Auditors, fraud investigators, and other data analysts are increasingly being asked to connect to secure cloud environments or virtual private networks (VPNs) to not only access the files necessary to perform their tasks, but to perform their analyses also. These components are critical to delivering agile auditing strategies. For users of data analytics solutions, it is important to have a clear understanding on the range of different techniques to access your software, and to securely store and collaborate with your sensitive data, whilst at home.
With the release of IDEA v11 and its Cloud Share functionality, users are easily able to share and perform analyses on their documents from anywhere they wish. However, due to the vast differences in how each user’s organisation may have organised their systems to allow for remote working, users might initially encounter difficulty in getting this setup.
In this post, we’ll take you through some of the more advanced points needed to understand how you can get IDEA working seamlessly with your corporate network from a remote location, including a description of IDEA “Projects” and how they interact with a local system, and advice on how to get IDEA Data Analysis fully functional in both a virtual environment (like OneDrive or SharePoint) or a virtual private network.
IDEA “Projects” are an integral part of how IDEA works and can be placed in a number of different file locations on a desktop or virtual computer. IDEA uses projects to organize audit files. The project folder contains the set of original client files to be imported and any files subsequently generated through analysis. There are two types of projects:
- Managed Projects are designed to be created and stored locally on the user’s computer. These are the Default option for IDEA.
- External Projects can be stored locally on the user’s computer, or on a shared network location. It is important to note that if IDEA projects are stored on a network drive, the user must have permission to write to the network drive.
It is recommended that the data files for each audit or investigation be stored in separate folders or directories to simplify the management and housekeeping of database and other files associated with the audit/investigation.
Which Project type should I use?
Managed projects are useful if the user wants to use IDEA whilst not connected to their corporate networks since these projects are stored in the Documents folder of the user’s personal profile.
External Projects are useful if users want to store the IDEA Projects on a network drive to allow for collaboration between users. This requires the user to be connected to their corporate network to interact with these projects, however. At this point, it is worth noting that there are two types of External projects:
- Individual Usage: These projects are locked to one user at a time.
- Shared Usage: Allow multiple users to work in the same project at the same time. The Project Overview and Library feature are deactivated with this option.
When deciding what Usage type to implement, users need to decide what level of collaboration they need. If one user is completing the work and another checking their workings then the user should choose the Individual Usage option. The user can also choose Individual Usage if more than one user will be working in the project but never at the same time. Controlling which user the External Project is “locked” to is controlled via the “Properties” button in the Project group on the Home tab in IDEA. Locking the External Project to a user will ensure that audit trail information is consistently written into the Project Overview audit trail and also gives the user access to the IDEA Library for the Project.
If more than one user requires access to the Project at the same time then the Shared Usage option must be selected. As previously noted, however, this will cause the Project Overview and Library features to be deactivated.
Using IDEA in virtual environments (OneDrive and SharePoint)
The move to work-from-home has seen a massive increase in the use of virtual environments and file hosting and synchronisation services like OneDrive and SharePoint, and many users of IDEA are now looking to understand how IDEA can work with these platforms.
IDEA can work seamlessly with both OneDrive and SharePoint libraries if they have been synchronised to appear within the Windows File Explorer.
If a user’s personal profiles (including their Documents folder) is already being synchronised with OneDrive then chances are that their Managed Projects are being backed up to their corporate OneDrive account already. If this is not the case, then the managed project location can be changed in IDEA’s Options Screen to a folder location that is synchronised to a OneDrive account;
File → Options → Folders → Managed projects
SharePoint libraries are designed for multiple-user collaboration and so this would be suited to interact with IDEA’s External Projects. Data is being backed up and accessible to multiple IDEA users. Although it is advisable to ensure that all changes are synchronised before other users interacting with the External Projects.
In both cases, it is important to note that if the IDEA Projects are located on a folder that is synchronised with OneDrive or SharePoint, any IDEA files that are accessed within the project will, as part of the process, first be downloaded onto the users’ computer (i.e. the local desktop) before IDEA can interact with the file.
Using IDEA in Virtual Private Networks
Virtual Private Networks are an alternative for those users that do not have OneDrive or SharePoint libraries but require the same access capabilities, using External Projects located on network servers and using corporate Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections to access their networks. Depending on latency and the size of the IDEA databases involved, this can lead to longer lead times to process these files.
With these extended lead times users are looking to other solutions with the three main ones being:
- Disk Encryption: Applying disk encryption to user’s computers so that when they are processing data locally that the computers have the required level of security to protect said data. It is also important that the local Projects are then moved back to the network drives when the Project has been completed.
- Separate dedicated computers: Requisitioning computers that remain in the office and active that the user can create a remote connection too. This computer will have a copy of IDEA installed on it and will, in most cases, be closer to the network drives that the IDEA Projects are stored on. This means that the user will see the same task completion times that they would see if they working within their office environment.
- Dedicated installations of IDEA on Physical or Virtual Servers: Following the same principle and benefit as above, this solution sees IDEA installed on a server-class machine, either physical or virtual. The benefit being that access can be granted to more than one user concurrently, rather than the previous solution that will only allow one user to access the computer that IDEA is installed on at any one time.*
With working-from-home becoming increasingly commonplace across industries of all kinds, more and more auditors are finding themselves having to access secure cloud environments or virtual private networks (VPNs) in order to not only access the files necessary to perform their tasks, but to perform their analyses also. For users of data analytics solutions like IDEA, it is important to have a clear strategy of the best practise approach to setting up and using your software when working from home.
Whether you’re working in the office or using a cloud environment/VPN remotely, IDEA Data Analysis can provide the same level of complete functionality you’ve come to expect. If you’d like to speak to us about remote-working implementation, contact us via email today.
DISCLAIMER: Please bear in mind that IDEA may not work within certain network configurations. AuditWare offers no guarantee that IDEA can or will work within any particular network environment. Please contact Support to discuss your specific architecture and requirements in more detail.