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Top tips for keeping commercial online file sharing secure

Cloud-based file-sharing services benefit all types of businesses by providing easy, convenient access to information anytime, anywhere. With technology increasingly blurring the lines between work and personal lives - often with the same platform being used in both worlds - it can be easy to forget that work-related information often needs to be handled with greater care and a higher level of security.

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If employees use personal accounts and free services designed for consumer use, in order to manage clients' documents, they could be putting your business at high risk for a security breach. This will become ever more important as the regulations around management of sensitive and private information get stronger and enforced more strictly. However, there are several simple steps companies can take to tackle these issues and keep business information protected.

Since its development, online file sharing (OFS) has traditionally been a means for consumers and colleagues to share, access, and collaborate using cloud-based services. However, as a commercial tool, business proprietors have increasingly found uses for OFS in the control and protection of business data between clients and service providers.

For small firms especially, security is often the biggest reservation when sharing sensitive information remotely, and while many devise their own methods of doing so, some still grapple with issues including data leakage, web-based threats and coding flaws, so how can you protect client data from these threats?

Single vs double level encryption

Encrypting files to ensure they can only be read by certain users plays a critical role in keeping OFS data secure and preventing files from being compromised by hackers. Although most OFS platforms allow users to create a single level of encryption (for example password protection to access the account), if unauthorised access is gained, they have free reign to view any files within that folder or account. For businesses, therefore, these solutions do not offer an appropriate level of security when it comes to both file storage and sharing.

In addition, it is important that the appropriate level of control is in place with audit trails maintained to demonstrate that information is only accessed by people with the correct permissions.

The balance between security and usability

Although a large part of the equation, security is not the only aspect to consider within commercial OFS; ease-of use can make or break a company's successful file sharing process.

Usability and security should not be mutually exclusive. Ease-of-use and remote access are primary reasons employees decide on more consumer-focused providers, however as we have seen, these programs rarely provide the iron-clad levels of protection needed for professional file-sharing. Creating a platform with a straightforward user interface will mean employees are far more likely to continue operating with secure programs, rather than reverting back to sharing via unprotected networks or email.

Usability includes the need to access content across a number of devices, including computers as well as smartphones and tablets, either through web browsers or dedicated apps. In an age of mobile devices and distributed teams, file sharing and file synchronisation are essential IT capabilities. In industries that handle a plethora of sensitive data it's just as crucial to consider what your specific needs are and what the best, most secure options for your client will be.

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There are solutions available that offer both bank-level security and an easy-to-use interface to ensure that confidential data remains secure, while clients and employees enjoy the convenience of accessing files from any authorised device, anywhere, anytime.

Eva Rossmar is the CEO of Vaultigo (opens in new tab)