Whether you’re a one-person CPA practice or a large regional firm serving thousands of clients, you have a duty to keep your clients’ information safe. As a trusted financial advisor, your clients will expect that their personally-identifiable information will not be compromised easily when they hire you. Financial transactions inherently pose a risk of unwanted third parties trying to get sensitive information like Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and other information that shouldn’t be compromised. By using a secure file sharing system, CPA firms of all sizes can take a significant preventative step from having sensitive client data breached. Additionally, secure file sharing systems offer workflow optimization benefits that can make your practice run more smoothly.
All business, not just accountancy, is continually moving into the cloud. There’s no need to keep communications restricted to email and paper when a new file sharing system hits the market every week. When you move your practice to the cloud, clients can access their information whenever they need to. For information that you need to see, such as transactions to update the client’s books or prepare their tax returns, file sharing systems in the cloud will update in real time which prevents you and the client from having to schedule multiple appointments. This enables you to take on more valuable engagements.
The array of choices for secure file sharing systems can be dizzying, but you must choose one that has a great user experience for both you and your clients. A system that presents a security liability (such as simply emailing sensitive files to customers because you don’t have a system in place) or has a clunky and awkward user interface is not going to ensure speedy and straightforward data delivery.
CPA offices are gold mines for hackers, particularly small firms that may not have robust IT protocols or sophisticated file sharing systems. If your client data is not in the cloud, it can make your workflow more complicated, and anyone who has access to the computers and servers can quickly wipe sensitive data from those machines. In addition to losing your credibility as a practice, continual breaches can also drastically increase the cost of your liability insurance. Clients who have suffered identity theft have a tough time recovering from it and can hold you responsible for it. Not taking proper precautions against client identity theft can also result in stiff penalties from federal and state accountancy boards.
Encrypted emails alone are not enough. If you are sending sensitive files through encrypted emails, this protection often will not be adequate security-wise unless the encryption is end-to-end, such as if you and the client are both using a system like Proton Mail. Or, the client must download decryption software while the key is usually sent in an unencrypted email.
Public file sharing systems like Dropbox often provide more security than encrypted email without the hassles involved on the user’s end. But if you send huge files, neither of these solutions will be feasible in the long term. In addition to staying compliant with regulations and protecting your reputation, secure file sharing solves the problem of safe and secure exchange of information while simultaneously providing a better user experience.
When browsing file sharing services, choose one that integrates with your accounting software so that any data clients send you will update their books with ease. People make mistakes when manually transferring data from documents into accounting software while cloud solutions are meant to make this easier. Increased accuracy is just an additional benefit that a file sharing system can offer, but a free and low-cost options like DropBox do not provide this.
If you would like to provide your clients with long-term access, choose a system that will give you this option as most basic file sharing systems will terminate access after a certain timeframe. If your clients continually ask you for documents like tax returns years after they’ve been prepared, this option will save a lot of time so they can always access their information without having to ask you or your staff.
Moving CPA practices to the cloud are inevitable. Secure file sharing systems can help your practice run more efficiently all while keeping your clients’ information safe from being intercepted by identity thieves.If you invest in a more sophisticated file sharing system, you can get additional security features that will help you stay compliant with regulations and even make your workflow smoother.