By Mark Edge, UK Country Manager, Brainloop

The rise in the use of popular consumer file sharing tools in business, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, have caused major headaches for IT departments frightened of losing control of files shared inside and outside the workplace and putting data security under threat – but the good news is the problem is solvable.

The issue is that business has been dragging its feet in providing tools to enable employees to share files and collaborate. Where tools aren’t available or are incredibly complex, employees have simply resorted to consumer file sharing tools that are intuitive, easy to use and they are familiar with using outside the workplace.

The problem with consumer file sharing tools in the business environment is the complete lack of control over them by the IT department. This type of file sharing is usually based on the public cloud, so you have no idea where data is being stored and when and by whom it is being accessed. Sharing high-value confidential and sensitive data on public storage platforms such as Dropbox creates very real security and compliance risks. Businesses who don’t flag this up will one day be caught out and could face very hefty fines.

But secure file sharing and collaboration is possible and does not have to be complex. IT departments responsible for data security know confidential data must be made accessible to those with a need-to-know and protected from access by others. The challenge is putting the right levels of control in place to ensure the business workflow runs smoothly.

UK industries that most urgently require secure file sharing capabilities include banking and financial services, legal, pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors where corporate compliance, IP protection and data security are crucial ‘must-haves’ to minimise the risk of loss or fraudulent use of business-critical information. But having said this, data is one of the biggest assets businesses own – to let employees share it using consumer-grade file sharing tools is opening the door for a disaster to happen.

A holistic approach to data security and file sharing in business in the 24/7 digital economy is the best way forward. It will not be long before businesses start to ban the use of consumer storage platforms such as Dropbox in the workplace. So it makes sense to tackle the so called ‘Dropbox Dilemma’ in your workplace now. Here are a few pointers to putting the right level of control in place to make secure file sharing work in your workplace.

1. When looking for an alternative enterprise-ready file sharing and collaboration solution it is important that it is all encompassing. It needs to be intuitive and integrated into the business workflow so as not to cause bottlenecks and backdoor leaks.

2. With an increasingly mobile workforce, the solution must allow employees to securely manage and collaborate on confidential documents and other information both within the local IT infrastructure and also remotely – i.e. across the Internet and on mobile devices.

3. Don’t be caught out by opting for a solution that forces you to choose between convenience and security. The two, along with an intuitive interface for less sophisticated users, should go hand in hand.

4. Data leaks are usually down to three types: the carless, the clueless and the malicious. Cover these off on your security protection and you are eliminating the majority of risk that affects companies.

5. Establish a clear policy for document security in the workplace and ensure that all employees understand it.

6. Highly confidential data should be pinned down and accessed only on a need-to-know basis.

7. Put security options in place that prohibits changes being made to documents unless authorized.

8. Even if you ban certain file sharing programs, some people might still try and install them. It is important to monitor and audit your network on a regular basis. Scan activity logs on a daily basis to check for any authorized activity on the network.

9. Don’t forget having secure file sharing in place can improve your bottom line as it significantly reduces the risk of losing sensitive business information as well as financial vulnerabilities linked to failing to comply with laws and regulations.

I can’t underscore enough how important it is for a business to clearly define its security needs. By making security your goal and establishing exactly the level of security you need in place for file sharing and collaboration you can stop worrying about security threats and get on with the job in hand – running a successful business that can take full advantage of growth opportunities.