Secure, efficient document sharing: Finally a reality?

Document sharing is the lifeblood of many organizations. Financial advisors, accountants, physicians, attorneys and more depend on the speedy delivery and receipt of information.

Of course, the documents generated by such businesses – financial statements, patient records, personal legal documents – are often extremely sensitive. Thus, they must be shared securely as well as quickly.

The combination – truly private, efficient document sharing – has long been a vexing proposition. It’s easy to get a document in a client’s hands in near real-time … but it won’t necessarily be secure. Likewise, it’s relatively simple to share information securely … but such an effort comes with hassle and expense.

In this post, I’ll examine a number of different ways in which professionals can send and receive critical information. Some are fast, but not necessarily secure. Others are private, but not exactly efficient. Just one is both.

Hard copy delivery

A decade ago, sending hard copies of sensitive documents via the U.S. mail, package delivery services (UPS or FedEx), fax or courier was SOP. Thankfully, modern file formats and e-signatures have made such systems largely superfluous. In addition to being slow and relatively expensive, the delivery of hard copies requires – obviously ­– the creation of hard copies. Once a printed document is “in the wild,” there’s little preventing anyone from viewing or copying it.

Of course, not all hard copy document sharing is unsecure. A courier can potentially hand-deliver a document, ensure it is not copied and recover it immediately. But this is extremely expensive and inefficient, requiring that all parties are present in the same place at the same time.

Email

When it comes to sending and receiving documents, email is often the first method that is considered. Just about everyone in the business world has access to an email account at least eight hours per day, and smartphone and tablet users are essentially connected 24/7/365. With email, a document can originate anywhere in the world and arrive anywhere in the world nearly instantaneously.

But simply emailing files comes with numerous pitfalls. Unless proper encryption techniques are used – and most users couldn’t tell you what those are, or if they’re in place at any given time – email presents clear and present security risks. In fact, regulations are often understood to prevent patient records from being shared via email at all. In addition, there is little (if any) version control associated with emailed documents; multiple copies can be in circulation at any given time, presenting the risk of mistakes being propagated or going unfixed.

Third-party file sharing

Third-party file sharing services, like Dropbox, allow users to upload files to shared servers, then invite clients to “pick up” their files via a one-off URL. Though these services add an extra layer of security beyond simply attaching documents to emails, it is dubious whether they are secure enough for truly sensitive information, such as confidential patient records. From a usability perspective, it takes several extra steps to pull a file from internal storage, upload it and invite clients to view it. Likewise, though the use of such service is widely accepted, there’s still a learning curve for clients – especially the non-tech savvy.

Integrated file sharing

The newest method for collaborating on confidential files is file sharing tied directly into electronic document management systems (EDMS). Such applications, like Cabinet SHARE, allow the organizational user to simply highlight a file within the EDMS for automatic uploading to a private website. Clients are automatically notified when a document tagged for them is available, and can easily post revised or signed versions back to the same page when they are finished with their review. These new documents are automatically imported directly back into the user’s EDMS, ensuring that only one version of each document exists at a given time.

Such a system is not only fast, but also secure enough that it has largely replaced the archaic industry standard – fax – in many doctor’s offices and healthcare facilities.

Conclusion

Secure, efficient sharing of documents has long been a vexing proposition. It’s simple to get one, but combining the two is difficult. Thankfully, modern advances in file sharing technology is allowing users of top EDMS software to send and receive sensitive information quickly, while maintaining strict version controls and privacy.