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Could someone steal your business?

I don’t mean your business idea, or your model, or your computers. I don’t even mean your staff.

Could someone break in and take, damage or destroy the very core of what you do – your key documents and client work? The things they trust you to keep secret on their behalf?

Ever-more sophisticated hacking techniques mean that nefarious strangers are finding new ways all the time to gain access to the inner workings of your firm and your confidential data.

For accountants, this can be a disaster. A company’s accounts are highly sensitive material and your clients aren’t going to have much sympathy if their financial information ends up on the net… or in the hands of a competitor. The last thing any accountant needs is a data security scandal.

So how do you go about protecting your all-important intellectual property?

Here are five top tips to get you started.

1. Work out where the threats are

The first thing you need to do is to figure out the weak spots. Where on your systems is the most important, business-critical information kept? How it is transferred? Tracking you data’s journey will help you to establish the points along the chain where a hacker could try to break though, breaking down your data security into manageable chunks and identifying any weak links.

2. Protect against malware

You’ll need to create defences that are relevant to your setup, and that means scan-ning for malware across the whole organisation. Make sure you install regular up-dates for all your programmes on a regular basis to plug any security holes – and al-ways download these from an official source, as viruses often masquerade as up-dates.

3. Set rules for mobile working

BYOD device and mobile working policies are great ways to boost productivity and make your workplace more flexible, but employees need to be as vigilant about se-curity offsite as they are in the office. Make sure staff are trained to adhere to your security policy and have the same protections installed on their own devices as their office computers. Or, for less hassle and greater peace of mind, introduce cloud-hosted, ready-to-use mobile workspaces that can be accessed from anywhere, with state-of-the-art security already in place.

4. Get rock-solid network security

Be on your guard for both external and internal attacks. At the very least, you need to filter out malicious content and unauthorised access. It’s advisable to keep your network perimeters to a minimum, and to test your security controls for weaknesses on a regular basis. An easy adjustment that can pay dividends is to create a standard user account for your computer and only use your “administrator” account when you really need to, for example when installing a program. Hackers and malware will find it much harder to get their teeth into your system.

5. Forget (most of) steps 1-4 and outsource the headaches instead

If IT-speak makes your eyelids droop, your firm lacks a dedicated IT team, or you’re looking for ways to make your IT department more efficient, you may feel that all this sounds like hard work.

It is.

That’s because your average firm takes a piecemeal approach to their operations, installing programs and storing documents locally and troubleshooting problems on-site.

The alternative is to find a top-notch partner and shift all of your operations to one place: secure hosting in the cloud.

By using hosted solutions and storing data in the cloud, you hand over all the security stress to a single point of contact. One that specialises in this area and has the high level encryption needed to keep your business safe.

You’ll still need to make sure your workforce isn’t downloading anything harmful, but a solid cloud partner will handle the pressing daily problems of maintenance, updates and warding off hackers, giving you stellar security and multiple backups if something goes wrong. All of this allows you to get on with growing your business.

Plus, you can reap all the other benefits of secure hosting, hosted software and desk-tops-as-a-service, including faster interfaces, streamlined offsite access and improved tools for communication and productivity within your team.

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