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Is your association management’s accounting data safe when you use software tools?

Online accounting services and cloud-based apps like CINC Systems offer many advantages for association managers compared to traditional paper bookkeeping. Many programs designed for HOA/COA accounting can also be linked to resident payment web portals, allowing you to collect fees online.

However, some association managers may be concerned that using online accounting software places their client’s financial data at risk. Security and privacy always need to be considered when choosing accounting software or apps for your business.

Why Data Security Matters for HOA/COA Accounting Data

Your HOA/COA clients’ data needs to be extra safe because it may include private financial information, vendor invoices, utility accounts, and personal resident information. In a world where online breaches are the order of the day, it’s very important to know how to protect data. Luckily, most software companies understand this and make it a priority.

Are you wondering how to keep financial data secure when using accounting software and apps? The key is to stay informed. Here are some questions to ask your service provider to ensure the safety of your clients’ accounting data:

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How to Keep Your Client’s Financial and Accounting Data Secure

Knowledge is power. While you can’t always prevent hackers from causing a breach, you can make sure your client’s financial data is as secure as possible by understanding how your software works. Before trusting your data to an online accounting service or cloud-based management app, ask the following questions:

Does the accounting service provider use multiple servers?

Typically, online data is stored in a special type of computer called a server. Data will be more secure if it’s spread out across multiple servers instead of one. It’s even better if these servers are in different physical locations, such as different cities. If one server is hacked or compromised, the others may still be secure. Spreading data across multiple servers reduces its vulnerability.

What physical security measures are in place at the server’s physical location?

Although many data breaches are the result of online hacking, servers that store accounting data may still be targeted by traditional break-ins. Ask your accounting service provider how they protect financial data. Does the server location have security alarms? Video surveillance? Protection from environmental damage such as fire and floods?

How does the accounting software itself protect financial data?

Accounting data and financial information needs to be encrypted to be truly secure. This is a very important security feature. Ask your online accounting service provider if they protect your data via 256-bit SSL encryption, which is ideal. Also, find out how often your data is backed up and what kind of security measures are used to protect the backups.

Firewalls, employee access, virus protection and security history

We also recommend talking to your accounting software provider about other factors that may affect security. Find out if they employ firewalls, which block unauthorized access to internal server networks, and if they use protection against viruses and malware. If possible, ask how many employees within the company have access to the data servers.

Finally, learn what you can about the accounting software company’s security history. Have they ever had a data breach? If so, how did they handle it? If the accounting software company cannot disclose this information, see what you can find on Google. Data breaches are often published on news sites, social media, and online forums.

Keep Association Accounting Data Secure and Private Within Your Association Management Company

To make sure your association accounting data is safe when using software tools such as websites and cloud-based apps, you should also take steps to secure your information within your company. This will help protect you as well as your HOA/COA clients’ board members, vendors, and residents.

One of the best ways to secure financial data when using accounting software is to implement strong passwords. Unfortunately, common passwords that are easy to remember are also easy for hackers to guess. When creating a password for your accounting software tools, never use information such as a date of birth, family member name, or anything that includes the name of your business or client. Avoid passwords that you use for other services, too.

If you want to know how to create a strong password for your accounting data, here are a few key guidelines from security experts:

  • Make your password at least eight characters long, ideally 16
  • Use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols
  • Include at least one capital letter, in addition to lowercase letters
  • Substitute letters with numbers and symbols (for example, consider using “1” for “L”, or substitute “$” for “S”)
  • Use unique acronyms that only you will understand, such as the first letter from each word in the lyrics of your favorite song

Once you’ve created a strong, unique password to protect financial data stored by accounting software or apps, the next step is to guard that password. Many people use special password security software, such as LastPass or KeePass, to store their passwords with extra encryption. You can also go old-school. Some experts recommend writing passwords down on an unlabeled piece of paper and hiding it somewhere inconspicuous.

Make sure that you don’t store your passwords in an Excel sheet, Word document, email or any type of file marked “PASSWORDS.” Also, don’t share your passwords with anyone else within your organization. Even the most trustworthy associates can be victims of hacking or computer/phone theft. Treat your accounting software password like the key to a treasure chest.

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Keep Accounting Data Private and Secure with the Right Software Tools

Your client’s association accounting data can be kept safe and secure with the right software tools, including online HOA/COA management systems and cloud-based apps. Although there is always some risk associated with storing data online, the benefits of accounting software far outweigh the possibility of a data breach.

Try CINC Systems today to see how CINC Systems accounting software can streamline your business and increase growth.

Call 855.943.8246 or complete a contact form