One of the most convenient ways to share information is via email. But the problem is that you can end up with multiple copies and versions of files and the platform was never designed to be secure.
Collaboration systems like Slack and HipChat spread the attachments even further. Are there better ways? I chatted with Scott Leader, Regional Vice President ANZ at Box.net about these challenges.
Leader says that's when we attach a document to an email and click send, we immediately surrender control over the content.
"Data is the most important asset for any business and therefore, while it may seem simple, any action that gives control of this data poses a huge risk for a business and its customers'" he said. "Sending an email to the wrong person by mistake or intentionally means you’ve relinquished control of this data to an unlimited and untraceable amount of people.
As we reported a few weeks ago more than 60 data breaches were reported in the first six weeks of the new National Data Breach (NDB) laws. A large proportion of these breaches were the result of human error, such as sending a document to the wrong recipient.
"But it’s not just human error that poses problems; attachments housed in emails are also at risk from hackers, exposing your business to data theft and data ransom. Once this data is in the hands of an unknown person, it’s next to impossible to trace it," said Leader.
Anyone who's been involved in reviewing documents shared over email knows the pain of version control. Leader said that while things might start sensibly with version 1 it doesn't take long until you end up weigh multiple iterations and edits and file names like "Version 1.2.34-Final_FINAL_REAL FINAL, USE THIS ONE". As well as creating a collaboration nightmare it results in inefficiency that hits workplace productivity.
Many companies now use collaboration tools such as Slack, HipChat or Microsoft Teams and these often take over the information and attachment sharing role of email.
Leader noted a recent study by Deloitte that found collaboration tools, combined with a culture of innovation, led to Australian employees being 56 percent happier than those working in an environment that does not support collaboration. This also leads to being 60 percent more innovative and completing better quality work.
"Not only does collaboration reduce the time wasted on back-and-forths, it also fosters innovation and creative thinking, which of course is a key advantage for any business," he said.
So, what does it take to create a strong collaboration platform that ensures data is controlled while letting people work together?
Leader said it starts but putting together a collaboration platform supported across the organisation.
"It can’t come just from the IT department as a way to provide an extra security layer. It’s the drive for a more efficient, creative and high-quality collaborative approach to work that will help adoption and deployment of these tools," he said.
Choosing the best available technology can be challenging. Consumer expectations are high but enterprise technology is often developed with the workplace in mind and delivers a very different experience.
"Businesses need to ensure that employees feel comfortable with the enterprise technology, and avoid bringing in their own tools into the workplace as a substitute," said Leader. "Key to this is ensuring the technology you select intersects with usability for employees, and security, for the IT team".
That means it's unlikely businesses will find an out of the box solution that delivers what they need. It might mean putting together a solution that combines a collaboration tool with a centralised storage system and apps that allow concurrent editing of files.
All those things exist today. It's a matter of choosing the components that best suit your business and then putting them together. A good starting point is to lean on existing productivity tools like Microsoft Office or Google Apps, and then layer a collaboration tool like HipChat or Slack. That will help smooth the transition as it keeps some of what users are familiar with.
A centralised storage system that allows documents to be easily linked to is also important. That will allow people to break their dependence on email attachments as there's one version of the document, centrally stored and controlled, that all authorised parties can access.