You often collaborate with remote team members working from home, a hotel, or a different office. While Office 365 contains many collaboration tools, they don’t provide equal ease of use and secure file sharing options.
Without this security, you’re putting your information at risk.
Many tools share similar-appearing features. Because of this, you’ll need to consider:
- Document Availability – How to ensure access for collaborators
- Security – How to restrict access only to approved collaborators
- Version Confusion – How to avoid or manage conflicting edits on different versions
This evaluation considers the advantages and disadvantages of Outlook, Teams, and OneDrive.
While we’ll refer mainly to the Microsoft 365 versions of these tools, the same arguments will generally apply to similar tools for email (Gmail, etc.), cloud hosted file storage (Google Drive, etc.), or chat (Slack, etc.)
Outlook Email File Sharing
Document Availability: To grant access, simply email files. Once sent, recipients own the file.
Security: Email offers terrible security. Once sent, your company can’t control the file, and it can easily be shared to non-authorized persons.
Version Confusion: Email also complicates versions. Each recipient can create their own versions of the file, which can make reconciliation of changes confusing and difficult.
While emails are quick and easy to use in the short term, this method creates nightmares for security and version control in the future.
This means that whenever possible, email should be restricted to delivery of final versions of files. Additionally, for secure file sharing, make sure they never contain sensitive or regulated information.
Teams Chat Sharing
Document Availability: To grant access, simply drag and drop a file into conversation. Technically, the file loads to the local OneDrive account of the sender. It remains available as long as the sender remains a valid user.
Security: Chat is also terrible for secure file sharing. Once shared, the file can be downloaded and shared to unauthorized persons without any controls.
Version Confusion: The chat program Slack can help keep versions straight, because contributors can edit the shared file as they would through OneDrive, unless they download the file and create a separate version.
Many organizations now favor using Teams or other chat-based tools for internal and external collaboration. This creates a more searchable, consolidated experience for many.
However, while versioning is improved, the lack of security controls can create problems in the long term. Teams can be used for casual sharing, but documents containing regulated or sensitive information should not be shared through Teams.
Document Availability: To grant access, owners can share folders and files with other users using links. Accessibility can be limited via security settings on the folder or file in OneDrive. Links can be shared via email, Teams, or text messages. However, personnel transitions can cause problems (see Deleted-User Caution below).
Security: OneDrive offers much more secure file sharing options than Chat or Email. Files can be restricted from download, established as view-only, and even restricted strictly to specific users. Links forwarded to unauthorized users will not work.
Version Confusion: Sharing files through OneDrive makes versioning very strong. Multiple users can work on files simultaneously with versions and changes tracked throughout.
OneDrive greatly improves secure file sharing features and version control without sacrificing availability. Your team will appreciate the general ease of use of the platform, as well.
This helps reduce employee push-back for requirements to use OneDrive for specific types of documents or data.
Once a user leaves your company, their Outlook, Teams, and OneDrive accounts will be deleted.
Any shared files still hosted under that username for Teams or OneDrive will also be removed, which will make collaboration files stored under that user unavailable.
To maintain long-term collaboration, shared folders can be established under OneDrive as a common repository.
Another solution would be to use more sophisticated tools, such as SharePoint. Just keep in mind that more sophisticated tools may require significantly more training to execute correctly.
Ensuring Secure File Sharing
The first steps to ensuring secure file sharing habits requires updating your written policies and communicating these to your employees.
Next, technology can be used to enforce those policies through data loss prevention (DLP), firewall data inspection, and other similar tools to restrict the transmission of sensitive data.
While most of the platforms and tools mentioned here are relatively easy to use, you may still have questions. If so, never hesitate to reach out for assistance. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
If you would like assistance to investigate, install, or manage tools and techniques to enable secure file sharing, Ideal Integrations, with the assistance of our cybersecurity division, Blue Bastion, can help.
Simply contact us at 412-349-6680, or fill out the form below. Our IT experts will provide a no-obligation consultation about your needs and possible solutions.