Data Security: Are Your Shared Files At Risk?

Learn the risks of data security when sharing files and how you can avoid exposure to shared file security threats.

On any given workday, your small business creates numerous electronic files containing personally identifiable information on your customers and financial details of your company. Data security is one of the most important elements of any business.

These files may include text documents with communications between in-house staff and/or clients, spreadsheets with financial data, ticker data from credit card sales and even scans of important signed contracts or other documents. Is the way you store and share these files putting your small business in a data security risk?

It is easy for a small business owner to overlook and neglect file security in the day-to-day routines. However, data security of your files is important. Additionally, files that are shared either from a server location, sent by email or transmitted via the internet are also vulnerable to file sharing security risks.

What Are The Risks of Data Security?

Your small business faces many risks for neglecting data security of shared files. Here are just a few:

  • Lost Files – If a file is saved either on a local “C:” drive or on a shared network server, it can get “lost” when no one remembers where they put it, can be lost track of due to multiple moving of files or is even inadvertently deleted by a user.
  • Accidental Sharing of Sensitive Information – A data security event may occur when a file is placed on a shared network, where anyone in the company has access to it, but does not have the proper authority.
  • Downloaded Viruses – Downloading other files with an attached malicious virus may expose your files to data security issues. Private data could even be obtained by hackers or even deletion through malicious virus code.
  • Sent to Wrong Recipient – Data security is jeopardized when files are shared via email and could be inadvertently sent to the incorrect recipient.

How to Promote File Security

Set up a File Sharing Policy
Your first step should be to discuss with your IT manager and heads of all departments how you will share files between each other and to outside sources. Describe when sharing is permitted and when it should be forbidden. Be sure you share the policy with all your employees so they are fully aware of the file security issues.

Set Up Standard File Saving Procedures
As part of your written business processes, you should determine how shared files will be stored. Be aware of the risks of certain procedures such as:

Stored on local drive – If a file is saved on a local hard drive on a laptop or desktop computer, what happens if the drive crashes? Or if the individual no longer can access the drive, can the file be retrieved?

Stored on shared drive – If you set up a network server for file storage, it is a great way to assure backup and recovery. However, who should have access to certain files? Where exactly will they be stored?

Set Up Standard File Folder System
If you do set up a shared server file system, be sure you design a proper and published file structure method. Make it clear that certain files should be stored in certain main and sub folders for departments such as accounting, or marketing. And be sure you set up proper viewing access to folders so those who have no need to see client data do not get to those files.

Classify Your Documents
You can set up a classification system to ensure data security of your most sensitive documents. Your most classified documents might be stored on a shared file that limited access. Or you might have your IT set up a completely different server for “eyes only” individuals.

Set up Proper Users
When you or your IT staff set up user accounts and permissions, be sure you keep track of who has access to what. Also, set up a policy on whether remote users on home or personal laptop computers should access your small business network. That could expose your system to further risks and should be considered heavily.

File security can be maintained with the proper policies in place. Be sure you think through how your small business files will be shared and how you will ensure data security within your electronic system.

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