File Sharing without a Server

File sharing, remote access and collaborative environments have quickly become a top requirement for businesses operating in today’s mobile landscape. The need to access valuable business assets from any device, or location, whether the internet is accessible or not has lead the way for file sharing services to enter the marketplace with a plethora of options. It is no longer a business requirement to have an on-site server to give members of your organization secured access to its data. Our consulting team takes a closer look at how to share files without the investment of a server.

File Sharing in the Cloud.

After reviewing all your server options, you may conclude that the investment required to secure an on premise server may not appeal to your business; especially if you are only seeking to solve simple file sharing requirements. Typically startups or very small businesses looking for more computing power will  benefit from a cloud based file sharing service. You’ll know a cloud-based solution is right for you if you need a solution that is:

  • Accessible on any device. Most file sharing services are now available via apps on mobile devices. While the exact functionalities may differ slightly from browser or desktop applications, you still have quick access to your documents and are able to perform simple edits from your device.
  • Intuitive Interface. Sounds like a simple enough request, and yet many services still struggle to achieve a simplistic approach to syncing documents within a file sharing system. Ease of use becomes very important when managing thousands of documents. Regardless of the device you are using, the file sharing system must have a simple interface and intuitive process when syncing documents to and from your local computer to the cloud. To avoid data duplication, it must also be user-friendly to move folders or documents from one location or another.
  • Cost Effective. Besides the obvious organizational benefits, your business will also notice financial incentives driving their move to a cloud based file sharing system. These kind of purchases can be made without investing in infrastructure, and any costs associated with the maintenance of a virtual private network (VPN) will be diminished or non-existent.

Features and Capabilities.

There are several options to consider when selecting a cloud file sharing and storage application. Whether you go with Box, Dropbox, or One Drive for Business, look for a system with these features, as they tend to increase user adaption and organizational success:

  • Internal and External Sharing. A commonly requested function many users seek is the ability to share a link to a document. With this feature you are able to give access to a document with someone outside of your organization without opening up all of your documents to the individual. Box allows you to easily set expiration dates to your link so that access will be denied to those you gave access to after the date has been reached. Files that are transferred and shared need to be done so, securely. Ensure your file sharing system encrypts files and folders when in transit so your sensitive data isn’t at risk.
  • User Friendly. Be sure your file share has easy to use drag and drop features. Not only will this prove to be an asset when migrating your organizations documents to the new system, but also as your business needs change, you may need to rearrange your files. A console administrators’ use gives powerful insight and overview to all files that have been shared externally.
  • Previews. A nice-to-have- feature that makes managing and accessing your company’s files that much easier is document preview. Even with enhanced searching capabilities, shifting through thousands of documents can be time-consuming. Being able to preview a document without actually having to open it, makes finding the document you are after that much easier.
  • Permission Controls.  Carefully consider who has access to the file share. You may not want interns or the marketing department to be able to see what HR should have access to. Cloud-based products may be limited compared to enterprise products when it comes to assigning group permissions. A two-stage recycle bin is also a nice feature to have set up in your file sharing system, as it allows admins to control, catch, or approve deletions of files and folders.
  • Versioning and OCRing. Very quickly your file sharing system will be managing thousands of files and documents. The search capabilities of your system will be something your users will rely on intensely. You’ll want your system to provide a comprehensive overview that allows for several versions of documents to be created. OCRing (optical character recognition) will also enhance searching capabilities by capturing keywords that make retrieving documents more efficient.

Things to Consider.

How much data your business is looking to move into a cloud solution should be the first item to be addressed before a migration occurs. The speed of your internet connection can also impact how quickly moving your documents can actually happen. During the period of transition you will also need to plan and communicate properly internally so you don’t have people trying to work on documents while they are being moved over to the new system.

A plan of action should also be in place to address when employees leave an organization or have been terminated. Be sure your BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy discusses what should happen if users have been syncing documents to their own personal devices.

The backup policy of many cloud based offerings are often very limited. Retention policies vary from application to application with some only storing the most recent version of your content and not its entire history. Examine the backup policies very carefully as user error, hacking and syncing issues may cause data loss. Turning to an IT Service Provider like Compulite, for a more comprehensive backup plan is a recommended best practice, as most cloud based backup policies are not intended to be a complete backup solution. Be sure that whatever cloud service you take advantage of has been time tested, and proven to be effective.

As with any technology strategy, moving your files to the cloud requires a well planned, phased approach so your data doesn’t end up in an uncontrolled service. The simplicity of cloud solutions have quickly become an attractive solution to many businesses looking for ways to increase internal efficiency and effectiveness without committing to major investments.

(image via flickr)