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6 Smart Ways to Share Files Securely

By Sean Peek, Contributing Writer

Updated: July 23, 2020

For most businesses, cloud-based file-sharing services provide easy, convenient access to information at any time, from anywhere. In fact, businesses that are slow to adopt formal, cloud-based file-sharing software may find their employees use their own personal cloud storage services to add a layer of convenience to their work. However, employees that use personal accounts and free services designed for consumer use could be putting your business at high risk for a security breach.

6 Smart Ways to Share Files Securely
6 Smart Ways to Share Files Securely

"With work and personal lives becoming increasingly blurred, especially for small business owners and managers, the delineation of work data and personal information has [blurred] too," said Dan Sloshberg, product marketing director at cloud services provider Mimecast.

This makes secure file-sharing critical for small businesses. With the consumerization of IT and the bring-your-own-device movement, employees now use traditionally consumer-oriented technology for business purposes, Sloshberg said. [Read related article: 5 Dangerous File-Sharing Habits You Need to Break Right Now]

"It's easy to forget that the information we handle in our work lives often requires greater care," he said. "Its value and privacy can be vital to business success, and it should be adequately protected at all times. [And] data can be at its most vulnerable when being shared."

Although email is the most common way businesses communicate, collaborate, and share information, limitations within commonly used email systems, such as file-size and storage constraints, often create restrictions, Sloshberg said.

"[These] restrictions force users to find workaround solutions," he added. "They most commonly turn to consumer-grade file-sharing services to overcome this productivity barrier of email."

These services, however, are meant for personal accounts and are severely inadequate when it comes to protecting a business's data.

"The consequences of consumer-grade file-sharing services in the workplace can be far-reaching," Sloshberg said. Problems include "loss of IP, sensitive data leakage, loss of visibility and [lack of] control over where data resides as well as compliance, regulatory, and e-discovery breaches," Sloshberg said.

Risks involved with file sharing

  1. Release of sensitive data. One of the most serious risks of file-sharing software is that sensitive data can be exposed, either intentionally or unintentionally, if employees aren't careful and proper policies are not in place. Once an unauthorized party gains access to your file-sharing service, it's difficult to discern what they accessed and just how far your private information has spread.

  2. Susceptibility to attacks. If your file-sharing software requires you to bypass firewalls to upload or download files, you may be opening yourself up to attackers who can perform distributed denial-of-service, man in the middle and various other cyberattacks against your system.

  3. Installation of malicious software. Finally, if an employee opens a risky file that was placed on your file-sharing service, they may inadvertently download and introduce malware, such as viruses, spyware, worms or Trojan horses, on their computer and possibly compromise the entire network.

Tips for secure file sharing

To avoid the issues associated with consumer software, Sloshberg advised business owners to find the right file-sharing solution that is designed specifically for businesses. [See which file-sharing services we recommend on our sister site,]

Sloshberg also shared six tips to help companies keep critical information protected by putting a secure, controlled file-sharing service in place:

1. Take action, and don't ignore the problem.

A lot of file sharing happens at work. Instead of ignoring data protection, make it a priority by finding a service that allows users to work within email to send and receive files – regardless of size – instead of using workaround solutions.

2. Choose a business-grade system.

Consumer-grade services can leave you susceptible to data leaks and other security threats. They also make e-discovery or statements of compliance difficult. Find a business-grade service that gives you appropriate visibility and security controls, including access control, expiring file access, and compliance and e-discovery.

3. The cloud makes it easy.

You want a solution that you can install and implement quickly at your office. Business-focused cloud services offer an ideal setup speed and ongoing agility.

4. Consider an integrated system vs. a separate-point solution.

You may be tempted to find a stand-alone system that simply delivers file sharing. Consider, though, a more integrated system that includes other key capabilities, such as email security.

5. Train and educate users.

Employees need to understand the sensitivities of different types of information and the risks associated with mishandling sensitive data. They should have a clear understanding of what they cannot share outside the business and secure ways of sharing appropriate information with external parties. If you've invested in a secure service, you need to make sure employees use it.

6. Ease of use is crucial.

With easy access to intuitive consumer-grade services, your chosen business solution must be just as easy to use as the consumer options, and as frictionless as possible. This is key to ensuring its ongoing use so that it can successfully protect your business's information.


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