Technology columnist MJ Shoer says file sharing apps, like Google Drive, provide greater efficiency for workers, but businesses need to have data protection policies in place.
The following was originally published on March 20, 2016 on Seacoastonline.com.
Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, these are all great file sharing applications. File sharing apps allow you to save your files and have them synchronize and be available wherever you need them.
File sharing apps make your data available in the Cloud and on your mobile devices and all of your computers. For example, when you save a file to your file sharing app on your Windows PC you will also be able to access it via your web browser from any computer you have access to. If you install the same file sharing app on your Mac, you’ll have access to the file there. Install the app on your iPhone, Android phone, iPad or Android tablet and you can see the files there, too.
File sharing apps are great for insuring you have easy, intuitive access to your data wherever and whenever you need it. In early versions of these apps, access was not as intuitive as it is today. Today, most file sharing apps integrate nicely into your file management system. On a Windows PC, this is File Explorer. On Mac it’s the Finder. When you open your file management tool, ideally your file sharing app presents itself as another folder or drive that you may easily drag and drop your files to. All the same file management capabilities you use on your device exist in your file sharing app and more.
Sounds great right? It is, but it comes with some risk you need to understand and more importantly, manage.
Some additional features in file sharing apps allow you to share the file with someone who does not use the app. This makes it easy to send a link to someone to access a file you want them to. You will also have the ability to password protect access in case the link winds up in unintended hands. This is one area where you need to be sure you are careful. As easy as it is to access your data, it is also easy to accidentally share files or even entire folders, without any safeguards, so be careful not to violate your company data protection policies.
Speaking of company policies, be sure any file sharing apps conform to your company IT and data privacy policies. Free file sharing apps like Dropbox proliferated quickly and made their way into corporate America with little oversight. Savvy businesses are beginning to implement file sharing apps that offer more security features to insure company data is properly protected.
While still providing the ease and intuitiveness of the widely known file sharing apps, business class file sharing is coming in to its own. With the ability to brand and secure the file sharing apps to conform with company policy, these apps are providing IT and senior management with protections they require for the important data that finds its way into these apps.
When working with file sharing apps in a corporate environment, sharing data goes beyond what devices a single person may access their data from. They often become collaborative platforms that allow multiple people to access the same data across their own devices and from any location. This can lead to version conflicts and lost updates as one person might be able to overwrite another’s work. In these instances, a critical feature is the ability to lock the file so only one user can update it until that person unlocks the files for others. This needs to be a seamless and semi-automatic process to protect the integrity of the data.
Auditing who accesses and shares what files and when is also critical in the workplace. For compliance and general good stewardship, you need to be able to track who last accessed your data. You also need to be able to remotely manage all devices using the file sharing app. If a device is lost or stolen or an employee terminated, you need to be able to destroy company data on those devices to protect the company’s data and comply with any compliance requirements you may have.
File sharing apps are a great productivity tool and enable people to work more efficiently. Deploying these apps in a corporate environment requires thoughtful planning, proper management and oversight. A little planning will go a long way toward insuring you are able to use these apps and realize all the benefits while minimizing any risk.