Commonly Asked Questions About File-Sharing and eSignature for Accountants
As we head into tax season, accounting firms across the nation are gearing up for one of the most hectic times of the year. With working long hours, meeting tight deadlines, communicating with clients, and handling sensitive data, it’s critical that accountants keep their workflows as streamlined and organized as possible. This is where File-Sharing and eSignature for accountants come in.
One opportunity to make your workflows more efficient is implementing secure file-sharing and eSignature tools to share documents and get signatures from clients. Instead of spending valuable time sending sensitive files back and forth via email and scheduling in-person meetings to get documents signed, secure file-sharing and eSignature software can help you complete work more quickly and—from your clients’ perspective—more conveniently.
Not sure if it’s worth the investment? We’re here to answer your questions.
What is secure file-sharing?
Secure file sharing involves sharing links to documents, images, videos, and other digital files in a way that doesn’t leave them vulnerable to hackers, cybercriminals, and other bad actors.
There are numerous ways to securely share files online, including:
- Cloud storage
- File transfer protocol programs
- Peer-to-peer networks
Secure file sharing typically provides a combination of security protocols to encrypt the data. Additionally, it may also require recipients to enter passwords or verify their identity before gaining access to the files.
Secure file-sharing provides the most benefit when it combines robust security features with a high degree of user convenience. For example, Mango Practice Management provides a built-in secure-file sharing feature as part of its practice management suite. This feature allows accountants to share files within a matter of a few clicks—from within Mango.
What are eSignatures—and how do they work?
Many of us are used to—and comfortable with—the traditional method of requesting signatures: print, sign, scan, repeat. (Or, even more old-fashioned: schedule an in-person appointment to sign paper documents.)
Not only can this be incredibly time-consuming, but it can also put sensitive information at risk of cyber attacks. This is where eSignatures come in handy.
According to the Electronic Signature & Records Association (ESRA), an electronic signature is “an electronic sound, symbol or process that is attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”
In other words, an eSignature is a string of virtual fingerprints that can verify a signer’s identity and intent to sign a document.
With Mango’s eSignature software, you can get documents signed by your clients at any time and anywhere. Simply upload the document, which your client can access and sign with just a few clicks.
Are eSignatures legally binding?
The convenience of eSignatures may seem too good to be true—but it’s not.
Thanks to the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and the Electronic Signature in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN), electronic signatures are recognized as legally binding as long as the document meets the following requirements:
- The signer’s identity can be confirmed or authenticated using a digital marker, like an IP address
- The parameters of the transaction are communicated and the signer undeniably intended to undergo the method of signing
- The signature associated with the document is verifiable and has evidentiary documentation
In short, eSignatures obtained through Mango are completely valid and legally binding.
What’s the difference between file-sharing/eSignature and a client portal?
If you’re looking to level up your client communications, you may find yourself wondering whether to choose between file-sharing software and a client portal. While they’re similar in function, there are a few key differences.
If you (and your clients) like sharing documents via email, it’s a good idea to implement a secure file-sharing platform to keep sensitive data safe from hackers and other cyber-attacks. This may be automatically built into your practice management platform, or available as a convenient integration.
If your clients are less-than-enthusiastic about remembering another password and logging onto another platform, secure file-sharing offers the security of a client portal without the extra steps. (For optimal security, though, you’ll want to be sure the service you use includes SHA-256 encryption.)
Additional benefits of Mango’s secure file-sharing software include:
- Less money spent on ink, paper, and toner—because everything is paperless!
- Customized, professional branding on all of your files
- Drag-and-drop functions and straightforward icons for a user-friendly experience
- Mobile functionality to allow for file-sharing on the go
The average person receives over 100 emails per day—so it’s easy to imagine how a file shared via email could get buried in an inbox.
There are some helpful steps you can take to address this, though. For example, notify your client with a quick phone call or text message after sharing a file. If you don’t get a response after a certain number of days, you can also set up automated reminders for your clients.
As opposed to file-sharing via email, a client portal is an all-in-one platform where your clients can sign in and securely pay bills, upload and access files, and communicate with accountants.
Many accounting firms opt to use client portals because of the security they offer, particularly when the software offers bank-level protection with 256-bit encryption. With so many layers of protection, it’s nearly impossible for hackers to access.
Additionally, many client portals come with unlimited data storage. In addition to allowing for multiple large files to be sent at once, it retains those files for as long as you need them.
And when your clients can make secure online payments through a client portal, you no longer have to worry about sending invoices via email, or even paper mail. (Plus, ACH processing protects you from fraud risk.)
Despite the convenience of a client portal, some clients aren’t thrilled about the idea of having to remember yet another username and password or navigate yet another website. With user-friendly tools and sufficient guidance, though, these concerns can be mitigated.
Why should my accounting practice use file-sharing and eSignature?
There are lots of benefits to adopting file-sharing and eSignature software at your accounting practice. Some of our favorites include:
- The cost-effectiveness (not to mention the environmental-friendliness) of a paperless practice
- Better accountability and trackability, with the ability to see if a file has been opened or a signature has been delivered
- High-level security features
- Increased client convenience (and ultimately, increased client satisfaction, which means more referrals and return clients for your firm)
- Faster turnaround times for getting documents shared and signed
- Improved collaboration between clients and colleagues
For best results, look for accounting-specific file-sharing and eSignature software that offers end-to-end encryption, knowledge-based authentication, bank-level security, granular permissions, unlimited file-sharing, and, of course, legally binding eSignatures.
Make client collaboration simple with Mango Practice Management
Mango was made by accountants, for accountants, which means that we fully understand the tools you need to improve your workflows and enhance the client experience.
Our accounting practice management software comes with everything you need to streamline your practice, including:
- Secure file-sharing and eSignature
- Online payments
- Client portal
- Time and billing software
- And more!
To learn more about how you can approach tax season with confidence and ease, schedule a demo with Mango today.
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