• 8 Best practice tips for online file sharing

    on 3 October 2016

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    Before we had shared digital filing systems, we were restricted to either paper systems or sharing files via email. Paper systems require large amounts of physical space, which is why digital systems are so attractive. Digital systems bring their own challenges though. 

    We’ve all had the experience of limitations in our email systems, either preventing the attachment of large files, or the downloading of them. Even when we can attach them, there’s too much time involved in the uploading and downloading of the file. Then, unless you use an intermediary encryption system, those files are quite insecure.

    Maybe you’ve used USB sticks or CDs? With many copies of documents flying around, it can be difficult to know if you are looking at or editing the latest version. Then you still don’t know who changed what, or when. This is bad enough when one person is responsible for a document and even harder when many people are working on the same document.

    The rise of consumer file sharing systems like Drop Box overcame some of these problems, but there is still the challenge of security. For example, if you store your files outside the EU, they may not be secure there either. Using a file sharing system specifically designed for organizational use, like Glasscubes, addresses these problems. However, you can’t just transfer your existing file structure over to a shared system if you want to gain all the advantages the best online file sharing systems have. Online file sharing requires a different approach if you want to avoid some basic pitfalls.

    Whether you’ve already been using online file sharing for years, you’re just starting or still just thinking about it, you will want to be doing it in the most effective way you can.

    1. Plan your shared file structure

    Most organizations have inconsistencies with the way folders are named and structured. Folders are mislabelled and forgotten when creating new folder structures. While this may not be a problem when everyone manages their own files locally, it can become a major problem when those structures are shared.

    Good Practice:

    • Keep documents with common compliance or retention rules together – then they are easier to archive or delete as a group
    • Name folders according to function, not ‘Bob’s folder’
    • Keep it simple - then people will remember it
    • Don’t go beyond 3-5 levels of folders
    • Keep a policy that everyone can refer back to
    • Be consistent and don’t allow exceptions

    2. Naming Conventions

    Organizations not only have problems with the consistency of managing folders, but with the consistency of naming documents. Left to their own devices, people will name documents the way they want, which creates a major headache when searching for the documents later.

    Good Practice:

    • Use names that are meaningful to everyone, but are not too long
    • Name documents according to function, not ‘Bob’s file’
    • Don’t include information that is always present in the system you use e.g. with Glasscubes, the date, version and author are always present, so you don’t need to include them in the document name
    • Keep a plan that everyone can refer back to
    • Be consistent and don’t allow exceptions

    3. Make it easy to find stuff

    Many online file sharing systems like Glasscubes have additional features to make it easier to find documents e.g.

    • File search – a Google like, enterprise search engine that searches title and content to find documents quickly
    • Labels - Tag documents and then search by the label to retrieve all documents in the category

    Good Practice:

    • Make sure everyone is familiar with these additional features
    • Agree how to use features like tags
    • Be consistent

    4. Collaborating effectively

    Our working environment is changing rapidly, with a greater need to work with people in remote locations, both inside and outside of our organizational boundaries. One of the great things about today’s online file sharing systems, is how well they facilitate this.

    Good Practice:

    • Use collaboration options like document read, notification, approvals and comments, which keeps everyone associated with the document for referral and auditing
    • ‘Follow’ documents so you always know when they are updated
    • Don’t allow lots of offline copies of documents – all official documents should be in the shared folders
    • When you share files with external groups use password protection (don’t send the document by email)
    • Be consistent

    5. Accessibility

    Not everyone will need the same access to all documents all of the time. Think about what you need to share and who needs to have access to your documents. Consider whether you might need to offer levels of permissions to firstly access content and secondly consider whether you need users to edit or only view content. Consider whether users might ever require access to files 'off line' using off line file synchronization.

    Good Practice:

    • Keep it simple (then people will remember it)
    • Keep a plan that everyone can refer back to
    • Be consistent and don’t allow exceptions

    6. Managing updates

    We’ve all had the experience of spending hours working on a document only to find that it wasn’t the latest version. Or, in melee of a busy project, finding we don’t actually know which copy of a document is the latest. It is frustrating and time wasting. It makes approving documents more difficult. It affects compliance as you have no clear audit trail.

    Good online file sharing systems will, if used properly, manage versions for you.

    Good Practice:

    • Utilize the system to manage your document versions
    • Be consistent and don’t allow exceptions

    7. Data Security

    Your data is precious, so make sure it is safe and secure. Document security is often the main reason organizations move to using online file sharing.

    Good Practice:

    • Choose a file sharing solution that encrypts your data to keep it secure in transit
    • If you ever have to use email for document transmission, consider encrypting that data too
    • Don’t store local copies of documents

    8. Document Retention

    Keeping documents longer than needed is a common problem on online systems. Documents are retained for a longer period of time, mostly because it is painful to purge the documents (paper or electronic) or simply because most people don’t know how long they are required to keep certain documents. Purging electronic files has become a larger problem than paper since hard drives have become more affordable.

    Good Practice:

    • Each industry has rules and regulations on how long your organisation must maintain a copy of your documents.
    • Keep documents with common compliance or retention rules together – then they are easier to archive or delete as a group
    • Don’t allow lots of offline copies of documents – all official documents should be in the shared folders

    Glasscubes is user-friendly collaboration software for businesses. Connect everyone that you work with in an online workspace which improves the way you share files, manage projects and communicate with each other. For more information please contact us by calling +44 (0)20 3274 2310 or email us at


    Posted by Jacqui Hogan