May 15, 2013 by Mitch Taube Categories: Document Management

File sharing sites, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, have become a popular means to get around corporate policies and/or file size limitations or because there is nothing better in place. One-time use often blossoms into an ad-hoc document management system.

So, what’s the harm in using cloud file sharing for your business documents? File sharing sites are relatively easy to use, allow documents to be shared in seconds, are password-protected, and some allow you to track changes.

The Problem

Cloud file sharing does not provide a centrally controlled and secure means to share documents and confidential information. This puts corporations and individuals at risk of legal exposure and failing to meet regulatory guidelines. Alternatively, cloud document management software provides an infinitely more secure way to share documents as well as to ensure the appropriate access, integrity and even retention schedule of every document.

We’ve All Seen This…

The basic scenario is that users may forget what they put in Dropbox, enabling unsuspecting parties to see information they should not. For example, a person may send what they think is a link to one folder, but accidentally sends the link to their entire file sharing archive, exposing all files within it. We’ve heard of instances where a file sharing user inadvertently provides access to all contracts to a customer or sensitive HR information to non-HR employees (such as an I-9 or salaries). Even if the file share is secure, the invitation email can accidentally be sent to the wrong person or forwarded to an inappropriate person by the recipient, with no control being available to the originator of the documents.

Ensure File Confidentiality

In addition to remote access, cloud document management software includes the following security features to ensure integrity and regulatory compliance for every document:

  • Centralized administration: managing access rights and functionality controls for every document
  • Audit trails: tracking who accesses a document, when and what they do with it
  • Revision history: viewing all edits to a document made by all parties
  • Document retention scheduling: how long to keep each document in order to meet regulatory guidelines

Cloud file sharing bypasses corporate control and, once the file reaches its destination, the recipient has unrestricted access. In a world governed by Sarbanes Oxley, the FDA and HIPAA, having this control is essential to ensuring compliance, mitigating risk and reinforcing information security best practices.

Simplicity

File sharing can be complex. In some cases, the document format must be changed, as opposed to using it in its native format. You may have to put it into a PDF format instead of Word so it cannot be changed, versus limiting edit capabilities with document management software. Uploading documents and setting access/sharing rights is also manual, cumbersome and error-prone and, without version control, users may not realize they are viewing an outdated version of the document. With cloud document management software, you never have to change the native format of the document, uploading is simple, access/sharing rights are managed centrally, and version control is automated.

Bonus: Optimized Search

Document management software provides robust search capabilities, including keyword pairs (e.g. all invoices for one customer within a specific date range) and full text search that shows you where in the document a particular word or phrase appears. Users (with permission) can search on a specific document type to find specific information easily and quickly. This can include TIFF images that do not readily provide that data in their native format. These capabilities do not exist within Dropbox or Google Drive.

Cloud Document Management Over Cloud File Sharing

Bottom line: why put document security into the hands of the individual sharing a file when cloud document management software allows central security administration for setting access levels, ensuring version control and audit trails, and setting retention schedules? It also offers a seamless transition to streamlining and automating all process workflows. And let’s not forget that cloud document management offers numerous advantages over traditional document management software by allowing unlimited users, almost infinite scalability and no need for capital expenditures. Perhaps even more importantly for small businesses, utilizing cloud document management is a platform that will not only grow with your business but will also make this growth easier and more quickly attainable.