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Is Your Firm Ready For an Emergency?

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Say you receive an alert that there is a gas leak in your area, and the fire department wants everyone to evacuate immediately. You have just minutes to decide what to take with you. Are you prepared?

May 17th 2021
Owner FitBooks Pro
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If and when a crisis hits, what do bookkeepers and accountants need to grab so that business/work can continue uninterrupted once we are in a safe location?

This happened recently in my hometown, albeit not in my neighborhood. I realized something similar could happen anytime, anywhere, in a commercial or residential neighborhood. Many of us are working at home, so we have personal and professional concerns about what to grab.

I live in California, and many agencies in our state offer emergency preparedness checklists, and encourage residents to create emergency supply kits. One such checklist includes the following items:

  • Food and Water (for humans and pets)
  • Equipment
  • Health and Personal Supplies

For my fellow bookkeepers and accountants out there, here are some considerations for you to have in your checklist if disaster or emergency should strike:

  • Cell phone and charger, so you can communicate with clients, staff, and, of course, family
  • Laptop and charger, so you can work
  • External hard drives or storage devices with backup data
  • External devices to create a WiFi hotspot
  • Workpapers for current projects which have not yet been scanned to electronic format
  • Eyeglasses and medications
  • ID, credit cards and cash

Is that it? Could it be that simple? I would argue Yes, if and only if your office has already done the following:

  • Moved the majority of your client data to cloud data storage
  • You aren’t reliant upon an office-based server where all your client and firm data is stored
  • Have a cloud-based password vault in place, and your lengthy and secure login password is memorized, or you have the password stored on your cloud server
  • Have a laptop you can have grab, or in worst case scenario, the ability to login from another computer to your cloud-based server

Do you see where I’m going with this? While I would not like to see it happen, I know that if my laptop (which I use for personal and professional use) is damaged, lost or stolen, I am not out of work.

I have almost zero client data that resides on my laptop. Instead, my firm and client data is stored on a secure server that I lease from a third-party provider (in my case, Infinitely Virtual). Approximately 70 percent of my client data, as well as my own firm’s books, are in the cloud in QuickBooks Online.

My bookkeeping practice also does not deal with paper documents. I have few paper client files and all of those in my possession are scanned and stored on my cloud server.

I can say with confidence that if there is a gas leak or a fire or other local emergency, as long as I have my laptop with me, I can work elsewhere. If my laptop is destroyed, I can work on someone else’s computer, provided I contact Infinitely Virtual and use their assistance to gain access to my cloud server. As such, I will not be out of business and I can rest easy with the knowledge that my client and firm data is safe and secure.

I recognize that tax practices do often deal with more physical paperwork than bookkeeping practices, as clients like to drop off their year-end documents in face-to-face sessions. If you have not done so already, now is a good time to consider what your firm would do in the case of a total disaster (earthquake, fire, flood, or tornado).

In short, ask yourself:

  • Could you be back on your feet quickly once you reach a safe location?
  • If you use your own onsite server, is it backed up nightly to an off-site location?
  • Have you tested the backup to prove you can actually recover a document or the entire drive quickly and easily?
  • Do you have a written disaster preparedness plan?

Conclusion

While the transition to a paperless office may need to be done in stages, and can feel painful at times, running a paperless cloud-based practice can be achieved with the use of proper tools. Moreover, this move may even save your firm’s and your client’s businesses in case of disaster, provided you have easily accessible cloud-based backups of all your data.

In the best-case scenario, your firm has a written disaster recovery plan, which is updated and tested on a regular basis. Here is a link to the SBA emergency preparedness webpage, which includes checklists and safety tips, as well as a link to IRS guidelines for disaster preparedness. https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/manage-your-business/prepare-emergencies

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