Don’t just share files — put them to work
In the last post, we looked at businesses taking their first plunge into file sharing. Many start looking for ways of sharing files securely online because the limitations of email start to hinder the way they do business. They realise that they can’t send large files, or that corporate firewalls block documents at the recipient’s end.
Normally they turn to one or both of two solutions: ‘FTP replacement’ services that allow them to share large files via the web, or cloud-based services that let them share whole folders with chosen recipients.
While these services meet a need, we discovered they have a major limitation:
They give you the raw materials for online collaboration, but not the tools to do it with.
Fortunately, there is a third option: online collaboration software. This gives you all the benefits of a shared folder service, but it also gives you the context and tools to do much more.
If you download our guide Beyond Business File Sharing, you’ll learn about 8 features of online collaboration software that take you much further. But to give you a quick insight, we’ve run through the benefits to your business if you opt for this approach to file sharing.
1. Archived files and backups
Simple business file sharing software usually does allow you to back up your files, and sometimes roll back to earlier versions. However, it can get confusing – users are rarely willing to overwrite previous versions of files, so you end up with multiple drafts cluttering up your folders.
Online collaboration software on the other hand allows you to upload new drafts and follow clear links to previous versions on the dedicated page that is associated with the document. And not only are all files backed up, but so is every user interaction — giving you a full audit trail of every person’s work.
2. Collaboration on documents
Simple shared folder systems only allow users to open documents, amend them and then save new versions in the same folder.
Online collaboration systems can offer you a higher level of functionality. Special collaborative documents let you and other users to amend a copy of the same document, chapter by chapter, directly via your web browser. This means a group of people can work on the same file – not multiple copies of the same documents — giving you productive collaboration without any risk of duplicating or erasing work.
3. Commenting on files
When you use a conventional shared folder system, all you can see is a list of files in any given folder – you have no context about why there’re there, or what they’re for.
With collaboration software, each file is given the context it needs. You can add comments on the page dedicated to a given file, allowing you to provide constructive feedback, explain the rationale behind your most recent changes, request information, give approval and more.
4. Automatic updates
One major limitation of basic folder sharing software is that your team members usually don’t know that you’ve updated or replaced a file – unless you tell them. If you update a file, make a comment, alter a collaborative document or make any other change within an online collaboration workspace, your team members are updated automatically by email and your workflow becomes faster.
5. Teams and access privileges
If you want to give different access privileges to different groups, simple folder sharing software may not be able to cope. That means you may have to set up duplicate folders for each one, with duplicate content in each.
Collaboration software solves this problem by assigning access privileges to teams, rather than to folders. You can specify exactly which content a team can view, add, edit, comment on or add to — ensuring that every user only works on the content they need to, never sees documents they shouldn’t and doesn’t have to wade through files that aren’t relevant to them.
7. Integration with project tools
Standalone file sharing solutions give you the raw materials of collaboration, but they don’t give you the tools for it. If you choose online collaboration software, you can use a range of tools within your workspaces, without ever leaving your browser. These can range from project management tools such as team diaries, task lists and milestones, right through to custom databases and online polls and surveys. As a result, you don’t need to worry about users having access to the same third party tools.
8. Multiple uses and innovation
This is where the major business benefits of truly collaborative file sharing lie.
By bringing together both the raw material and the tools for collaboration, you can put your file sharing to work in a range of innovative ways – from within your web browser.
For example, in addition to project working, you can create dedicated file-sharing and collaborative workspaces that you can use as:
- Business Intranets – not just for sharing information, but for working together on it
- Online Conference Rooms — bringing decision makers together in a purposeful context
- Tender Management Workspaces — securely handling the exchange of information with third party bidders
- Partner Portals — working with external partners, securely and transparently
- Secure Deal Rooms — encrypted online workspaces in which to transact business
- Client Portal — to allow you to collaborate closely with the people you work for
Online collaboration takes simple file sharing and turns it into a powerful, context-rich business tool that you can employ to achieve many objectives, both internally and externally. To learn how other organisations have reaped the benefits, download our free guide Beyond Business File Sharing for details.