Teamwork in project management is key to successful project completion. Facilitated by information and communications technology (ICT), businesses with global footprints can strategize and collaborate in real-time with professionals half a world away. Electronic File Synch & Share (EFSS) vendors (e.g. Box, Dropbox), provide the ability to view and manipulate the same document regardless of the user’s physical location. Using EFSS, virtual collaboration between various team members across the globe is a reality that businesses depend on with greater frequency. yet many users are not fully aware of the key benefits and risks of utilizing EFSS tools.
EFSS is essentially a content service with built-in security and collaboration features that foster and support today’s electronic-enabled world. One benefit is file synchronization across all devices, allowing access to the same content from disparate devices that may be scattered geographically. This includes tablets, laptops, and smartphones, devices that have become essential to our digital lives. This benefit also includes instant access anywhere there is an Internet connection. A key security benefit is the facilitation of encryption while the data is at rest and in transit. Data can also be containerized and sent only to those allowed to see it.
The risks of using EFSS are often understated—mostly by the vendors offering these services. Certainly, they want a company to load as much content as possible into their proprietary EFSS system. But most professionals utilizing these services never think of how they might port these e-documents and files to another EFSS provider, should the need arise. And if you think about it, it is not in the best interest of these vendors to make it easy for a customer to move their content to another platform. Maybe there are not “hostage fees” per se, but generally, there are few, if any tools provided to migrate e-documents—with their associated metadata intact—to another platform.
Also, when comparing EFSS solutions to traditional enterprise content management (ECM) systems, the former are newer and not as mature and feature-rich when it comes to managing content through its lifecycle from creation to final disposition. Placing and removing legal holds can also be an issue.
There are also some security concerns that should be addressed. The easy-to-use functionality of an EFSS is usually not secure enough for mission-critical enterprise applications. But because it is so easily used, many knowledge workers assume that their important e-documents are secure. However, if workers use a relatively unsecure EFSS they could open their organization to potential data breaches or compliance violations. So when moving toward using an EFSS, users must do so with their eyes wide open, and must conduct their own assessment of security and compliance risks. Generally, it is safest to use
EFSS for collaborative functions that require a relatively short retention period, such as internal or marketing projects, and also those that have a
low risk of e-documents being put on legal hold and requiring production during litigation.