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Let me ask you something. When you want to open a client’s document on a colleague’s computer, or take a look at it when you get home, or bring it with you to an offsite meeting – or maybe, in fact, just move it across to a different workstation when your printer connection is playing up – what do you do?

Copy it onto a USB or external hard drive? Save it on your laptop’s hard drive? Email it to yourself, possibly at a non-work account, allowing it to be stored on your smartphone or an unsecured place on the web?

If so, do you know with certainty precisely where all of your client’s intellectual property is right now – and can you vouch for its safety?

USBs are lost all the time. Hard drives get left lying around the office and quickly change hands. 10,000 smartphones are stolen every month in London alone, while 1000 laptops are snatched from Heathrow Airport each week. Unencrypted email addresses can be infiltrated. How many times have you received a message from a friend’s private email address that’s clearly been hacked?

These routes clearly don’t offer the protection that your clients expect from you as standard. None of these methods of storing or transferring data will, typically, have anything like the security measures that your IT department puts in place on your work network to ensure you’re complying with data protection obligations. When you use them, you’re going rogue.

I’m not trying to alarm you, but frankly, unless you’re using a secure file sharing method, you might as well be leaving your client’s company secrets lying on a park bench.

No one wants to have to explain to a furious client that they’ve caused a data breach. You urgently need to figure out how to share files online securely.

But getting a solution in place that offers secure data transfer and secure online storage is only one part of the problem. Another pressing concern is finding a solution that you’ll actually use. If your secure file transfer method is unwieldy or time-consuming, if it starts to drag down your productivity, you’ll cut corners, and before you know it you’ll be back where you started.

This is why tools such as Sharefile offer such an attractive alternative. Sharefile provides all the security you need to make sure your internal and customer data is never at risk when you need to access it in a different location, but it also streamlines the process itself.

Instead of having to actually move or send data from device to device, this kind of approach synchronises your files across all your devices. You have access wherever you are, but crucially, nothing is stored locally – instead, the system uses top-end Citrix technology to keep your assets kept safely locked up behind layers of encryption.

Some people make the mistake of looking at cloud-based hosting and secure file transfer services and presume that, because it involves storing data on the internet, it must be less safe than using solid pieces of kit that they can hold in their hand and physically protect. In fact, the opposite is true.

First, no office, however well-funded, security-conscious and accustomed to handling sensitive and confidential information, is inviolable: stats from the BBC found that 624 laptops, 109 mobile phones and 83 iPads were stolen from staff in its London office alone over a 5-year period. But even without the risk of loss or theft, hard drives, smart devices and the like are all hackable by an outsider. It takes hard work to develop a security system coherent enough to stop someone slipping through the cracks.

The best, most comprehensive cloud-based solutions, on the other hand, have this security built in. They use multi-factor authentication and state-of-the-art encryption to fortify your data, and they extend this protection to every new device you use. Plus, it means you can outsource this stress to a dedicated team of experts working round the clock to keep your data safe.

Finally, remember that not all secure file-sharing platforms are created equal. The internet might be global, but every country has its own rules when it comes to data sovereignty. To be fully compliant, you need to know where in the world your clients’ information is being stored. Can your cloud provider assure you that they are only using UK based data centres to deliver their file sharing services? If not, you need to be very, very careful indeed.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: if your clients asked what measures you’re taking to keep their data safe, could you look them in the eye and tell them you you’re doing everything in your power can to guarantee their security? If the answer is no, it’s time to start exploring secure data transfer options you can genuinely believe in.

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