The Top 5 IT Concerns For CPAs & What You Can Do To Overcome Them
When you rely on IT as much as accounting firms do (especially during your busiest time of year, tax season), any sort of technology issue can have a negative impact on the productivity of your entire firm. It’s important to understand the obstacles that CPAs and accountants face when it comes to using technology. We’ll discuss the top 5 IT concerns that many accounting practices face and the answers to overcoming them.
Concern #1: Cybersecurity
Everyone knows how vital cybersecurity is. They say that knowing is half the battle, but it doesn’t amount to much if you don’t follow through on the other half, right?
Maybe you’ve tried your hand at implementing effective cybersecurity measures at your accounting firm, and it didn’t go so well. On the other hand, perhaps you’ve never bothered, but have always been a little stressed by the likely possibility that sooner or later a security breach will occur.
You can’t afford to ignore cybersecurity. Data breaches are increasing exponentially. Cyber mafias have set up in cities like Vancouver, operating from legitimate-looking offices. Hackers are no longer kids in their parents’ basements working on a few computers. Cybercrime is an international and sophisticated business with cartels operating around the world.
Is Your Compliance At Risk?… If your IT isn’t totally secure, you won’t be compliant with standards set by CPA provincial and regional accounting bodies.
Criminals have many ways to steal your data.
- Internet Exploits: Your employees use connected devices to interact with, track, monitor, and simplify just about every area of their work and personal lives. However, these technologies also provide access to sensitive, confidential information, and present a wide variety of new security issues for attackers to exploit.
- Third-Party Attacks: Cybercriminals have learned that contractors and other third-party providers aren’t as secure as large vendors. Lower security provides a pathway into otherwise-secure networks. Examine who can connect to your network and access confidential information, even if you believe appropriate security measures are in place.
- Social Media Attacks: Social media presents two main security headaches:
- A website you visit or service you use can be infected with malware that spreads until your network is ripe for a data breach. Malicious social media content is expected to grow 400 percent as attackers continue to distribute their malware and steal client data.
- A determined hacker or team can scrape social media sites to assemble a surprising amount of confidential data very quickly. This data can be used to social engineer an attack.
- Social Engineering Attacks: Human nature is easily the weakest link in any security chain. Was that really a utility company employee you held the door for this morning? Are your office painters propping open a secure door to make their task easier? Did your receptionist just give all of your and her passwords to someone who called claiming to be from tech support on another floor? Will your colleague’s curiosity cause him to insert the USB key he “found” in the parking lot into his computer?
- Mobile Malware Threats: Security experts have been warning us about mobile malware threats for a long time, and people have grown immune to these warnings. Mobile device use is increasing, as is the sophistication of attacks. At the risk of being the boy who cried, “Wolf,” every year, a major mobile malware attack is now more likely to occur. Attackers typically select the greatest number of potential victims. So, they will target mobile devices, specifically Android and jailbroken iOS devices.
- Sophisticated DDoS Attacks: Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks don’t directly steal your information. Instead, they overwhelm your site or service with so much traffic that it prevents legitimate users from connecting. These attacks have evolved beyond simple flooding of traffic. They probe and then morph, based on the defences in place on your network. Such advanced and sophisticated attacks can seriously impair your accounting firm’s operations.
You must deal with IT security in a proactive manner. This means working with an IT services company that will outfit you with a comprehensive range of cybersecurity solutions such as:
- Managed antivirus, managed anti-spam, and patch management to ensure you have up-to-date software to protect against malware, hacking and other digital threats.
- Active monitoring of your IT endpoints around-the-clock to detect and resolve issues immediately before they result in costly disruption or downtime.
- Risk Assessments to identify and eliminate gaps in your security.
- Cloud Security to ensure your data is as secure as it is accessible via user-friendly cloud solutions.
Your data is valuable, and your accounting firm is a target. You need the expertise of an IT service company that stays up to date on the latest threats. It’s imperative that you protect client information.
Concern #2: Downtime
We’ve grown accustomed to dealing with a little downtime here and there every day. Maybe it’s a faulty desktop machine that needs to be rebooted every hour on the hour. Perhaps it’s a chronically slow server that only responds to a request thirty seconds later.
While it may not seem like that much time here and there, the truth is that it adds up. A few seconds each day can soon add up to full days of lost productivity. That’s just for one person; what if your entire firm’s staff is dealing with downtime every day?
Downtime comes in many forms. It could be the time an accountant is waiting while their computer restarts for the umpteenth time that day. Or it could be the pause while legacy bookkeeping software attempts to open up one of the dozens of spreadsheets that your firm needs access quickly.
While the causes may vary, the effect is simple; wasted seconds and minutes quickly add up to hours over the course of the tax season. In the end, that’s countless billable hours, or in even worse cases, days that accountants are sitting around, getting more and more frustrated waiting for their tech to keep up with how quickly they’re trying to work.
That’s why the first step is to get the right IT support. Day-to-day computer issues often don’t get noticed right away. Managed IT Providers run monitoring and reporting tools that identify these hidden defects around the clock. They will report their findings when a potential problem gets discovered. This way, the problem gets fixed before it causes costly downtime and frustration for your employees.
And if you haven’t moved your firm’s IT environment into the Cloud yet, you’re missing out on major benefits that others in your industry are already taking advantage of, such as:
- Easy and simple access to QuickBooks and other industry-standard applications from anywhere that you and your staff need to do work.
- Automated and reliable off-site backup capability that ensures your firm can return to work with minimal downtime in the event of data loss at your office.
Concern #3: Software Solutions
Let me tell you a simple truth; there is technology that’s been designed specifically for CPAs like you.
Surprised? Whether you are or not, the fact is that so many CPAs continue to try to make do with general solutions and apps when there are so many out there made with them in mind.
As a CPA or accountant, you depend on having the best software applications for your practice. But with technology constantly changing, how can you keep up?
Ask your IT provider to help you choose the software that’s best suited to your CPA firm’s needs:
- Accounting Practice Management Software will help you run day-to-day operations, including the centralization of client data, tracking due dates, staffing, workflow management, automated billing, and time tracking.
- Tax Preparation and Filing Software is designed explicitly for CPA firms, so you can analyze different income tax scenarios and the reporting tools you need for fast, easy reconciliation.
We publish articles on technology, hardware and software from time to time to keep you informed. Here’s some information about 3 solutions that many CPAs use today.
- QuickBooks Online Accountant: QuickBooks Online Accountant is built to empower accounting professionals. With features and resources available only to accountants and bookkeepers, you can grow and run your practice.Access your clients’ QuickBooks Online through QuickBooks Online Accountant to get seamless collaboration and essential work tools at your fingertips.
- Share real-time access with clients to the most updated file versions
- Work in QuickBooks at the same time as your team members.
- Open multiple windows to jump between clients at will; no need to log in and out of individual accounts.
- Sage50cloud: Peachtree accounting software is now Sage 50 Accounting. It’s the same easy-to-use software that simplifies your everyday financial tasks and provides insights to help you save money and grow your firm.Sage 50cloud combines and allows the integration of your classic Sage 50 Desktop installation, plus:
- Sage | Accounting (basic accounting, for processing invoices and payments fully on the Cloud)
- Sage Drive (allows you to place and share your database on the Cloud and to share access with an accountant or colleagues, 5 people max read-only, 1 person editing at a time)
- Sage Pay (credit card number storage secured online)
- CaseWare Cloud: You can improve the quality and efficiency of your engagements with tools that simplify collaboration between your staff and clients. This centralized file management system provides a single location to host all of your engagements while providing security on par with large banks, and built-in backups, so your clients can trust that their data is safe with you.
- CaseWare Cloud offers a powerful set of secure web-based tools.
- Integrates CaseWare Products like Working Papers, Audit International and Time.
- It combines client portal, document management, activity tracking, private social networking and dashboard functionality.
Concern #4: IT Service & Support
Just like with technology, tech support can be specialized or general. Which do you have on your side?
If you’ve settled for general IT support, you probably know it. Sure, your support team understands hardware and basic software; but what about the apps that CPAs rely on? What about the hardware out there that’s better suited to the kind of work you do? Can they advise on that, and put it into practice to help you improve what you do?
This is where a trusted technology service and support company that specializes in financial IT can be so helpful. By having an expert team of financial IT professionals assess your network and manage its many aspects, you can ensure that your technology is optimized, without having to see to it yourself.
Your industry is one in which details are incredibly important, with a single overlooked decimal or missing record having extensive effects on your business. That’s why it’s so important to use your IT to its utmost potential.
With the right tools and know-how, you can revolutionize how your accounting or bookkeeping firm records, reports, accesses and shares vital data, helping your staff to become more efficient and productive.
IT experts understand that many firms like yours are often unknowingly operating in outdated IT environments. They will assess your entire environment to identify any opportunities for improvement so that you can enjoy genuine peace of mind when it comes to managing your clients’ financial assets and sensitive information.
Concern #5: Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI (Artificial Intelligence) has already found itself a place in the accounting industry, with big firms happily embracing the benefits of AI automation. For smaller firms, however, the idea of letting AI into your office is a little scary.
If you’re worried about the impact AI will have on your firm, you shouldn’t be. AI isn’t here to make you obsolete. It’s here to help you reduce errors, improve productivity, and give the best possible service to your many loyal clients.
Ask your IT service company how AI can benefit the way you work and enhance the services you deliver. Your daily tasks probably include data analysis and generating reports for your clients.
Even though there are software tools that can help you automate these tasks, you still need to review and verify your findings. Artificial Intelligence can now do this for you. What this means is that it has the potential to change the entire accounting profession.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants claims in one of their reports that AI-powered automation will soon eliminate almost all tedious and cumbersome data-related tasks like bookkeeping and transaction coding.
Instead of focusing on crunching numbers, you can concentrate on more advisory services and other high-value tasks for your clients. Your staff will be more productive, and your firm will be able to serve more clients and deliver more value-added services. In this way, AI will benefit your business as it propels innovation in the industry.
And the proper use of AI will increase productivity and be an excellent resource for your management. Accountants in British Columbia are already using tools like CRM software and process management tools to increase productivity and make more informed decisions. As the technology of AI keeps advancing, it will help accounting firms generate more insight and reduce expenditures.
Technology shouldn’t keep you awake at night. Overcome your IT concerns by choosing an IT company expert in what CPAs and Accountants in Vancouver require.
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