As the future of work becomes heavily remote-focused, companies are scrambling to catch up. They need systems that prioritize secure file sharing with customers and vendors, and they want reliable tools to help with document management for download, collaboration, and private use.
It’s no surprise that the document management systems market is expected to reach $11.47 billion by 2026, as companies look for the best file-sharing software available to keep their data safe.
To keep things simple but secure, businesses must streamline their workflows to create, store, and search for the multitude of documents they have floating around their network.
Why is file sharing essential for organizations?
File sharing—the transfer of digital items from one device to another—is used in almost every industry. While businesses benefit from the ease of file sharing, it comes with risks.
With a spike of data breaches and leaks in customer information, organizations must be hyperaware of the data they share, and this affects how they choose vendors.
Businesses want peace of mind knowing that their vendors and third parties are keeping their confidential information safe. But, they also need collaboration with vendors to be quick and painless, and it’s pushing companies to rethink the way files are shared.
Let’s examine the benefits and risks of file sharing, the different types, and review the best ways to keep your data secure.
The benefits of file sharing
- Easy transfers: You can transfer very large files to cloud servers. It’s often a quick and efficient way to send another person a file, and as technology advances, it’s also becoming much faster to download.
- Global collaboration: People can view, make edits, or add comments to documents anywhere in the world. Business partners can share files and collaborate easily with internal groups and outside vendors without worrying about whether a file is too big.
- Better accessibility: People can access files at any time, from anywhere, and on any device.
- Significant savings: Companies no longer need to buy and maintain their own servers to host data.
The risks of file sharing
- Lack of visibility: It’s hard to track what happens to a file after it’s shared externally. Lack of accountability could steer the company into trouble if confidential information is jeopardized.
- Account breaches: With many file-sharing platforms and collaboration tools, users set their own passwords. If a user chooses a weak password or reuses passwords from other sites, a cybercriminal could easily access that user’s account to share or download sensitive content.
- Increase of infected files: A remote file could increase the risk of getting a virus or other type of malware.
- Risk of data leakage: It’s too easy for an employee to send a document with sensitive data to the wrong vendor, whether by accident or intention.
- Shadow IT: Security is compromised by using unauthorized technologies. For example, when staff bring their own devices to work or use personal email accounts for business. IT departments usually have no awareness of this and are unable to impose cybersecurity controls or group policies when it happens.
- Copyright laws: Even though legal ways to share and download files exist, some websites have been criticized for sharing music and videos illegally. Some of these sites also violate specific copyright laws, so it’s advisable to avoid sharing copyrighted material without permission from the owner.
The different types of file sharing
There are five main ways to share files. Which one you choose depends on the type of files you’re sharing and how much security and protection the data needs.
1. File transfer protocol (FTP)
File transfer protocol is one of the most popular and straightforward ways to share a file. This method transfers files between a computer and a server and is generally used to transfer large files or large amounts of data between multiple stakeholders.
Users of this method can get access to the files shared from a specific FTP server site. These sites either offer public file-sharing or the ability to view or download files by using a particular password. However, this method isn’t suitable or dynamic enough for managing collaborative documents.
2. Peer-to-peer (P2P)
With the P2P method, to share a file, you’ll only need computer hardware and software to communicate without using a central server. Instead, files are located on your computer and then shared with someone else, who can be on an entirely different server. For example, an instant messaging service like Slack allows you to send and share files as attachments.
3. Removable storage media
When there is no network-based option, you can always share a file using removable media, which includes anything that can be removed from a device or a computer. Once a file is transferred, it can be physically handed over and shared with others. Examples of removable storage media are USB drives, memory cards, and floppy disks.
While physical drives may be a good option for file sharing, this option also presents other risks, such as the device being misplaced, damaged, or stolen, making the data unrecoverable.
4. Online file-sharing services
Using online file-sharing services, sometimes called cloud content collaboration software, enables users to share files easily online without installing specific software to connect devices.
This method works when a user uploads a document, a PDF, or a spreadsheet to an online platform that allows other people to download and access these files on the same platform. You can also set accessibility permissions to include privileges such as viewing, reading, or editing the file. Examples of this type of file sharing method include Google Drive and Dropbox.
Sometimes people forget that email attachments are a form of file sharing. Usually, there are file-size limits that can make this method inefficient. Also, when a document is shared, there may be multiple threads containing different versions of the same document, leading to confusion and misplacing of files.
How do you ensure secure file sharing for your organization?
- Choose a service that offers end-to-end encryption and granular permission settings. You need a system that gives you appropriate visibility and security controls, which includes access control, expiring file access, and compliance.
- Check your permission settings. Most service providers allow for a public sharing option, but this is not an option you want to use regularly since anyone with the correct link can access your files.
- Implement access rules to establish who can view, edit, and download files. A simple but often neglected measure is regularly assessing and updating access permissions for files and folders, especially when offboarding employees.
- Run regular file audits to see who is accessing them. Files that are old or unused should be removed from your system. This can save bandwidth and ensure that the only files that are available to share are actively required for employees to do their jobs.
- Restrict download capabilities and set expiration dates for shared documents.
- Implement security controls at the enterprise level.
- Make sure ease-of-use is as frictionless as possible
Manage your vendors all in one place
At Nira, our real-time access control system provides complete visibility and management over which of your vendors and third parties can access your company documents.
With Nira, you can:
- Identify all vendors and third parties with access to company documents, assess their risk, and remove unnecessary access.
- Fully offboard vendors by removing access for each of their accounts, including personal accounts, and transferring documents ownership to new accounts.
- Identify public links and unauthorized access to confidential documents owned by vendors.
Train and educate your employees on file sharing
Once you’ve invested in a secure service, you need to make sure employees actually use it. First, your team members need to understand the importance and sensitivities of different types of information and the associated risks with mishandling confidential information.
While some breaches could be malicious, most are due to a lack of awareness or training around best practices.
Providing adequate staff training is a crucial step to ensure file sharing remains secure. The best thing you can do is promote a culture of security throughout your company.
Secure your files today
You can integrate establishing secure file sharing with vendors into your existing cyber protection policies. Cloud file sharing is the most effective solution for collaborative work, but your chosen service provider must also match your organization’s day-to-day security requirements.
Need help managing your files quickly and securely? Request a demo to see what Nira can do to protect your company’s documents from access risk.
Nira currently works with Google Workspace, with more integrations coming soon.