From the Aug. 2013 digital issue.
Accounting professionals are like any other information worker – currently trying to keep their head above water and fight the incoming tide of digital documentation. The worldwide volume of data is expected to grow 44-fold between 2009 and 2020, according to EMC, part of which can be attributed to people uploading more than a billion files into online sharing and syncing solutions every single day.
These online file-sharing platforms are now part of everyday life. The problem facing the accounting industry is that the files shared by CPAs are full of clients’ sensitive personal information, including bank accounts, social security numbers and work history. What could happen to a firm’s liability insurance if that sensitive information was leaked and misused? The disclosure of a client’s personal information could bring about a number of legal issues for a firm found in violation of the FTC information security laws and other privacy regulations.
Another factor affecting the industry is an increasingly mobile workforce; rather than being tied to a desk, the typical worker is now working remotely on multiple mobile devices. In 2013, more than 75 percent of the workforce will be mobile, according to Cisco. And work output is booming because of it; 3 out of 5 workers in the US say they no longer need to be in the office to be productive.
So now you have productive accountants who are working on the go – sharing, syncing and editing client documents on their mobile device of choice, but it’s a nightmare for the IT and security departments. Fortunately, there are secure file-sharing solutions that meet the security and liability regulations that apply to accounting practitioners. Secure mobile productivity solutions for enterprises should provide the convenience of a public-cloud solution and the ease-of-use of a consumer-grade app, with additional layers of encryption and admin security controls that reduce the risk of data leakage.
There are a number of ways accounting firms can improve the mobile security of business content, without slowing down productivity. Here are five key best practices that accounting firms should follow to ensure confidential data shared via mobile devices is secure:
- Protect Confidential Files on All Devices
Deploy a file sharing solution that runs on all the mobile devices and OSs that employees are carrying. Even if a firm has deployed a Mobile Device Management (MDM) or Mobile Applications Management (MAM) solution for the basic provisioning and network management of devices, it should also deploy a secure Mobile Content Management (MCM) solution, so mobile security can be controlled at the device, application and file level. Then employees can truly work wherever they want on their device of choice, improving productivity without risking data security.
- Centralize Control and Monitoring
Firms should deploy a file-sharing solution with centralized access controls and logging and audit features. Centralized monitoring also allows IT administrators and security officers to monitor the distribution of files and to detect anomalous behavior before it leads to data breaches. Logging also enables accounting firms to demonstrate to clients or regulatory bodies that confidentiality has not been breached.
- Connect to SharePoint and Other ECM Systems
Many firms have invested in ECM systems such as SharePoint or iManage. Accounting firms should choose a file sharing solution that integrates with these ECM systems, so that secure file-sharing becomes a natural part of doing work, and so that workers in remote locations always have access to the critical files they need.
- Use Private, Not Public, Clouds
Cloud architectures are scalable, mobile-friendly and cost-effective—ideal attributes for any firm. However, public clouds are unsafe for confidential data. By deploying a private cloud file sharing capability, IT has complete control over the location, access to, and availability of data.
- Block Risky Services
By providing a secure mobile file sharing service, firms can eliminate most of the temptation for employees to try a service like Dropbox or iCloud for business purposes. By also proactively blocking consumer-grade file sharing services, firms can be confident that users won’t attempt to circumvent the IT department, jeopardizing the confidentiality of the firm’s data. Another way to secure mobile data is through “open-in” features, which control what apps can access data. Finally, there is the “carrot and stick” approach, which provides employees with a generous amount of online storage space to store work, making the cost and complexity of a public service significantly less attractive.
By following these five best practices, accounting firms can ensure they’re improving the mobile productivity of their workforce, without sacrificing the security of sensitive customer information. Mobile file sharing and synchronization is here to stay, and firms that figure out how to do it securely will be positioned to win more business, and grow their mobile-enabled organization.
Rama Kolappan, director of mobile product marketing and product management at Accellion. Kolappan is an accomplished leader with more than 12 years of experience and a successful track record of developing innovative technological solutions and new business opportunities.
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