Your accounting software is designed to help you make decisions about your business. You want to be in control, and to be in control you need to have confidence your data is as accurate as it can be.
To have that confidence, you need to look end-to-end. How does your data enter your system in the first place, who has access to it, what happens to your data once it’s in your accounting software, and will it be there whenever you need it? Here are a few checks you can make about your software to ensure your financial data retains its integrity.
1. Use any direct connections / Get direct data feeds
Data feeds – from your bank or other financial institutions – not only help automate tedious data entry tasks, they’re also untouched by humans. Whether the data is fed into your accounting software from a bank or from another software application, data can be transferred with minimal – if any – human interaction.
What does that mean? Fewer data entry issues, so you know you’re making decisions using accurate information; it means less rework by your advisor, who can focus on providing you with business advice rather than spend time fixing errors; and while it gives you and anyone you work with extra confidence that you’re working on a definitive set of data.
2. Embrace and enforce security
Just as you wouldn’t give anyone a key to your house, you want to make sure the right people have access to your financial information. Whether it’s you or others accessing your financial information, there are a number of precautions you can take to help ensure your data remains safe:
- Utilize strong passwords and adopt best practice security techniques.
- Set up multi-factor authentication, if available, to help prevent unwanted access and to add further protection if malware or other software is unwittingly installed on your device.
- Ensure your colleagues and collaborators – in fact anyone who has access to your data – is adhering to these same standards.
Like a chain, your security is only as strong as its weakest link. To understand more about what you can do about security, read our introduction to cloud security.
3. Location, location, location
Not only do you want to control who has access to your financial data, you also want safeguards to ensure the right people are logging in – and when and where they’re logging in from.
Many services keep track of when and where you and your colleagues log in from – if you’re based in London, and someone logs in from Australia, then there may be a breach of your security.
This could indicate someone has your login details and is using them to login from an unfamiliar location.
By helping you keep track of when you last logged in, and displaying the date, time and location of your recent logins, you can make sure no one else is using your login credentials. If you do see account activity that wasn’t you, make sure to update all your passwords and security questions.
4. Monitor ongoing data integrity
You may get a regular check up with a health professional, or you may take your car in for a periodic service. Regardless, you want to make sure your accounting data is also checked on – any issues could indicate errors or that someone’s not acting in the best interests of your business.
Understand what controls are in place to monitor the accuracy and integrity of your data, ideally on an on-going basis so that you’re not reacting to situations months after they’ve occurred. And if you don’t know what to look for, consult your advisor, who can either work with you to identify any anomalies, or can provide ongoing assurance services.
5. Built on top of solid foundations
Like a building, you want to make sure your accounting solution is built on solid foundations. You want it to be there when you need it, and be there for the long haul. As your business matures, you need a solution that will be there whenever and wherever you need it — today, tomorrow and in several years’ time.
In the case of software, this means understanding the underlying platforms that the software is running on. In addition to security, is your data protected? Has it got a good reputation for performance and availability? Can you access the software when you’re out of the office, in a different country, or at home catching up on your work?
Just as it’s important to have accurate data, it’s also important to ensure it’s there when you need it.
Your financial data is the lifeline for your business. Without it you cannot make decisions. Make sure those decisions are as accurate as they can be, and make sure your software is secure and there when you need it. Your business is counting on it.
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