Attention Communicators: Is Confidential Information Being Shared Outside Your Company?
By Dale Quayle, CEO, FileTrek
Communication leaders need to be aware of changing attitudes and practices regarding intellectual property in the modern workplace. Today’s workforce believes information is an asset to be shared, and while companies have benefited from this collaborative attitude with new technologies and increased productivity, there are risks too. It’s critical for today’s corporate communications, investor relations, and public relations teams to become more IP (intellectual property) aware to ensure data security.
It’s not uncommon for data to be stored in a myriad places throughout the company network and overall IT infrastructure. Due to the explosion of mobile device usage, we must also be concerned with data leaving outside the firewall. Forrester Research indicates that over 50% of knowledge workers are using three or more devices for work (February, 22, 2012). As a result, electronically stored information is being spread out between different servers, software, applications and platforms. This modern dilemma has become known in IT circles as data sprawl. If the trend is allowed to continue unabated, companies can expect to face plenty of questions moving forward:
Who has access to confidential information?
Unfortunately, a company may not be able to answer that question in a mobile work environment where it is easy to access and share company files. An organization may lose track of not only where data is stored, but also who holds the appropriate credentials to open, view and edit the information. Furthermore, a Document Security Survey of 2,625 respondents, conducted by Harris Interactive, revealed 90% of Americans believe people actually remove confidential information from the workplace.
I contest that some workers may not even realize that they are putting their employers IP in jeopardy since many companies are not clear about their policies regarding corporate IP. Educating employees about company policies towards sensitive data including proprietary intellectual property, employee records, contracts, financial information, etc. is critically important. The Document Security Survey commissioned by FileTrek suggests there may also be a generation gap in attitudes towards corporate data. For example, 68% of Millenials (aged 18 – 34) believe it is acceptable to take confidential information out of the office compared to just 50% of those aged 55+.
What changes have been made to data?
Data can go through numerous versions throughout its life cycle. Each time an employee opens a file or a work group accesses it for a project, the chances are good that changes are being made. These edits may be small and have little to no impact on the overall context of a file’s contents, or they may be significant and produce a completely new set of information compared to when the document or data was created or last accessed.
Our survey helped uncover that many employees work on confidential documents outside of the office. When questioned, 62% of adults believe it is circumstantially acceptable to take confidential information out of the office to finish a project from home or to work over the weekend or while on vacation.
Knowing the changes that have been made to documents or projects is very important information for the individual, team, and the company as a whole. But if data sprawl makes it difficult to know who can access information, how can an organization expect to also be aware of how files have been changed – especially with an increasingly mobile workforce?
How can the cloud help?
Fortunately for companies, these issues no longer have to dominate their data management practices. The advent of cloud computing presents a technology that has the ability to both alleviate data sprawl and allow them to better harness and leverage the massive amounts of information that is produced and shared daily.
Data storage has been shown to be one area where the cloud especially excels. Given the cloud’s scalability and flexibility benefits, it presents organizations with near infinite storage space and frees companies from having to worry about on-premise infrastructure.
Cloud-based applications can provide the ability for employees to sync files in the cloud so they may easily access their documents from any device at anytime. Better yet, cloud-based file sharing services empower individuals and work groups to collaborate freely and securely using modern technology. Many vendors offer the important feature that will store each of the various versions of the file in the cloud throughout its life cycle.
However, few cloud services provide the ability to track and report where data is located, whom it has been shared with, what changes were made, or how the numerous files are related. At FileTrek, we recently launched a solution that combines enterprise-class file sharing and innovative tracking technology to solve data sprawl. Our goal is to provide businesses with a safe and secure ecosystem that gives employees the freedom to be productive while protecting confidential data. FileTrek provides secure file sharing, collaboration, and the ability for businesses to track content and data – all within a unified system.
Appointed to the position of FileTrek CEO in September 2011, Dale Quayle is a seasoned executive with more than 25 years experience in driving strategic direction and sales growth for enterprise software companies. He was former CEO of Integrien, provider of integrity management solutions, until he sold the company to VMWare in 2010. Dale has also worked with Hewlett-Packard and Jonathan Engineered Solutions.