While outsourcing can give peace of mind and convenience to busy accounting firms, it’s understandable that they might also experience some concerns over data security, as anyone responsible would when working with a third party, particularly in the financial sector. Sadly, and somewhat worryingly, breaches of data continue to take place at an alarming rate, with small and medium sized businesses falling victim, too.
So, if you’re concerned about sharing either your own, or your clients financial information with a third party accounting and bookkeeping provider, here are a couple of strategies to try andbetter protect your data:
Carry out audits of your own internal security controls
How can you expect your outsourcing partner to prioritize security if you don’t?Carry out regular, routine checks of the way in which you generate, collect and store data, to ensure a leak from inadequate controls can never happen. Whether there are poor controls over employee access to sensitive or confidential information, or access is being granted to records by business partners or vendors that simply don’t need it in terms of maintaining their relationship with your business.
Remember that no company is too small to be targeted by fraudsters and hackers, and if you hold any personal information such as bank account numbers, passwords and social security numbers in your accounting files – whether related to your own staff, executives, or your clients – you could fall victim to a security breach.
Wherever possible, only collect, share and store information in your records that is essential to your business, and be sure only to work with reputable and experienced outsourcing partners. They should have their own gateways for monitoring databases, and firewalls installed to help make systems less vulnerable to exploitation, but double checking is always worth it. you can read more about this in the strategy outlined below.
Research your outsourced partners’ security practices
Just because an outsourced accounting provider has never been the victim of a security breach, doesn’t mean that it’s 100% safe. Find out exactly what data security measures they are following, and ask for written proof of everyhtig related to their physical security, management of data, and practices for disposing of records.
Below is a more detailed description of how exactly to go about checking the data protection measures of an outsourced accounting and bookkeeping partner:
- Security measures for physical or remote access facilities
All points of access to data must be secured, and measures should include the placing of restrictions on access to remote setups, management of data entry and exit points, access should be restricted with the help of user-level permissions. While printed data might not be an issue for modern outsourcing firms who typically operate in the cloud, such systems and remote access to it, must be prioritized in terms of security.
- Employee security
Outsourced agencies must be able to demonstrate the methods by which they screen and recruit employees, especially if any of them are likely to be accessing your company’s files. Extensive background screening checks should take place for each and every employee, and to remain compliant with all regulations and requirements, such checks should be reviewed on a regular basis. And, as and when technologies and strategies related to data security are updated, all employees should receive adequate training on the same.
- Computer networks and systems
Every data server must be situated in a facility that is ultra-secure, and which has proper systems in place for monitoring activity. Every computer and every critical process must be put through a number of user authentication layers, and every external portal for storage, such as DVD, USB, and CD drives, must be disable to stop client’s data from being downloaded without authorization. Lastly, but by no means least, the agency must have a sufficient plan in place for the recovery of data should an unexpected interruption take place.
Outsourcing your accounting and bookkeeping requirements is typically totally safe, provided you work with a firm who prioritize data safety, who are willing to share their security measures with you, and who take all of your concerns regarding data security seriously.