Posted by James Eisner ● 9/5/18 8:12 AM
Send Files Online: How to Securely Share Your Stuff
What’s the best way to send files online? There’s no single answer to that. Why? Well, the way that you share your files should depend on the context in which you’re sharing them. How you share your recipe for barbecue sauce and how you share files including confidential company information should be different. If that’s not the case, it’s good that you’re reading this article because you definitely shouldn’t be doing that. Don’t stress though, we’re going to break down the different ways of sharing your files as well as cover which type of files you should share with each method. So, you’ll be a pro by the end of this article.
Email attachments are the tried and true method of sending files. Now, there are a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t send files attached to emails (we’ll get to that in a bit). However, that’s not to say that they’re not a practical and somewhat secure way to share files. With email, you’re able to send the file you want directly to the email address of the person who you want to have it. Not too mention, it’s pretty simple to do.
That being said, there are a number of major limitations. First, most email clients limit the size of the attachments you can send. That makes it hard to send large files. So, the massive video file that you’re trying to send is probably a no-go. Secondly, there is a major security risk if you’re sending confidential or private documents, regardless of whether they’re personal or business-related. Even when sending a sensitive, password-protected document, like a contract or business proposal, by email, it’s almost impossible to guarantee its safety. It can be forwarded, shared, or printed and there’s nothing that you can do about it.
Obviously, that sounds a bit frightening and, the reality is, it is. So, should you never send anything using your email? No, that’s not what we’re saying. If you need to send your amazing barbecue sauce recipe to a friend or a photo to your mom or dad, email attachments are perfectly fine! However, you should avoid sending sensitive business documents.
So, you’re sitting on your laptop trying to figure out how you’re going to send your grandma 200 photos of your trip to Thailand. Sending 20 emails with 10 photos attached doesn’t seem like an attractive option. There has to be a better way.
You’re right, there is. This is when the personal cloud comes to the rescue. If you want to send files that are too large for email, the personal cloud is the perfect solution. With a free account, you can create a folder in your personal Google Drive (or other cloud storage service) and upload your files. Then, get the shareable link, put it in your email, and send! Now, grandma can get caught up without having to spend 30 minutes downloading all your photos.
Now, notice how this section is titled, “personal cloud,” emphasis on personal. This method is great for sharing large personal files. However, you shouldn’t be using your personal cloud to share business documents. Why not? Well, it puts your company at risk, especially if you work in a highly regulated industry. No one wants to get fired because they sent a confidential file through their personal cloud that resulted in the company losing their ISO certification. So, keep the files that you share on your personal cloud, personal.
As mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t be sending anything business-related as an email attachment or from your personal cloud. So, what should you do instead? Easy. You should be sharing files in the office using your company’s enterprise cloud solution. We’re going to use Google Workspace for our example but this can apply to most enterprise cloud platforms.
Generally speaking, Google Workspace allows you to easily share files and documents with co-workers, other companies, or even the public and work together on them in real-time. You’re able to collaborate with multiple people who can view, comment on, and edit documents. The company has a complete audit log so you don’t have to worry about getting in trouble for modifications that you didn’t make.
When paired with a business application platform, like AODocs, you’re able to assign document permissions, hide sensitive information from certain groups of employees, and create automatic workflows that notify people when they need to add something to the document that you’ve shared. Pretty cool, huh?
What’s even cooler is seeing what this looks like in real life. Let’s show you the different ways that you can securely share your business documents with Google Workspace.
Sharing with a single co-worker
Let’s say that you’ve created an awesome article in Google Docs (or even a Word file, as long as it’s in your Drive account and you’re using AODocs Universal File Opener) and want your co-worker to take a look at it before you post it. Sharing it with them is simple. In the top right corner of your screen, you’ll see the “Share” button. Give it a click and then a pop-up will appear. You can then enter your co-worker’s name in the “People” section and choose their permissions (editing, commenting, or only viewing) using the icon to the right of the form. Click “Done” and you’re finished! They’ll get an email with a link to your doc. When they arrive at your document, they’ll only be able to make the updates that you gave them permissions to make.
Sharing with your entire company
If you find yourself needing to send a file to the whole company (or a sizeable portion of it), the shareable link feature comes in handy. For the first part, you’re going to do the exact same thing as before by clicking the “Share” button. However, this time, you’re going to click on the “Get shareable link” icon in the top right corner of the pop-up. After clicking on it, you’ll be able to choose the permissions that you will give to users in your company (to edit, comment, or view) and get a link to share. Now, all you need to do to give everyone access is put that link in your company-wide email.
Sharing with other companies who use Google Workspace
There are a few ways to do this, however, only two of them are really secure. So, obviously, we’re going to show you the two best (most secure) methods. Your first option is to do exactly what we did when sharing a document with a single coworker. The only difference is that once you click “Done,” you’ll get a prompt asking you to confirm that you want to share the file with someone who is outside of your organization. Double check that you got the person’s email right and click “Yes.”
Option number two is to insert your Google Drive file into an email. Yes, we did say not to use email attachments but this is a bit different. You’re not actually attaching the document to the email. Instead, it’s a link to your Google Doc. To do this, click on the little Google Drive logo icon on the bottom bar (the fifth icon to the right of the “Send” button) if you’re writing your email in Gmail. Then, choose the file that you want to share and click “Insert.” Look in the bottom right corner to make sure that you’re inserting a “Drive link” instead of an attachment. Once your email is written, click “Send” as usual. You’ll then see a pop-up that asks you to specify the type of permissions that you’d like to give to the people at the other company.
Sharing with non-Google users
Now, these solutions are great if everyone has a Gmail or Google Workspace account but what happens when that isn’t the case? Luckily, we’ve got a solution for that. We’ve created a tool called AOBox that allows you to share Google Drive files and folders with non-Google users. You login into AOBox using your Google account then you choose which folders you’d like to share and who you’d like to share them with. These people will receive an invitation that allows them to access the files using their Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, or AOBox accounts. Now, they’ll be able to access the documents while you’re still able to securely manage and monitor your shared files.
Sharing with the public
There may be a situation where you want to share a document with the public. For example, you may need to distribute a press release or public statement. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t fret. To start, follow the same steps as sharing a document with your company. Once you get to the sharing options for the shareable link, you’re going to do something different. This time, click on the drop-down menu above the shareable link (usually, it will say something like, “Anyone at your company with the link can view”). At the bottom of the drop-down list, you’ll see “More…”, click on it. You will then be given additional sharing options. The two new options that you will see are “Public on the web” and “Anyone with the link.” The “Public on the web” option allows anyone to find and access the document, regardless of whether or not they have a link to it. With “Anyone with the link,” only people that you have shared the link with will have access to the doc. Depending on your needs, you can choose one of these two options. However, make sure that the access permission is set as “Can view” otherwise you’re going to have the entire internet changing with your document.