Disaster-Proofing your Firm in Four Simple Steps

Disasters of all types and sizes can cost your business time and money. While some of these might be caused by factors outside of your control, it’s important to be aware of the various types of threats so that you can be as prepared as possible. 

Over the past five years, 54% of companies have experienced prolonged operational downtime lasting at least one full workday, caused by anything from cyber attacks to natural disasters. They can be particularly debilitating for smaller businesses that don’t have sufficient resources to stay afloat during prolonged outages and expensive recoveries.

For example, more than 40% of small businesses never reopen after a natural disaster, and of those that do, only 29% are still operating after two years, according to FEMA. And while the costs associated with data breaches vary greatly depending on the size of the business and type of attack, smaller organizations with fewer than 500 employees spend an average of nearly $3 million per incident, according to research from IBM and the Ponemon Institute

Disasters can be caused by hurricanes, earthquakes, and global health crises, as well as by employee error, software and hardware failures, and cyberattacks. Thankfully, you can adopt strategies and protocols to prevent them where possible. And for the unavoidable, you can take preemptive action to minimize their negative effect on your business. 

Keep reading for tips on how you can build your own disaster shield. 

Backing Up Your Files 

The threat of cyberattacks, which include a wide swath of schemes and malware in which bad actors steal company data or hold your business hostage in exchange for a ransom, can be mitigated through storage level drive image backups. This will allow your firm to quickly recover in case of a ransomware attack. 

Implementing regular cloud and server backups will protect your firm from unexpected data loss should a breach break occur.  This includes making sure that all of your data isn’t stored on just one device. Perform test restores regularly (we recommend monthly) and audit what is being backed up at least quarterly to ensure you’re not missing important data in your backups. 

QuickBooks and other database-driven applications require special backup tools to ensure backed-up files don’t get corrupted. Even better, help your clients move to cloud accounting where data backup is included. 

If you’re already in the cloud and want additional peace of mind, consider cloud-to-cloud backup providers that can copy all the contents of your cloud apps to another cloud in another data center such as Rewind

Investing in antivirus and anti-malware software is also a must for every CPA firm.  This software will build a moat around your business that will make malicious actors’ attempts to thwart operations more difficult. Take a cyber security assessment to get a temperature read on how well you’re currently protected so you can identify where gaps currently exist and adopt preventive software.

Invest in Modern Hardware and Software

Setting and forgetting doesn’t work for security. Business leaders should be proactively updating or replacing hardware such as computers every three years to avoid unwanted IT breakdowns and data loss.  

It’s also vital to the overall health of your technology environment to perform regular software updates to ensure access to the most recent security patchworks. Antiquated hardware and software leave you more vulnerable to cybercriminals who will use outdated holes to gain unauthorized access to your data.

Get Your Server Out of Your Office or Move to the Cloud

While you can’t prevent (or even predict) natural or other disasters, you can limit the costs that come from them through certain preparations. For example, you can geographically disperse your data to different physical and digital locations so that operations aren’t completely devastated should a pandemic shut the office down or a flood destroy IT hardware. If you still have a server, consider co-locating it in a data center to have continuous power and cooling plus redundant internet connections. 

Or even better, do away with that server and migrate to enterprise-grade cloud software, such as Microsoft’s SharePoint, to help you securely sync and share files in the cloud. As a result, your firm will continue to function even if a central location is drowned by the chaos of a disaster.

One important component of this is training staff on the appropriate way to save and manage files. As a business owner, it’s important that all critical company and client data is stored in places like shared drives and cloud-based software that are continuously backed up. 

Invest in Your Employees to Minimize the Unavoidable 

We can’t stress enough how important it is to invest in cybersecurity software and training for your staff. Roughly 88% of all data breaches are caused by employee error, according to research from Stanford University and a top cybersecurity firm. 

Online security training, such as The Practice Protect University can help employees avoid careless mistakes and become more aware of the cybersecurity landscape — the frontline security defenders of your business — against fishy links and schemes that threaten to lure them into a trap.  

Human error is common and mostly unpreventable, but there are ways to vastly minimize the instances of employee-prompted security breaches through robust training. It’s important to empower your employees to care about security, creating a company culture that is both educated about possible threats and the corporate policies to prevent and report them. 

Require employees to read and follow cybersecurity policies and to participate in security training both at onboarding and throughout their employment. User training can give them hands-on experience in properly storing and backing up data, and empower them to respond to and report on suspicious behavior so that your IT and security teams can act on the most relevant information battering your frontline defenses.   

Act Today

Tech Guru is here to help your CPA firm act on these protective measures today. Download our Security Essentials e-book to learn best practices for data protection and disaster mitigation.

You can’t avoid it all, but being as prepared as possible for disasters will help you undercut the staggering operational downtime and costs that can weigh heavily on small businesses such as yours. The better policies and preparations you have, the more likely you’ll be unfazed when disaster inevitably strikes.