, whether the information comes through at work or on the go.
The installation and maintenance of firewalls help accounting firms protect their data against viruses and various forms of malware (malicious software). So long as the firewalls are kept up-to-date, then accounting firms can be satisfied their IT support system is working in their favour. Letting firewall updates lapse can leave the firm’s data open for a breach or for malicious software to be installed. Firewalls are an easy, low maintenance way to ensure cybersecurity.
Accounting firms deal with copious amounts of data on an hourly basis. As the digital world progresses, it has becoming increasingly more important to back up the data stored on hard drives and in the cloud. Technology is not without its flaws, and there is still the chance for failure. It is key for accounting firms to consistently and securely have their IT support system back up all of the firm’s data. If a catastrophe were to strike, then the firm can be satisfied that a copy of the firm’s data can safely be retrieved.
It no longer makes sense to have one password across all accounts. If a hacker learns one password, the hacker can access everything. It is also helpful to schedule password changes across the whole firm, whether it be monthly, every few months, or annually. Do not keep a digital or paper record of passwords. Ensure that passwords are different across all accounts – including the codes that protect personal and work mobile phones. This area of cybersecurity is a simple but meaningful way to implement security in your workplace and at home.
It is not enough to simply leave cybersecurity up to the IT support system. Every employee at the accounting firm should learn the basics of cybersecurity and how the system works. It is critical to conduct regular staff training and follow-ups as changes occur to the IT and cybersecurity measures implemented by the accounting firm. Staff education is the first step to a strong IT support system.