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Content collaboration tools shift into hyperdrive

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Secure content collaboration is critical for remote work

As remote and hybrid work become the new normal, secure content collaboration has become increasingly top of mind.

Digital collaboration services, such as file sharing or group document editing, create efficiencies for businesses and -- if done right -- can provide high-level security for essential documents and data.

As content collaboration tools have improved, finding the right fit for an organization has become crucial. It's no longer only about sending and sharing content, but supporting secure document sharing at scale. The more advanced platforms provide an additional level of protection against ransomware, as well as malicious macros embedded into files, and can automatically recognize personally identifiable information.

As the COVID-19 pandemic changed how organizations operate, digital transformation and moving content management to be fully digital became top priorities.

Establishing new processes

Business managers found that switching to a new work environment required new operational processes and tools. David Smith, CEO and founder of Tenscope, a subscription-based graphic design company, was used to collaborating on content in the office, where employees discussed ideas and modifications face to face. Their collaboration process went through a major change due to remote work.

As companies continue to shift to the remote or hybrid working business model, the sensitive information transmitted between high-ranking employees will need secure channels to flow.

Tenscope explored various tools for secure content collaboration, including Google Workspace and FileCloud, but Smith was concerned about the default security workflows in these tools. The company settled on Tresorit because it is encrypted end to end and can securely send sensitive information, Smith said.

Smith's team also uses Cage for collaborative content design. He finds it useful for teams to develop their ideas together. Cage also improves client interaction. It makes it easier to share feedback and collaboratively iterate design ideas.

"The future of document collaboration is going to become very protective," Smith said.

As companies continue to shift to remote or hybrid working models, the sensitive information transmitted between high-ranking employees will need secure channels. Smith expects more platforms to follow the example of Tresorit and do as much as they can to ensure that users do not have to worry about data safety.

Bullet points comparing the collaboration priorities and drivers of IT against the line of business
Often, security is a primary concern of IT rather than an individual department.

Emphasizing secure content collaboration

Collaborative content platforms, like Google Workspace, include some basic security features baked in. At a minimum, these capabilities restrict how widely documents and files are shared. While it establishes a baseline for security, it can also prove cumbersome when the document creator needs to add new users. Sometimes, it is easier to share a document with everyone rather than update the security settings as new users collaborate. This emphasis on ease of collaboration over security is problematic because it can create potential vulnerabilities.

Whether an organization uses Google Workspace or another content collaboration platform, the best practice is to dig into the tools and features that help enforce better security and policy. These features can include restricting share access to only people within the organization or generating reports that log everything created by an employee, for example.

Some organizations have opted for alternative approaches to mainstream tools. For example, Robert Brandl, CEO of ToolTester, a digital tool review service, found it easier to set up content collaboration workflows on top of WordPress and Zoom. He found this more efficient because using a content management system like WordPress reduces the number of overall tools and includes good security capabilities. Once the team is happy with the content, they can push it into production with minimal friction.

How many people can work on the same document?

Another potential challenge with secure content collaboration is sorting through too many edits, suggestions and comments. Google Docs, for instance, allows up to 200 people to simultaneously view a document, and 10 people can edit it simultaneously. Microsoft Word allows up to 99 people to edit a document at once. This might prove useful for a brainstorming session, but it can make it difficult to track changes to content slated for production.

Brandl found it helpful to assign clear roles for content collaborators into the content management workflow, such as owner, collaborator, reader and commentator. Assigning roles has restricted how many people work on content simultaneously, which might otherwise confuse the process.

Securing collaboration at scale

The COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to improve secure content collaboration at scale as businesses needed to adopt a hybrid or remote work model. Managers needed to extend the on-premises controls to support remote workers at home.

"Since the pandemic, one of the primary changes seen in content management is a shift from self-hosted, on-premises solutions to cloud deployments for modern implementations," said Venkat Ramasamy, COO of FileCloud.

Popular, secure content collaboration platforms, such as FileCloud, Egnyte, Box and Dropbox, saw significant growth throughout 2020. Some of these platforms can also support a hybrid cloud approach that can provide traditional LAN access on premises and cloud access off-site. Users get the best of both worlds: fast, reliable access to large files in the office and remote, secure access to files in the cloud. These platforms are also starting to implement AI capabilities to detect whether a document contains sensitive information and automatically enforce governance rules.

Managers also need to consider the security risks from malicious code embedded into files. Hackers have found ways to infect computers by crafting specially crafted macros or commands that run in Microsoft Office files, PDF documents and even image files. Third-party content scanning services, such as Votiro, Trend Micro and Mimecast, can provide an extra line of defense against these types of threats.

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