Cloud-based file-sharing services benefit all types of businesses by providing easy, convenient access to information anytime, anywhere. But if any of your employees use personal accounts and free services designed for consumer use, they could be putting your business at high risk for a security breach.
"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 (BYOD) 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 explained.
"[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 suffer from severe inadequacies in protecting business 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," he said.
To avoid the issues associated with consumer software, Sloshberg recommends finding the right file-sharing solution that is designed specifically for businesses. [For reviews of the best file-sharing services, visit our sister site Business.com.]
Sloshberg also shared the following advic eto help companies tackle these issues and keep business information protected by putting in place a secure, controlled file-sharing service:
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 finding 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.
When you decide to take action, you want to get a solution installed at your office quickly. Business-focused cloud services offer ideal setup speed and ongoing agility.
4. Consider an integrated system versus a separate-point solution.
You may be tempted to find a standalone system that simply delivers file sharing. Consider looking at a more integrated system that may also include other key capabilities, such as email security.
5. Train and educate users.
Help your users 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 business information.
To learn more about secure file-sharing for businesses, Sloshberg recommends reading "Take Control of File Sharing Services: Best Practices for the Safe and Secure Use of File Sharing for Organizations," a security report published by Bloor Research.