|Five Security Questions to Ask When Outsourcing Accounting Services
You want your accounting and bookkeeping done right, but getting an in-house accountant or even a part-time bookkeeper may not be in the cards for your business. Maybe you don't have the budget for a full-time, in-house CPA or perhaps you don't have the wherewithal to manage a bookkeeper. Whatever the case, outsourced accounting services have begun to sound like the ideal solution; however, you're sending a great deal of sensitive financial information to a third party--so maybe you're also meeting this impending opportunity with a great deal of trepidation.
Will your data be safe? Where will it be? How can you really know for sure?
To protect yourself and allay your fears, it's important to know what questions to ask an outside provider to ensure that your data is safe, whether you're sending the files electronically, dropping off your paperwork at a local accountant, or utilizing a cloud-based accounting service.
1. What physical security do you use at your place of business?
Before you focus on the security of your electronic data, make sure the servers and other places where financial records are stored are appropriately secured. Ask about what type of access employees have to the records area or databases, whether the server room is secured, and whether security measures are in place to screen employees who are entering the records area.
For 100% virtual companies or even simply companies with work-from-home or remote employees, ask what measures are in place to monitor the location and dissemination of data. Make sure virtual employees are logged into secured servers that don't allow for transfers of information to local computers or local printing. You certainly want to make sure your financial data isn't sitting on someone's dining room table tonight.
2. What encryption methods do you use on your site and login portals?
A common encryption method uses an SSL certification for 128-bit or 256-bit encryption for sending files to the website. This type of encryption is typically designated with a lock icon and "https" appended to the beginning of the website address. Encryption prevents the information from being retrieved in plain text by any hackers sniffing packets, preventing them from deciphering the information sent to the accounting firm.
If your outsourced bookkeeping services provides client access to data via file room or cloud storage, make sure to find out what security features are in place to protect access by third parties. You'll also want to limit access to yourself or key members of your company. Protect your login credentials as you would your financial data.
3. What happens to the files after you've finished with them?
Once the outsourced accounting service finishes with your bookkeeping, taxes, or other accounting tasks, find out what it does with older files. Does it store the files for a specific period of time, destroy them after giving you copies, or keep them on hand?
Make sure to know, in writing, what also happens to your files if you choose to end your relationship with your bookkeeping service. Will they download them to a CD or make them available through an FTP? Your financial data is the property of your company--but don't wait until there is a problem to get that in writing.
4. What network security is in place?
Ensure that the outsourced accounting service uses a secured network for its place of business. Otherwise, an opportunistic hacker could connect to the network and attempt to access network servers, computers, and other devices to gain access to your financial data.
Ask who their hosting provider is and make sure they've done their due diligence by selecting a credible and knowledgeable service provider to handle their data protection.
5. What are your policies in the event of a data breach?
If a data breach occurs - whether the physical files are stolen or the servers are compromised - find out exactly what policies the company has in place to mitigate the damage, compensate the affected companies, and recover the data. Find out what the alert process is--when will you be told and how will emergency measures be enacted. First and foremost, ensure that whichever company you choose has an emergency action plan in place before an emergency occurs.
Choosing to use an outsourced accounting services or bookkeeping services provider can be intimidating if you aren't familiar with technology and data security. Make sure whomever you choose acts like your trusted partner and is willing and able to answer your concerns at every step.
If you're considering using an outsourced accounting service for your bookkeeping, Off-Site Business Services can help you weigh your options and needs. Let us know how we can be of help!
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