Does thinking about uploading all your clients' sensitive data to the cloud make you nervous? It makes most people nervous. It's a normal reaction. What's not so well known, though, is that the cloud is actually the best place to help keep that sensitive data private.

Why is Data Privacy Important?

Moving some or all operations to the cloud offers accounting and financial services firms a whole array of benefits. A bricks and mortar establishment is prone to burglary, fire, water damage, or any other kind of disaster. In the cloud, your data is safe. So, in the event that your office computer systems are hacked or otherwise damaged, you won't lose all of that sensitive critical data when it's in the cloud, like your hosted Sage 50 files. Getting up and operational again will be an inconvenience, but not a disaster.

Both you and your clients' data is your business. Without it, doing the work you do for them would be difficult at best. So, yes, protecting that data is about good customer service. It's also about something else. You are ultimately legally responsible for that data. You're obligated by law to protect your clients' sensitive information as best as possible.

A Good System and Measures are Critical for Data Security

Accounting and financial services firms need to move beyond adopting the usual responses to threat. The typical approaches include purchasing anti-virus software, installing firewalls, and asking employees to update their passwords every few months. Start protecting yourself by updating computer systems, web servers and operating systems.

The reality is that cyber criminals have their eyes trained on small- to medium-sized businesses.

Most smaller organizations don't necessarily have the capital to invest in good security. So, they make easy targets for criminals looking for quick and easy financial gain and identity theft through means such as ransomware... But what is a ransomware attack?

What is a Ransomware Attack?

A ransomware attack occurs when a virus worms its way onto any computer whether it belongs to a private citizen or every single laptop and desktop in a large, mega-corporation.

The virus is transmitted through attachments and links appended to email messages. The email seems to come from someone known to the recipient. The recipient clicks on the attachments, and the virus is released. At that point, the screen goes dark and a timer appears with a message. What's worse is that access to all data on your computer is completely locked.

The message and timer inform you how much to pay to unlock your data and how much time you have to pay before your data is lost forever.

So... How do businesses protect themselves from becoming cyber victims? Like so many situations in life, forethought really counts. Here's what you can do to minimize your risk.

1. Educate

Run regular training sessions with all your employees. Focus on basic online security practices. Remind them not to click on links or open attachments that they're not expecting to receive... Even if the email seems to be coming from someone they know. When sending links and attachments, include a personal message that will prove to the recipient that the email's source is legitimate. It can be something as simple as, "Hi Jane, here's the Smith file I mentioned earlier."

2. Update

As amazing as computer software is at simplifying and automating our daily workflow, it isn't perfect. Tech companies constantly work at improving functionality and security features, and subsequently send those improvements out as updates. Always download the updates to help keep your data safe.

3. Protect

Invest in antivirus software. Although there's no guarantee that the software will stop 100% of attacks, your chances of remaining attack free will be very high. You should also consider investing in cyber insurance for your business as an extra peace-of-mind precaution.

4. Back Up Data

Purchase an external hard-drive. They're fairly inexpensive and come in a variety of storage sizes. At the end of the work day, plug it into your computer. Ask it to back up. Then unplug it. If it remains plugged in day and night, and your computer is attacked, there's a good chance that you'll lose the backed up data, too. So, keep the external hard drive handy. How often you use it – every day or once per week – depends on how often you write new data onto your files.

Remember to maintain your own backups, even if you use a dedicated cloud hosting provider who also makes regular backups - it's the best way to ensure you'll always have an up-to-date, secure copy of your files.

5. Move to the Cloud

Small- to medium-sized businesses don't necessarily have the budget to hire an in-house IT team that will keep company software up-to-date and safe from attack.

Subscribing to a service that gives you online access to any software your company uses allows your business to save money and focus more time on what you're good at. Cloud computing companies like Summit Hosting are dedicated to ensuring they're providing a secure disaster recovery plan and safeguards for avoiding problems in the first place. Moving your business to the cloud provides better protection and security than handling it all yourself.

Cloud Hosting Offers Greater Data Protection and Security

Why should accountants, bookkeepers and controllers move to the cloud? Cloud resources offer higher security, greater flexibility and improved cost-effectiveness for many small and mid-sized businesses. Consider how much of your company’s software may already be cloud hosted. Email providers, social media sites, image hosting sites and even common office productivity software such as QuickBooks can be hosted in the cloud.

Cloud systems tend to offer greater protection than legacy systems because many were built with cybersecurity in mind - this especially rings true when cloud hosting providers only use dedicated servers to help keep data safe. While an older legacy system may not have adequate safeguards in place, newer cloud systems are built to meet the latest threats, providing a solid defense. Think of an old-fashioned log cabin with nothing more than a bar across the interior door to prevent break-ins, compared with a modern home with a deadbolt lock, safety lights, and an alarm system linked to the police and fire departments. The log cabin is like a legacy system. It was built in a time when threats were from bear attacks, not people intent on robbing the home of its contents.

At Summit Hosting, we're serious about data security for our customers. We’ve spent years developing the best managed application hosting services to help take your business to the next level; and we go above and beyond to deliver top notch performance and peace-of-mind data security on dedicated servers.

Ready to learn more about our hosted solutions? Give a hosting specialist a call at 888-244-6559 or fill out this contact us form today.

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