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4 File Sharing Mistakes Bookkeepers Make (and How to Avoid Them)

Tim Sines
Posted by Tim Sines on Apr 2, 2024 1:58:37 PM

File sharing is a central part of most bookkeeping and accounting services. At some point, you’ll need to exchange files with clients or business associates, whether it’s information for a project or a letter of engagement to help both parties understand the specific scope of work that will be completed during the project. 

While modern file sharing may be more convenient than traditional methods that require sending an envelope or using a fax machine, file sharing is also a place where critical mistakes happen frequently. Vulnerabilities in your file-sharing practices can put your firm at risk of a data breach or similar event, which can be costly for your bottom line and your trust level with clients. 

Here are four of the most common file-sharing mistakes we see and how to correct them:


1. Not having adequate security

Creating a foundation for secure file sharing is a vital step to ensure your firm doesn’t risk exposing sensitive data to the wrong parties. This typically means file encryption, but it might also involve using a secure portal to store and secure contracts, financial statements, and other business records that must be protected at all times. Whatever you decide, it’s important to have a plan in place to protect your files. This baseline security level gives you a strong file-sharing foundation from which to build.

2. Not explaining your file-sharing security protocols to clients

Most of the projects you work on as an accounting service provider require collaboration with clients. Not only will they need to send you expense records, invoices, and other business documents, but you’ll also need to gather their signatures on contracts and certain types of tax forms. 

If they run into trouble giving you what they need because you haven’t prepared them to deal with your security practices, it can cause costly slowdowns at times when you can’t afford for things to get off track – like tax season, when you’re probably already juggling more deadlines or projects than normal. For best results, set aside some dedicated time to explain to clients and other associates how your file-sharing systems work so they won’t have any issues using it when necessary. Be sure to include passwords, access instructions, and anything else they may need to manage your security. 

3. Using regular email to store and share files

It’s a practice that’s unfortunately common, even among accounting professionals: storing important files in your email inbox. Even if it may work for a while, this method is not a safe way to share or store files. Most web-based email providers don’t offer much security, making them a bigger target for hackers. 

While it’s a little better if you have a layer of security for your email, this option is also not the most efficient way to store files, which matters when you need to quickly access information from several different projects. Skip the daily inbox keyword searches and move on to a more stable option.

4. Not connecting your file-sharing practices to a larger software platform

There are many different tactics for sharing files with relevant parties, depending on how many clients you work with and what kind of services you offer them. Whatever your specific preferences, if you want to streamline file sharing into the rest of your firm’s processes, it’s helpful to have a larger platform that connects file sharing to other parts of your work. 

For example, you might use a practice management tool that can automatically generate contracts for clients to sign using a pre-existing template. You could then use the software to keep those contracts together in the same location so that all those files are accessible when you need to reference them or send a copy to clients. Keeping file sharing under the same system as your email notifications or CRM tool will not only minimize safety concerns but also make your file systems more organized and accessible when you may not have a lot of time to find what you’re looking for. 

Avoid file-sharing mistakes with the right technology 

While it may seem simple and fast to send files via web-based email or use public file-sharing protocols, these options might put your firm’s sensitive data at risk. If you want to stay in compliance with the laws that govern accounting services and ensure you don’t compromise any of your clients’ data, you can make use of new technology to protect your files without sacrificing organization or accessibility. That last part is especially vital during the busier parts of the year when you and your clients both have a lot going on and can’t devote a ton of time to file-sharing methods.  

We recommend a comprehensive accounting practice management system that covers file sharing, but whatever option you choose, be sure to thoroughly review security and user privilege settings so you understand how the system works and can explain it clearly to the people you work with. 

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Topics: Practice Management


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