What to Consider When Leveraging File Sharing

File sharing with your team, partners, vendors, and customers has raised productivity and efficiency levels to new heights. However, it’s also led to some challenges that must be addressed in order to continue leveraging the benefits of this process.

In the early days of this file and folder management technique, teams were happy to collaborate on a level that didn’t involve sending endless email attachments after every document revision. Instead, they now had access to one master document and one gallery for visuals that could be accessed from any device.

Now, with security issues, greater use of temporary freelance talent, and more available sensitive data or proprietary information, file sharing has become a more complex process that involves many decisions. Before you share a file or folder, ask yourself these questions:

What is the individual’s role?

First, are they internal staff or external like a freelancer, customer, or vendor? Knowing what they do for the company will dictate what level of files and folders they should access. Not only does this protect critical information, but it also ensures nothing is inadvertently deleted or changed.

For example, if the individual’s role is to produce content, then they would only be provided access to one folder where they could share their work. However, they might be provided access to a photo or graphics folder to enhance their content.  

How will they be using the files or folders you share?

The purpose of accessing files is also important. Think about who will need to review, comment, edit, and approve what is in a particular file before sharing it.

The answer will guide the type of access you give. You may set a file to view-only when that individual only needs to read a file versus editing anything in it. Even in view-only mode, you can still allow them to make comments; they just can’t edit anything.

Then, there may be other situations where view-only means online access only. You can disable their download capability. This ensures none of the information is copied or taken for some other purpose.

Or, if the individual needs to use a folder that is full of photos, memes, or video footage, then you can create a subfolder with only those files relevant to their project rather than access to the entire gallery. Alternatively, you can choose to just share one or more image files.

What length of time will the individual work with your company?

Since many projects involve a freelancer, it’s important to limit the amount of time each person has access to certain files and folders. One of the latest features available that addresses access time is a tool that lets you set an expiration date for file sharing.

Once you set the expiration date, you won’t have to remind yourself to change access and passwords when the project is finished and the freelancer is no longer involved. Or, if you determine that a freelancer will remain onboard, you can remove the expiration date, giving them ongoing access as a regular employee.

Does the individual have a specific clearance level?

With growing security concerns faced by many companies, it’s also critical to consider clearance level as a parameter for file sharing decisions.

For example, government organizations or companies that are contracted to do work for governments must undergo security checks for each person involved. From there, individuals on the team are provided with a clearance level that dictates what they can read or work on.

Therefore, align file sharing accessibility with your company’s security framework. This helps to ensure no information is left vulnerable within a subfolder or stray file.

What information about the project do you need to track?

When projects involve numerous team members all of whom may be adding comments or edits, it’s critical to determine how many “chefs” you want in the file “kitchen” and how you can track what they do while there.

For example, you may want to see who has looked at the file to ensure everyone is staying current on their responsibilities. Or, if there is an issue related to the changes, it helps to see a version history so you know who made what changes and when in order to resolve those disputes.

Also, think about who should receive notification for a particular project. For example, not everyone assigned to a project needs to get alerts about edits or document changes. Therefore, this will guide how you set the notification filters.  

Overall Process

File sharing delivers convenience, collaboration, and productivity. However, to get the most out of it while maintaining data security, you need a thoughtful approach for file and folder management. That means considering each person’s role, project involvement, security level, and length of time to determine filters and access levels for everyone on your team. By formalizing the file sharing process, a standard can be established for consistent actions and results. Therefore, everyone from the existing team to new hires and future freelancers know how your file sharing process works.

This is a sponsored post for Dropbox. All opinions are my own. Dropbox is not affiliated with nor endorses any other products or services mentioned.


Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.

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