MVI Cloud-based document sharingLast week we highlighted a survey that revealed many small to midsize businesses were slow to implement new technologies. In fact, 80% of business owners polled said that their teams did at least some of their work remotely, yet only 30% of them had embraced cloud computing. If your company is one of those struggling to bridge the gap between an increasingly remote workforce and their need to more easily collaborate, we'd like to introduce you to, or at least shed some light on, the benefits of cloud based document sharing.

Traditionally, companies would store, share, and backup their data on a central server, with files accessible on individual workstations. This traditional server model works great and is extremely secure. However, a virtual private network (VPN) is required to enable external access. Though this system works very well when properly maintained, a new, simpler option now exists - in the cloud. Online services such as Box, Dropbox, Egnyte, and OneDrive now allow users to immediately access, edit, and sync files across multiple devices anytime, anywhere, without the costs associated with managing and maintaining a VPN. Syncing is done automatically, and most robust programs offer the ability to see who is working on a particular document at any given time.

Beyond the cost savings, online document sharing is not hindered by file size. Many times throughout production or life of a project, the need will arise to share large files either inter-departmentally, with vendors, or with clients. Unfortunately, email systems have limitations on file size. If the file was too large, a transfer to disc would be required, resulting in additional costs and loss of productivity while in transit. With a cloud file server, this no longer happens. Those requiring access are provided a link and or password for immediate access.

Additionally, work flow is often enhanced with online file sharing. Because everyone is working within the same file, there are no version mix-ups. Audit trails are typically available on more robust systems, older versions are protected, and notifications to team members can be automated whenever someone reviews or completes another phase of the project.

Though borne from the 21st century’s need for better workforce accessibility, online document sharing and collaboration is a technological advancement that, if utilized, can improve the lives of almost every computer user. Students are collaborating on projects, and study groups no longer face traditional scheduling restraints. Organizations are planning events based on the latest attendance forecasts. Teammates are sharing photos, confirming schedules, and organizing carpools. Personally, even my “mom-duties” are easier now. Having the grocery list attached to the fridge with a magnet is incredibly helpful when someone polishes off the peanut butter. However, the poster board needed for a project and the cookies someone committed to bring often resulted in an additional trip to the store for me. Not any longer. These items are easily added to the shared list that everyone has access to. As an added bonus: I never forget the list on the counter anymore -- I simply pull it up on my phone at the store!

Though many advantages exist for online file sharing and collaboration, businesses are cautioned to do a thorough analysis to determine whether introducing this innovation is best for their individual situation. Two key areas to fully investigate are, obviously, security and cost. Remember, while cloud computing is generally deemed to be safe, you are allowing your data to leave the confines of the environment you control. Traditional servers are not without risk, but you and your IT partner do have complete control there, which is reassuring to many business owners.

If you do make the switch, be sure to invest in a professional version. Many companies offer free versions designed for personal use, which may be tempting to smaller businesses. These versions, however, do not provide adequate access control, encryption, deletion recovery, or remote wiping. Imagine your receptionist “cleaning up her files” and deleting a batch of files she never opens. Is your biggest client’s proposal now gone forever? Or, what if your salesman’s luggage -- including his laptop -- is lost on the way to Atlanta. Will your company’s sensitive data become available to the highest bidder at the unclaimed baggage auction in Fresno? Though not without cost, investing in a professional version will ensure that you have the features necessary to protect your valuable data assets.

Interested in learning more about online document sharing? CONTACT US for additional information. We'll translate the technical details into business language you can use!