A guide to enterprise file sharing

humbnail for blog post on enterprise online file sharing

It’s easy to take for granted the simple act of sharing files online, as we’ve grown accustomed to sending memes, photos, and documents to friends and family with the tap of a screen or the click of a button. But within enterprises, online file sharing isn’t just a convenience. It’s a lifeline that underpins team collaboration, business efficiency, and data governance within an organization.

Enterprise-grade solutions go beyond basic file sharing and offer advanced features like robust access controls, encryption, data protection, and auditing. In this blog post, we look at the unique requirements that demand secure file sharing for businesses.

What is online file sharing?

Online file sharing is the process of electronically distributing digital files or data over the internet, allowing users to access, download, or collaborate on shared documents, videos, or images from different locations or devices.

online file sharing definition

Rising concerns over data security and increased government regulations are driving the adoption of file sharing software. Industry analysts forecast the global file sharing software market size will reach $4.77 billion by 2031, expanding at a CAGR of 8.54% during the 2023-2031 period. 

Enterprise vs consumer file sharing: Key differences 

Consumer-grade and enterprise-grade file sharing software solutions have distinct requirements to address the needs and priorities of individual users versus large organizations.

Here’s the breakdown:

Consumer-grade file sharingEnterprise-grade file sharing
Target audienceIndividuals and small groupsLarge organizations
ScalabilityTypically limited — it may have restrictions on file size and storage spaceScalable to support more users; typically offers larger file size limits and extensive storage
Reliability and performanceMay not be optimized for business-critical tasks, which could lead to slower file upload and download speeds, longer processing times for files, and potential service disruptions during peak usageDesigned for high availability and reliability, often with redundancy and failover options to minimize performance bottlenecks, service disruptions, or downtime during business-critical tasks
SecurityBasic security features, as it may lack encryption and advanced access controlsRobust features, including best-in-class encryption and granular access controls
ComplianceMay not meet industry-specific compliance requirementsCompliant with industry-specific standards like HIPAA and GDPR
CollaborationBasic collaboration features, as it’s primarily focused on file sharingAdvanced tools such as real-time editing, commenting, and version control
IntegrationsLimited integration options, often geared toward consumer appsIntegration with enterprise tools like CRM, ERP, and SSO
Support Limited or no dedicated customer support, as it may rely on user community (e.g., forums and knowledge base)Dedicated support for inquiries and troubleshooting, in addition to regular maintenance and updates
Mobile accessibilityBasic mobile functionality for on-the-go accessMobile apps and features designed for business use, including remote access and offline access
CostLower cost or freemium pricing models for individual usersHigher cost due to advanced features, support options, and a high degree of customization

Enterprise file sharing: Benefits for larger organizations  

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of online file sharing to enterprises.

Cloud file sharing is scalable to meet business needs 

Cloud file sharing easily scales to accommodate the growing storage and collaboration needs of enterprises. Scalable cloud data storage is crucial for businesses experiencing rapid expansion or those with large file storage requirements. 

Keep in mind that email services often impose stricter attachment size limits (typically 25-30 MB), making it impractical to share large files without resorting to compression or external services. 

Enterprise cloud document storage and sharing facilitates remote work by providing employees with access to essential files and data from anywhere — eliminating the need for physical presence or specific hardware. Transferring USB drives or external storage devices poses logistical challenges as it requires individuals to be physically present. This method is not only time consuming but also poses data security risks because physical devices could be lost, stolen, or infected with malware.

Sharing files online is key to improved collaboration 

cloud-based file sharing system is more than a tool to transfer documents online. You should think of it as a collaboration platform to integrate silos and make your team more efficient. In fact, 43% of respondents in an IDC study cited silos as a top challenge hindering employee productivity. If you share files as email attachments, you create silos in which information is scattered across inboxes – very often resulting in multiple versions of the same document.

statistic on the challenge of silo integration

Enterprises use an online file sharing system to allow multiple users to collaborate on documents simultaneously, making it easier to create and edit reports, presentations, and project documents, improving teamwork and productivity. 

With features like version control, changes and revisions to files are often tracked, allowing users to revert to previous versions if needed. Online file sync also ensures that the most up-to-date information is accessible to all team members.

Strategic file sharing online enhances data governance

In enterprise environments, sharing files involves a comprehensive approach to data governance: the policies, processes, and guidelines that organizations put in place to manage their data assets effectively. Without proper control, sensitive information may be accidentally overwritten or deleted, leading to data loss or unauthorized access.

File sharing practices should also align with regulatory requirements and data residency efforts. Industry-specific regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, or CCPA often demand strict data privacy and security measures. Failing to adhere to these regulations — for example, sharing files with patient health records without proper encryption — results in costly non-compliance penalties.

Looking to improve compliance? Check out our tips for meeting HIPAA requirements when sharing files online.

Securely sharing files keeps breaches at bay

Online file sharing and collaboration tools, if not properly managed and secured, open up your company to the risk of data leaks or breaches. About three out of four breaches include the human element. Per Verizon’s report, people are involved via error, use of stolen credentials, privilege misuse, or social engineering. 

Typical scenarios:

  • Malicious files: Employees upload and share contaminated files within an organization, potentially infecting systems and networks with malware
  • Misuse of file sharing privileges: Whether intentionally or not, employees or contractors expose sensitive and proprietary data (e.g., competitive product plans, contracts, or financial statements)
Top benefits of enterprise file sharing

What to look for in enterprise file sharing solutions

An enterprise-grade approach to online file sharing prioritizes security and scalability. Here are key features you should look for.

Robust access controls and permissions 

Enterprise solutions offer granular control over who can access, edit, and share files. 

User-based permissions allow administrators to grant specific access rights to individual users based on their roles and responsibilities. Role-based access ensures that sensitive data is only accessible to authorized personnel, minimizing the risk of data breaches. For example, a finance team member may have read-only access to financial reports, while the finance manager has full editing capabilities.

Enterprise-grade access control includes:

  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA), which adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of authentication before gaining access to files (e.g., a password and a mobile device for authentication codes). MFA reduces the risk of unauthorized access, even if login credentials are compromised.
  • Single sign-on (SSO), which allows users to access multiple applications and platforms with a single set of credentials. Integrating SSO with an enterprise file sharing solution simplifies user access while reducing the risk associated with multiple passwords and authentication processes.

Encryption and data protection

File encryption provides an additional layer of security to your organization. Without the encryption keys, the data remains indecipherable in the event of a breach. Look for a business file sharing system that leverages TLS 1.2 encryption for strong encryption in transit and 256-bit AES encryption for data at rest. 

Corporate file sharing services should also have data loss prevention (DLP) mechanisms in place. DLP systems monitor data flow, identifying and blocking unauthorized or suspicious file transfers. They can also help protect against insider threats by identifying unusual user behavior patterns.

Audit and reporting capabilities 

Tracking user activity and generating compliance reports are essential activities for maintaining control and meeting regulatory requirements. Audit trails aid in forensic analysis, incident response, and accountability.

Look for enterprise file sharing solutions that:

  • Maintain detailed logs of user activities, such as file access, downloads, edits, and sharing.
  • Enable administrators to review these logs to track who shared and accessed specific files, and when.

Secure file sharing for business with Box

Box makes it easy and secure for enterprises to store and share files online. With the Content Cloud, you centralize all your content on one platform. You can send any size file, from zipped folders to large videos, to anyone inside or outside your enterprise. You can also preview 120+ file types without downloading a single digital asset. 

Enterprise-grade security and compliance are built into our DNA, so you get total peace of mind that your files and folders are protected. From HIPAA and FINRA to CCPA and GDPR, we’ve got you covered. For enhanced security, you can also enable granular permissions, optional password protection, and expiration dates on shared files.

Ready to take your enterprise file sharing practices to the next level? Get in touch to see how Box simplifies the work for you. 

CTA to share business files online with Box

While we maintain our steadfast commitment to offering products and services with best-in-class privacy, security, and compliance, the information provided in this blog post is not intended to constitute legal advice. We strongly encourage prospective and current customers to perform their own due diligence when assessing compliance with applicable laws.

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