June 14, 2017

    Exploring File-Sharing Alternatives: What's Available?

    There are a host of options on the market for businesses that require a way to share and manage their working files and information. Maybe the one your organization is currently using isn’t meeting your needs. Perhaps you’re looking for a higher level of security. Or you might just be interested in finding out whether you can procure a more cost-efficient alternative. Whatever the case may be, the search for the right file-sharing solution involves asking a number of important questions. 

    Should you go with a free option and reap the cost savings? Is it better to set up your company’s own FTP/FTPS server? What is hosted file sharing, and is this the best alternative for your organization? Should you be looking to the cloud or an on-premises solution? To make a well-informed decision that leaves you with a secure, effective means of file sharing, be sure to uncover and fully understand both the benefits and challenges inherent in each option.

    This article will delve into the various file-sharing alternatives for enterprises and help you wade through their strengths and weaknesses in order to arrive at the best solution.


    Free Cloud-Based Services

    Free alternatives like Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud are often a choice for businesses interested in bringing down their file-sharing costs. Employing one of these services may be a great way to leverage the benefits of technology to create the most collaborative and efficient work environment possible -- that is, IF your users are fully aware of the natural risks these solutions bring, and how to mitigate them.

    After all, you’re dealing with business, customer and/or employee data. If users are sharing information irresponsibly or without the proper safeguards in place, your “free” service could end up costing you thousands (or even millions) in security breach losses, company damages, compliance penalties and other financial consequences. For example, if the network that a remote employee is using isn't secure, all the data transferred over a public cloud service can be exposed to people with malicious intentions in a matter of seconds.

    Government rules and regulations are very specific regarding the types of security measures that must be in place to prevent customer information from falling into the wrong hands. While many of these free services make file transfers easier than ever before, they often lack the protocols necessary to keep up with critical security requirements. Depending on the type of industry you're in and the kind of data you’re dealing with, opting for a free service may not be the best course of action.

    Here are some of the biggest dangers you should be aware of when considering a free cloud-based alternative for your file-sharing needs:

    • User Error: One of the major reasons why compliance rules are so strict regarding public cloud file sharing is the possibility of user error. There is great potential for a user to accidentally send a file to the wrong person, thereby putting personal or sensitive information at risk.
    • Malicious Insiders: Another reason why so many free services are woefully insecure for modern-day businesses is the ease with which an existing employee can harm both your employees and your customers. It would take a mere seconds for just one user to access a file with sensitive information and forward it to anyone they want. Once this data escapes the confines of your corporate firewall, it’s unprotected from outside manipulation.
    • Lost/Stolen Equipment: When it comes to logging into free services, a user typically needs just a username and password. Therefore, if an employee loses his or her laptop computer or mobile device, access to all of your business’s important business files can be claimed by the new recipient of that equipment.

    Before you dive into a free file-sharing service headfirst, make sure you’re not sacrificing security for savings. Again, “free” could wind up costing your organization more than you bargained for.


    Your Own FTP Server

    FTP, or "file transfer protocol," is a file-sharing service that brings with it many of the benefits that modern technology has to offer with virtually none of the downsides. FTP can definitely alleviate problems that you're experiencing on an organizational level with services like ShareFile, DropBox and more.

    It is inherently secure so long as FTP with SSL is required, thereby disabling unencrypted access. Users can even transfer files from their home networks without worry, as all data in transit is encrypted. Anyone without the proper key wouldn't be able to access the information contained in the data even if they were able to intercept it during the transfer. These additional security measures go a long way toward ensuring that your organization is not vulnerable to security breaches and compliance violations.

     One way to employ FTP at your organization is to set up your own server. This is a safer alternative to relying on consumer-grade cloud-based options. However, it’s necessary to think about whether you have the resources to implement this choice. First, there’s the expense of procuring all your own equipment. Second, there’s the manpower and expertise needed to maintain and troubleshoot a private server on your own. Third, there are many aspects to securing your own server. If these are not requirements you’re prepared to deliver on, you should consider the possibility of utilizing a private FTP server through an enterprise-grade hosted file-sharing provider.


    Hosted File Sharing

    If you’ve ruled out free, public cloud-based services for security reasons, and you’ve checked a private, on-site FTP server off your list as a result of resource insufficiencies, there’s still another option at your disposal -- and it just may be the smartest one yet. Consider teaming up with an expert provider of FTP hosting.

    This option affords you the visibility and control to manage all user permissions, restrict information properly across the company and prevent data from falling into the wrong hands -- all backed by the expertise and support of a knowledgeable provider. Look for some of the following benefits of a high-quality hosted FTP provider to identify a solution that has the capabilities to secure your data:

    • In-transit and at-rest encryption
    • Intrusion detection and prevention
    • Password enforcement controls
    • Multiple secure access methods
    • Granular user access controls
    • IP and country restrictions
    • Built-in features to ensure regulatory compliance
    • On-demand reporting and audit logs

    Unfortunately, the security threats for businesses today are growing larger and more complex. Therefore, your business must be putting the protection of its critical data on the short list of major, urgent priorities. That means getting real about the file-sharing alternatives out there and adopting the appropriate solution to protect your company and its bottom line. Cheap or free isn’t always your best avenue. Neither is building your own server if you don’t have the resources and know-how to properly support it. Make sure you’re weighing these issues appropriately as you seek a file-sharing alternative that’s right for your company.

    For more insight on FTP hosting and file-sharing solutions, get your  copy of our FTP Software Comparison Guide.



    Martin Horan

    Martin, Sharetru's Founder, brings deep expertise in secure file transfer and IT, driving market niche success through quality IT services.

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