People share files in business all the time. You simply attach a document into an email and send it off to co-workers, clients, vendors, partners, etc. But how safe and efficient is this process? What if you are sending confidential or sensitive information to external parties? How can you ensure they aren't exposing your data? How do you share a file that's too large to e-mail? What if you are collaborating with multiple people on a document? How can you easily keep track of comments and versions? It’s hard to keep track of everything and control your data. It’s a model of inefficiency, costing your business time and money. But how pervasive is this behavior and how much does it cost?
A recent survey of 1200 knowledge workers around the world found that 92 percent of people conduct document sharing and review via email. The Nitro/PDF Association report from 2015 showed that 83 percent of respondents waste time every day because of document sharing issues. When it comes to consolidation, the amount of time spent is staggering. According to the report “the estimated time…gathering, consolidating and deciphering feedback—is 6.9 hours per week per employee.” What’s most interesting of all is that, despite all the technology available to them, only 9 percent use a cloud storage provider. So let’s understand the benefits of file sharing and content management and how to do it most efficiently.
According to the report “the estimated time…gathering, consolidating and deciphering feedback—is 6.9 hours per week per employee.”
There are a number of different file sharing and content/information management systems. If you’ve begun investigating this market, you’ll notice that not all are the same. Not by a long shot. Before selecting a solution, consider your business requirements and technology infrastructure. Identify your needs and outline your use cases. The following are items you should consider before you conduct your search:
- Security: Will you be storing or sharing sensitive information such as corporate financials or customer information? If so, you will need a solution that offers multi-layered security including the highest levels of encryption, administrative controls, and firewall protection.
- Accessibility: Will only internal employees be able to access or share files or do you want a solution where you can share files with external parties as well? Do you want to allow people to access documents remotely and from mobile devices?
- Data Capacity: Does your business require a large volume of data? Is it equipped to handle the quantity you plan to store and share?
- Usability: Is the platform user-friendly and can it easily be adopted into existing workflows? If the platform is not user-friendly you run the risk of low adoption and can find yourself back at square one.
- Collaboration: Would you like to collaborate on documents with other stakeholders, or are you simply using the solution to send files back and forth?
- Connectivity: Do you want to connect your existing applications such as Microsoft Office? If so, the platform needs to have an accessible API.
- Customer Support: Do you require assistance implementing the solution? Would you like help troubleshooting issues? What about tips for best practices?
- Pricing model: What model fits your business best? Does it make more sense for you to pay by volume or by user? A monthly or yearly subscription or a one-time-fee?
Once you evaluate your needs and use case, it’s time to consider the options. The following are four major categories for document sharing and content management services. Each have their pros and cons, so keep that in mind as you begin your search:
- FTP (File Transfer Protocol): These systems have been around for many years. In fact, the first FTP specifications were written in 1971. It’s primarily a useful way to send and receive large files, but there are significant security risks and no collaborative features.
- Cloud Storage Platforms: For the most part, these originated as consumer-centric services. In that, they were designed for collaboration and file sharing. But one area they lacked was in security. While many providers are looking to expand into the enterprise, their security features still don’t meet the high standards big business typically requires. In fact, in 2014 a hacker exposed passwords for 7 million Dropbox accounts. This came two years after the same provider was hacked, exposing data for some 68 million accounts. Box, a leading provider of cloud storage, has “poor security practices” according to TechRepublic, potentially exposing data for millions of their customers. That said, these services are good for sharing large files with family and friends, and they’re inexpensive. But generally speaking, they have limited use in the enterprise outside of small businesses with limited security needs. The also offer little customer support
- File Sharing Platforms: These services provide a central data repository that can be reached via the internet. They are also scalable and integrate with leading business office software. But they do present some major setbacks. They are often clunky and expensive. From a deployment standpoint, SharePoint and ShareFile, can take months or even years to get up and running across your organization. In a 2016 article in CIO Review, the publication explained that SharePoint “has a reputation for getting in its own way” while a 2015 review in PC Magazine said the service was “good [for] online editing” but “setting up features can be overwhelming.” This has lead to mixed reviews by end-users who have been known to When it comes to data security, some require integrating with outside services. Gartner, a prominent technology research group, notes that these are probably best for “lightweight content management” rather than any heavy lifting.
- Virtual Data Rooms: These services were initially designed with mergers & acquisitions and the enterprise in mind. They place an emphasis on security and real-time content management, because during the high-stakes world of M&A and due diligence, these features are of the utmost importance. Since then, virtual data rooms have expanded into other industries. Some have done so understanding the intricacies of business and customized their services to meet that demand. Others have simply ported their legacy systems into new sectors.
One such platform that’s delivering new user features, a modern interface and collaboration tools is SmartRoom. The platform is a next generation virtual data room designed to deliver greater efficiency and bank-grade security for file sharing and collaboration. SmartRoom has features that allow you to customize the platform so it makes sense for your needs and business requirements. You can set document level security, remotely detonate documents, and enable advanced reporting features for better control and visibility to activity. The ability to share documents externally with a secure link, and synchronize files from your desktop increase efficiency for end-users. Additionally, the platform’s accessible API allows you to connect other applications like Office 365 so you can create, edit, and collaborate on documents with multiple stakeholders.
The other thing to keep in mind as you start looking for file sharing and content management platforms is you need to look toward the future. What will your company look like in a year? In three years? In five years or more? This may help guide your decision about what service works best for your business.
Figuring out how to share data, especially extremely sensitive information, requires a lot of planning and understanding. So it’s important to be educated about what your options are and what will fit best within your organization before making that investment.