File Sharing: Collaborate Productively and Safely

September 28th, 2020
File Sharing: Collaborate Productively and  Safely

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File sharing has become a prominent part of running a modern business. Thirty-nine percent of the data uploaded to the cloud is placed in some type of file sharing application, resulting in the average organization sharing documents with over 800 different external domains.

While file sharing offers unparalleled convenience in the world of remote work, it also presents potential cybersecurity risks. Every business that uses some form of file sharing should familiarize themselves with this critical information regarding these applications as well as best practices to conduct a risk assessment and protect their organizations.

What is file sharing?

The concept refers to an important exchange point for collaborative files. When more than one person needs to access the information, but the files are too large and cumbersome to send back and forth in email, file sharing allows everyone to access and edit the content.
These files live on a server with redundant storage solutions. Organizations can minimize the risk of losing their data by backing it up centrally, rather than trying to back it up on each user’s personal computer, laptop, tablet or other web-enabled device.

What challenges might you encounter with file sharing?

Despite its clear convenience, challenges can arise as organizations adopt file sharing.

This process can make organizations vulnerable, particularly if they do not take proper precautions. It can place corporate data at risk and increase the chances of security breaches. Many business owners and system administrators do not completely understand how sharing and NTFS permissions interact and they lack a plan to manage the content shared folders.

The rapid rise of work-from-home employees has only heighted the potential risk profile. Before the pandemic, only an estimated 7 percent of the workforce regularly worked from home. By May 2020, an estimated 64 percent of employees were working from home, and many people have discussed the potential of continuing work-from-home arrangements. As a result, teams collaborating on common documents across multiple devices and locations have become commonplace. Businesses need to make sure they protect their critical information and sealing up these vulnerabilities.

What does AGJ recommend?

For those interested in incorporating file sharing into their business practices, we at AGJ do have a few recommendations to help you maximize your usage and manage your risk.

File sharing applications to use

We find that the best file sharing options for small and medium-sized businesses would be a combination of OneDrive and SharePoint alongside traditional/on-premise SMB file shares. Using the OneDrive and SharePoint together enhances the ability of teams to work together easily on documents at the same time, thereby enhancing productivity. They do not, however, allow the same level of granular file permissions that you could obtain with SMB shares using NTFS file permissions. These applications also will not work well for an on-premise QuickBooks server or Sage server.

File sharing applications to avoid

Most cloud-based file collaboration tools, including Drop Box, Google Drive, and personal OneDrive accounts operate the same. The key difference between them lies in which cloud provider holds the data.

What are today’s file sharing best practices?

We would recommend these 8 file sharing best practices. Some of these you can incorporate independently, but others will work best with the help of an MSP like AGJ.

  1. Operate from a least-privilege perspective. This means only granting people exactly what file permissions they need to do their jobs and not giving them more access than necessary.
  2. Have simple, standard permissions. Define the file permissions that people will receive based on their department and job. A common framework and grouping permissions together will make it easy to quickly determine what employees require.
  3. Do not use ‘everyone’ groups, but instead gives the groups succinct and intuitive names. You want to give files names that make sense and are easy to follow to help you track necessary file permissions. Also, although you can add people to a document as needed, you do not want to initially make it available to everyone.
  4. Actively monitor permissions degradation and vulnerabilities. In a solid MSP plan, you want to find quarterly and active user reviews to help you sort out any unnecessary permissions, such as people who have left the company. Similarly, you need to make sure new hires have access to everything they need.
  5. Curtail horizontal and vertical folder spread. Consider carefully whether the minimize the spread. For example, accounting might work best with a horizontal layout. If you have particular users who need access to folders for only certain clients, but not all, then a vertical spread might make more sense.
  6. Create global deny groups. Many file-sharing applications operate with ‘deny’ as the default, which means that users cannot access a folder unless they have been granted permission. However, if you have a user who falls into both groups A and B, but only needs access to some of the files in group B, then you want to create a deny rule to keep them from accessing unnecessary files in group B.
  7. Develop an emergency response strategy. If a problem arises and you need to quickly remove the file permissions and access of a particular employee or vendor, you want to have systems in place to block them from sensitive information as quickly as possible.
  8. Give users centrally managed shortcuts to shared resources. If you want users to be able to view, but not modify, certain shared resources, you can create read-only folders and shortcuts to these areas. This provides them quick access to the information without compromising the rest of the security.

How can AGJ help?

As you begin to take steps to protect your company information and data while file sharing, AGJ can help you enhance your capabilities. When it comes to managed IT services, we can help clients in three main ways.

  1. We can help you conduct a risk assessment. We will work with you to review your current file sharing strategy to find where your information is insecure.
  2. We will help you set up proper file sharing permissions as well as data migration and cloud management. We improve your ability to take advantage of technology while remaining secure.
  3. We will help you create the pieces you need for sound technology usage. File sharing is just one important part of running a modern company, and we can help you with each step.

If you want to seize the opportunities available with file sharing but still ensure that you protect your data and information, speak to us today at AGJ. We can help you perform your risk assessment to maximize your security and provide IT consulting and projects so your organization can operate comfortably in the modern digital world.