Sharing files has become a staple in contemporary business IT needs. More often than not, these files are proprietary and confidential business information, and therefore security becomes a major consideration.

There are several ways of sharing files securely. In this post, we will outline three methods of secure file sharing, as well as the pros and cons of each method.

OPTION 1 – E-Mail

METHOD

To share files over email, you can simply send files as an email attachment.

PROS

  • Easy to send.
  • Easy to track when it was sent and to whom.

CONS

  • Most email services limit attachment size to 25-30 MB, however some private email services (e.g. Microsoft Exchange) can be configured for up to 150 MB.
  • Delivery is not guaranteed.
  • The sent file is stored on both ends, increasing space requirements.
  • Files are scattered through different emails and may be difficult to locate.

OPTION 2 – FTP

METHOD

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. It allows for continuous file exchange with clients or customers. Files are stored on online FTP servers and accessible to anyone that has access to the server. Anonymous access may be allowed as well.

PROS

  • Unlimited file size.
  • Easy to create a folder structure on the FTP server when there are many files.
  • Convenient for continuous file exchange with clients or customers.

CONS

  • The user needs to wait until the file is uploaded to / downloaded from the FTP server (time depends on the file size).
  • For secure file exchange, sender and received must have an account on the FTP server.
  • An anonymous account allows anyone to access a public folder on an FTP server. IMPORTANT: Never allow access to confidential files by anonymous accounts.

OPTION 3 – Cloud File Sharing

METHOD

Cloud file sharing platforms like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, allow to share files with authorised individuals.

PROS

  • Almost unlimited file size. Typical limits for free accounts are in the 5-20 GB range, paid subscriptions allow for storage in the Terabyte range and beyond.
  • Multiple files can be arranged into a folder structure for organisation purposes.
  • Permissions can be assigned to control who can see and change documents.
  • Easy to find files using search options and general structure navigation.
  • Files are synchronised in real time. For example, a OneDrive or Dropbox client on your computed begins to sync files with the cloud immediately after you save it to a certain folder on your computer.

CONS

  • User needs to wait until a file is uploaded to / downloaded from the cloud server (time depends on file size).
  • Security can be an issue, since the files are not directly in your hands. Security breaches of cloud platforms may cause cyber liability issues.

SOME IMPORTANT DOs AND DON’Ts:

DON’Ts 

  • DO NOT to share a company’s confidential files with other people, unless you and the receiving party are authorised.
  • DO NOT use cloud file sharing services, unless authorised.
  • DO NOT send large files (over 10MB) by email.
  • DO NOT save important business documents on your desktop computer, save them on the network drives instead.
  • DO NOT save confidential files on unprotected/un-encrypted USB flash drives (this is easiest way information can be leaked outside the organisation to unauthorised individuals).

DOS

  • DO use email for small file exchange only.
  • DO use FTP server for continuous exchange of files with clients or suppliers.
  • DO use Cloud file sharing for collaborative work on documents.
  • DO consult your IT team on the best way to share files.