File sharing and document collaboration have been a business essential for many years, but the process has changed over time. The old days of copy-editing marks and a red pen have primarily gone by the wayside. Now, instead of passing around a printed copy, we’ve gone digital. Sharing of documents digitally has been going on for a while, but even those processes have changed, and more options are available.
Initially, sharing of electronic files involved one staff member starting a document followed by the file being emailed from one staff member to another as an attachment with comments and modifications being made at each stage. This process has its drawbacks and two common issues are that file size becomes too large to attach or the wrong version of the file is attached. Physical media such as USB sticks, flash drives, and CDs have been used, but this method can have the same file size and version issues as well as the problem of misplaced media.
As solutions have matured, servers and online options such as Dropbox and Google Drive have enabled file sharing and document collaboration to be a common practice. However, file sharing still requires a strategy for organizing your files and setting up a secure environment to share.
- Folder Structure – Create a structure to keep files organized by who will access them, how long they need to be stored (data retention for compliance regulations), and internal files vs. external files. Also, don’t allow additional copies of the document to be stored offline or in other folders as this can lead to lost versions and potential security leaks. See Improve Efficiency with an Effective File Structure for more tips on creating a folder structure.
- File Names – Ensure that your system provides a way to easily find files through documented file naming conventions. (See Improve Efficiency with an Effective File Structure) In addition to understandable file names, you may want to consider adding tagging to your files to enable better search capabilities.
- Permissions – When collaborating on a document, you want to make sure that you have the correct permissions set for both groups and individuals. Creating a simple plan for permissions is recommended and will help permissions be maintained and eliminate exceptions.
- Access - Restrict access based on role, department, or other criteria to ensure appropriate access for each individual. If you are collaborating with those outside your organization, you may want to consider adding a layer of security by using password protection.
- Actions – Occasionally, you may want to grant an individual access to a file for only a specific action such as being able to read, but not edit. One solution is to incorporate your category of permission (i.e. Edit, Read Only, Full Access) into the group name and then assign staff to the group based on their contribution level.
- Versioning – Track files by versions to minimize lost changes and distribution of the wrong document. Simple versioning can be established using file name conventions. (See Improve Efficiency with an Effective File Structure.) If a more robust solution is needed, look to your File Sharing software solution for versioning features.
- Security – Permissions are one component of security, but it is also important to ensure that your data is secure when moving between collaborators. Utilizing a file sharing solution will help ensure data security. If email is used to share files, consider purchasing encryption software to keep your data secure in transit.
- Software Solutions - There are many software options to assist with file sharing, collaboration, security, and version control. Your review should include organizational size and complexity, business needs, and financial investment, both for implementation and ongoing maintenance.
There are multiple methods for managing your team collaboration and file sharing needs. Outlining a process that works for your organization, exploring the available options, and implementing a solution can seem like a daunting task. Ninestone has experience working with businesses in a variety of industries to craft a solution that fits. We are ready to support you to develop a budget-conscious solution that meets your business requirements.