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Protecting Accounting Firms from Disaster and Data Loss

June 15, 2011

Tornadoes, floods, wildfires and other disasters in different parts of the country this year have brought the importance of disaster protection and backup to mind for accountants and their clients.

One company that specializes in secure backup protection is Apricorn, whose line of password-encrypted portable hard drives is designed to keep sensitive data protected from not only natural disasters, but also prying eyes. The drives use hardware encryption to keep the data protected. To make the portable drive function, you have to plug it into the USB port on your computer and then type in a PIN code on the keypad on top of the drive. Apricorn’s Aegis Padlock Pro SSD 256-gigabyte model recently won an Editor’s Choice from PC Magazine in March.

Dave Sexton, who heads up the security devices unit at the Poway, Calif.-based company, told me that he uses the devices for storing the QuickBooks files for his own small business. The files can be sent to his accountant on the drive. “As long as they have a PC or Mac set up, they can plug in and all those files are completely [usable] to them,” he said. “It allows them to continue with their work with a manner that is uninterrupted in case of some sort of disaster occurring.”

One financial firm is using the drives to allow users to leave the office with the sensitive information on the drives protected. In case the drive is ever lost, it is difficult to hack into because it uses 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard protection. If a hacker tries to access it by brute force, the drive will automatically destroy the data when there are a specific number of unauthorized accesses, which can be configured by the authorized user’s IT department.

Marketing manager Michelle Fischer noted that if client information is lost on a laptop or external storage device, it must be disclosed under laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley, except if that data was encrypted. “Using an encrypted drive such as the Aegis Padlock not only protects client data, but also the reputation of the accounting business from data breaches,” she said. “For those accountants that need to visit a client at their office, having an encrypted drive to securely transport their data does much to put the client’s mind at ease and speaks volumes about the firm’s diligence and meticulousness.”

In case of any disaster occurring at a firm’s office, it’s a good idea to keep a backup copy of the data stored offsite. But when it’s offsite, it also needs to be protected. That’s why an encrypted hard drive can be a sensible way to safeguard the files from tampering.

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