Sharing files. You’d think something so basic to business operations would be easy. Yet employees have struggled on how to do this efficiently for decades. We should be grateful that we’re past the age of “sneaker net” – when you walked a disk over to a colleague’s desk – but emailing Word and Excel files back and forth isn’t much better. You forget who has what file. You lose control of changes. You get different “versions of truth” scattered throughout your business.
In today’s fast-paced world, where most SMBs have mobile or remote workers to manage, it is simply too awkward and unproductive to continue operating this way. There’s also the fact that files are increasing in size. Many of them exceed the threshold that email services allow.
According to a Ponemon study, 50% of businesses don’t have policies about file-sharing tools. Even if policies do exist, 48% say they don’t enforce them. More significantly, 69% of SMBs do not even know whether employees are using unapproved or risky file sharing tools.
But this puts SMBs at risk of data loss and other security threats. Especially at risk is intellectual property (IP), which can be vulnerable to loss or exposure when employees routinely post sensitive data on the public cloud (see figure below).
Source: Ponemon Institute 2015
Yet employees want – and need – to collaborate. They want their files available to them from anywhere, be it the office, home or on the road. Their jobs require it.
So they turn to free consumer file sharing. They choose productivity over security. And the surprising thing is that often their bosses go along with them. A full 58% of business executives “strongly agree” or “agree” that they sometimes place more importance on employees’ productivity than they do on security.
Not incidentally, most executives (54%) also believe file-sharing tools improve employee productivity. So there you have the conundrum.
What should you do? Here are five steps to achieve the right balance between employee productivity and securing your critical data.
1. Integrate a business-class file-sharing service into your users’ office-tech toolkit.
Chances are good your employees are already sharing files using the public cloud. As I mentioned, this puts your IT at risk – either through a data breach of the vendor, or by an employee walking off with sensitive documents when he or she leaves the company. This isn’t done intentionally. Most of the time, employees simply don’t understand the risks. Don’t pretend this isn’t happening. Instead, find a file-sharing service for your business and create a process to easily allow employees to collaborate.
2. Put security first.
When looking at solutions, you might drift toward “freemium” services that offer free and premium versions of file-sharing tools. However, consumer-grade services leave you susceptible to data leaks and other security threats. The reason? Your sensitive data is stored on the public cloud, protected only by a username and password. Such services can be hacked with breathtaking speed and ease. Choose a business-class service that offers robust security controls, and gives you complete visibility into what your employees are doing. Look for a service that surrounds all your data with firewalls. Your solution should also give you control over who can access which documents. And look for a solution that allows you to assign access by role, rather than individual, so if someone is hired, leaves the company or changes jobs, the access rights move with them. File encryption is also important – both when data is in transit and at rest in storage.
3. Remember compliance mandates.
Depending on what industry you operate in, and what type of business you run, you will have different regulations that you must comply with. Choose a file-sharing service that meets the stringent requirements for compliance by governing boards such as HIPAA, FINRA, AICPA, EUDPD and others.
4. But don’t forget the productivity benefits.
Remember, productivity is also key. That’s why you wanted file sharing to begin with. But your employees can very easily go rogue and continue to use their favorite free file-sharing service unless you provide them with a business-class alternative. You need to choose a solution that is just as simple to learn and use as the free ones, and which has similar – or, better yet, superior – capabilities. That way you get the best of all worlds: secure data and productive employees.
5. Train your employees thoroughly.
Ultimately, your employees need to understand what information and documents are sensitive, and what the consequences are for not keeping them secure. It’s your job to educate them on safe ways to share information – both internally and externally. If you provide them with the right file-sharing tools, then proper training will cement your success. Keep in mind that all data is not created equal. Educate your employees, associates, and vendors on compliance mandates and tier from top/down the level of sensitivity given to different types of information. For example, private customer records would receive top priority, sales numbers would be less prioritized, and so on.
Firewall-protected, secure enterprise file-sharing services that mix online and on-location storage give SMBs the best of all worlds. Files are protected. Compliance mandates are met. And users are happy because they get the flexibility and collaboration tools they need.
Egnyte Connect is a business-ready file-sharing solution that makes it easy to manage and share files with anyone, regardless of their location, device or apps used.