cPaperless - CPA SafeMail
800-716-2558 ext. 100
From the January 2012 Review of Client Portals.
Professional firms seeking a stand-alone system that will make it easy for their clients to send files to them, as well as securely share returns and other documents with their clients.
- Simple for clients and firms to use
- Strong security customization options
- Customizable firm branding
- Two-way firm/client sharing and collaboration
- Dependable hosting, security and uptime
- Unique file structure on portal is not folder-based
- Little direct integration with outside programs
CPA SafeMail, which was developed by the same team as the Tic, Tie & Calculate Adobe Acrobat tool, is a secure document exchange and collaboration solution that is focused on email delivery, using various technologies to encrypt and protect files. The web-based system is designed specifically for accounting firms, can be used to share any type of files and documents, and to-date has been used by professional practices to share more than one million client tax returns.
Firm User Experience - 4.5 Stars
CPA SafeMail offers multiple methods for accountants and clients to share files, including via direct email that encrypts and password protects all attachments prior to sending, as well as a more traditional portal that allows storage of documents and communications on a secure site.
When setting up the program, users can create bulk portals for all clients and either automatically assign passwords for each or use the system to invite clients to log in and create their own. Template messaging can be created and used to ensure consistency of emails to all clients. The program includes an Automated Password Manager utility that creates, stores and manages the status of each client’s password. It also automatically encrypts PDF email attachments with the client’s password.
CPA SafeMail is essentially comprised of three components. The first is an email-based secure file sending system that clients can use simply by going to an online email system that doesn’t require users to have a login, but that protects the attached files that are sent to the firm user. For direct emailing of files to clients, firm staff can use an Outlook plug-in that automatically combines all file attachments and encrypts and password protects them as a larger bundle. When the client receives and opens the bundle, the individual files are no longer password protected. This allows the client to more easily share files with coworkers or financial advisors. The other two components of CPA SafeMail include a two-way file sharing system with the Automated Password Manager, and the secure portal. The portal and client emails can be fully branded with firm logo and contact information, and can be linked to from the firm’s website.
CPA SafeMail can be used by any number of professional staff at the firm, depending upon the user agreement, and always allows any number of clients and client users. All users on both sides can have varying access rights based on user roles determined by the administrator. Password protection for client users can include multi-level authentication. The system is housed on the SAS 70-audited servers of RackSpace, located in Virginia, one of the largest secure data hosting providers. License agreements do not include guaranteed uptime. However, in the past 12 months, RackSpace has had 99.999 percent uptime. Data is encrypted prior to transmission and remains so at all times during storage, meeting all state and federal regulations for client data protection.
Client User Experience -4.5 Stars
One of the unique aspects to CPA SafeMail is the inclusion of a webmail type function that allows clients to send secure and encrypted files to the accounting firm without having to remember a new login and password. This provides a very simple method for clients to share documents requested by the firm. This feature is only available on the client side for sending to the firm, but additional features are also available from the full client portal, which requires a password and can be set with additional levels of user authentication.
Clients can access the firm-branded portal from the firm’s website or from links in emails sent by staff. Since the system is designed to follow an email-like workflow, the portal is also unique in its file structure, with previously sent items housed in an Outlook inbox format and with users able to view sender, date and subject lines. As CPA SafeMail is not intended for long-term storage of files, it does not offer foldering capabilities.
Through either the email utilities or portal, clients and firm staff can share files bi-directionally, with the firm having control over user rights and the ability to help reset a client password.
Portal Capabilities - 4.5 Stars
Both the email and portal functions in CPA SafeMail can be used to send and share any kind of files. When sending via the email function, it wraps all of the files (documents, spreadsheets, bookkeeping data files) into attachments on a single PDF, and it can convert them to PDFs, as well. This allows for the overall sent file to be encrypted and password protected, then opened and returned to their normal file state. Essentially, the function works similarly to a zipped collection of files with password protection, but without the lingering effects of individually password-protecting each of the files.
Files stored on the portal component of the system are displayed as messages received from the firm, and with little folder management and structure control. The firm can set up the system to notify users on either the client or firm side as to when documents have been shared, opened or moved, but the program does not offer live simultaneous collaboration on documents.
CPA SafeMail includes full control over automated file retention and deletion settings, with the default time on the portal being 30 days. However, the firm can set individual files or all files to expire at different ranges, or to be saved indefinitely in the portal. Security access rights are maintained by the firm, which can also set password strength levels.
Technical Aspects - 4.25 Stars
There are no storage maximums and no bandwidth restrictions on portal use or document emailing. Instead, the firm and users can store as much as they need for as long as they need it. The program can be used on all fully web-enabled devices, and it is supported on IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers.
CPA SafeMail does not directly integrate with professional tax and accounting programs, but through right-click menus on most file management programs and in Windows, firm users can easily select the send-to option and access the Outlook plug-in feature. This allows for quickly attaching files or even entire folders to emails that will be completely encrypted and password protected. 4
Help/Support - 4 Stars
Users on the accounting firm side of the program have access to basic Help options on the cPaperless support website, including multiple how-to videos and the ability to submit trouble tickets or find live support contact information. It is limited on support documentation. Toll-free live support is included in pricing and is available Monday through Saturday. 4
Summary & Pricing
CPA SafeMail takes a different approach to client collaboration and portals, basing it on the workflow of email, which makes it intuitive for firm users and, just as important, simple for clients. The system can be used alongside any tax, accounting and document management applications and was specifically designed for helping firms receive source documents from clients and deliver returns and other documents to their clients. Pricing is based on the modules chosen by the firm and the number of users. The Outlook Plug-In only, which offers direct, protected file sharing without the portals, costs $100 per year for a single user and $800 per year for a 10-person firm. The Outlook Plug-In plus the Automated Password Manager costs $1,000 per year for a 10-person firm. Adding the Client Portals to the bundle brings the total to $1,800 for the same number of staff. Additional users can be added with discounted rates; full pricing details are available on the vendor’s website.