Technology Solutions

Risky Business

Employees rely on anytime-anywhere data access. As a result, using consumer file sharing applications at work is extremely prevalent. These apps deliver convenience, making them an easy choice for document access, information sharing, and collaboration. However, drawbacks exist. What is the potential cost to businesses if employees use them in an unauthorized, unregulated manner?

According to recent analysis by Gartner, an information technology research company, employees gravitate toward consumer online file sharing tools for two reasons:

• first, they are easy and intuitive to use, and

• second, these tools enable employees be more productive across networks, devices, and operating systems.

A recent M-Files survey revealed that nearly half of surveyed professionals have stored confidential company information on their personal file sharing and sync solutions. Additionally, 70 percent of respondents say their organizations either lack corporate policies for using file sharing apps or haven't shared their policies. The survey shows the alarming unintended consequences of lax corporate security policies. About 25 percent of respondents reported their company has experienced information security breaches, data loss, noncompliance violations, or other problems stemming from employees' use of personal file sharing and sync solutions at work.

Similar independent studies mirror this survey's results, confirming employees' overwhelming use of external file sharing systems. These practices occur whether or not company policies prohibit them. Such rogue practices should cause corporate concern. Employee reliance on personal file sharing apps can result in serious data security breaches and compromised compliance processes.

1 File Sharing Impact

Collaborating on content with customers, partners, and outside consultants and agencies is a routine part of the commercial real estate business. However, doing so without guidance or limitation can jeopardize sensitive information and put a company's reputation at risk. This interactive business depends on the successful collaboration between investors, asset and property managers, building engineers, and tenants, as well as a trusted network of developers, mortgage lenders, and appraisers. While file-sharing technologies streamline the flow of information and boost organizational productivity, the risk is the loss of confidential information and intellectual property.

2 Information Management Enforcement

The first step to safeguarding company content is to clearly define guidelines for the use of company-issued and employee-owned devices and applications, connecting with its systems and networks. A formalized information management initiative sets precedent for how employees can use their personal systems at work in a safe, appropriate manner, as well as raising awareness of the potential risks. When employees know the threats and consequences to the company, they are more likely to change their behaviors.

Another critical component to successful information management is the ability to identify and track a company's most sensitive content, enabling organizations to enforce the policies they set. Working in tandem, management and IT can identify where their most valuable and confidential information resides and invest in protective technology to control access to it. Together, well-promoted policies and an enterprise information management system can protect a company and its data from the external threats posed by employees' unsanctioned use of consumer file sharing systems at work.

3 Mitigating Risks

Most effective EIM solutions place a high priority on ease of use and mobile information access, making them an ideal alternative to existing risky consumer file sharing alternatives. Also, EIM systems offer many features that simplify corporate collaboration while minimizing the external threats resulting from the use of personal mobile devices and applications to access company data.

Effective EIM solutions make it easy to determine and dictate which content classes can be shared with external parties via the cloud. At the same time, these solutions ensure classified information assets are always kept behind the on-premises firewall.

When evaluating any information management solution, here are crucial features to protect valuable, sensitive company data:

Access control: Unlike personal file sharing apps, an EIM solution can be configured to enforce information protection policies, automate workflows, and give IT broader content management capabilities. The control over data enables companies to monitor who has access to what content, regardless of where information or users reside.

Version control: Most enterprise file sync and share solutions fall short in version control capabilities. The ability to ensure that users always access the latest version of a document and can enforce review workflows for new version approval takes organizations' information management practices far beyond simple file sharing.

Intelligent categorization: EIM systems offer a way to simplify categorizing and displaying information in a manner that delivers content in personalized context, leading to higher levels of employee productivity and easier collaboration. For example, categorizing documents with traditional folder structures hinder users from dynamically listing expiring contracts or accepted proposals.

Understanding that employees rely on their personal file sharing apps because the apps are more intuitive and easier to use, organizations must strive to ensure that company-sanctioned alternatives are as simple for end-users and meet strict security, control, and compliance demands. Using a full-featured EIM solution, today's fast-moving real estate and investment businesses gain this powerful combination of safety, security, and ease of use.

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