At some point, every business struggles when it comes to organizing and sharing files. It seems like file sharing should be a relatively simple idea, but it’s always surprising how complicated it can be, especially when everyone has their own organizational processes. Effective file sharing depends on a number of factors such as solid processing, continuous education, and technology.
We want to help your company get organized by breaking your technical options into three major categories: wikis, file sharing applications, and modern knowledge sharing solutions.
Many businesses, particularly startups, turn to wiki software for organizing and sharing files. The choice makes a lot of sense at face value. Wikis are free to use and easy to spin up. The downside is that with a wiki, you really do get what you pay for. And unfortunately, there are many reasons wikis fall short as a file sharing solution.
For the average employee, a wiki is not a user-friendly or easy-to-use option for sharing files and documents. If the majority of your employees happen to be tech-savvy and experienced in writing special markup, a wiki may be an appropriate option for sharing information across your company. Everyone is capable of learning these skills, but teaching them to each member of your team requires money and lots of time.
Another reason businesses look into a wiki for file sharing is because a traditional file folder structure makes it challenging for employees to quickly and easily locate the documents they need. Many wikis have search functionality that seemingly solve this problem. However, wiki searches aren’t powerful enough to apply context. The hundreds of thousands of cross references often make wiki search results convoluted and difficult to decipher. After a few failed attempts to find the information they need, employees will abandon using the wiki.
Finally, wikis don’t assign content ownership. Absolutely anyone can edit the contents of a wiki. Subscribers can follow posts and try to keep up by changing incorrect information and removing uninformed edits, but who’s to say that subscriber is actually an authority on the subject in question? And if they are, what if that person retires, leaves the organization, or otherwise becomes incapable of keeping up with that wiki page? Then it’s possible that no one is monitoring the content. While you certainly value everyone’s input, some content ownership and authority is necessary.
File Sharing Applications
What exactly is a file sharing application? Examples you may be most familiar with include Dropbox and Box. File sharing applications allow users to upload documents and files to the cloud. The documents and files are then stored on the cloud providers’ servers, making them accessible from personal computers and smartphones.
Perhaps the file sharing application’s best feature is versatility. Many organizations choose these solutions because they are mobile-friendly and relatively easy to set up. Apps like Dropbox and Box can integrate with hundreds of thousands of third-party apps. This makes it easy for your employees to integrate with the applications they use on a daily basis, therefore improving productivity.
Security is something to consider when looking at file sharing applications. Dropbox and Box lack security encryption while data is at rest, have an open-door policy to the NSA, and do not provide private encryption on the user’s end, meaning they have the key to every encryption. For these reasons, we would only recommend a file sharing application for non-sensitive files and documents.
One pain point commonly heard from users of file sharing applications is the lack of support functionality offered with applications such as Dropbox and Box. It is not uncommon for these services to lack a support phone number or live chat feature; most rely on email to assist their customers. Many applications for organizing and sharing files do have a phone number, but that number will only connect you to a sales representative, which is not helpful when experiencing a technical issue.
Modern Knowledge Sharing Solutions
Similar (and yet entirely different) to wikis, knowledge sharing platforms provide an easy, quick, and secure way to share information across your organization. These systems have knowledge management capabilities that allow you to upload files, documents, and videos to one searchable, accessible location, making it easy for employees to find the content they need to do their jobs.
Perhaps the greatest appeal of a knowledge sharing solution is its ease of use and success in getting employees the files they need, when they need them.
Let’s walk through an example to illustrate this. Your marketing team recently revamped the company’s brand messaging, and they produced a document instructing members of the company on the new messaging, what words and phrases to use and to avoid, etc.
Each department finds they need access to the document at various times. Customer support receives a question, and they want to respond in accordance with the new messaging, so they email marketing for the document. Each sales rep needs a copy of the document to provide updated information to prospects, so each rep emails marketing requesting the document. The head of human resources wants to make signs and handouts featuring the new messaging to keep around the office, so they email marketing for a copy. The CMO would like each member of the board to have access to the new messaging, so they request a copy, and so on.
That’s easily over thirty emails for the same document.
Now imagine the marketing director has a platform where he/she could post the document once, and any member of the organization could search “new brand messaging” and locate the file. That means instead of sending out thirty identical emails, the marketing director needs to share the document just once. Think of all the time that could be saved when you multiply that process by the thousands of documents shared in your company each year.
No two organizations are the same, and you have to make an informed decision about which method for sharing important documents and files across your company is best for you. But one thing is for certain; you can’t go wrong with saving time and increasing productivity.