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What is File Sharing?


File sharing on a network-connected computer refers to the public or private sharing of files or folders. Files can be easily shared outside of a network via portable media; however, the term "file sharing" always refers to transferring files over a network.

Multiple users can access the same file data because of file sharing. Depending on their access restrictions, some users might be able to create and modify files, while others might only have read access or even no access at all.

File sharing Types

Although there are different types of file sharing, most of the systems that are available can be classified as either operating system file sharing or internet file sharing.

What is File Sharing

1. Operating system file sharing

These days, file sharing is built into almost every operating system. For instance, Windows provides server message block (SMB) file sharing functionality. On Microsoft's Resilient File System (ReFS), an administrator can share a folder, making it available over the SMB protocol.

Specific sharing options differ for every operating system, but there are usually a ton of other capabilities accessible as well. A user's ability to store data within a file share can be restricted by storage quotas, which can be set in addition to user rights for shared folders. Additionally, Windows Server includes a function that allows administrators to select what types of data can be stored where. For instance, an administrator can stop users from storing audio or video files in a shared folder they've designated for Microsoft Office documents.

2. Internet file sharing

Internet file sharing can take many different forms, each with its own function, but the most popular ones are as follows:

  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing is a consumer technology in which each participant's computer serves as a client in a much larger file sharing network. The P2P software finds the location of the data and then speeds up the download process when a user downloads files from this network. P2P networks have a reputation for being mostly utilized for the sharing of pirated media, even if they have legal uses.
  • Enterprise file sync and share services are popular for remote work because they allow data to be saved in the cloud and accessed from a desktop or mobile device. The next time the user logs on, any changes or new files made while working offline are automatically synchronized to the main storage repository. These storage services save data in one single location that can be adequately secured and backed up by the company. Any data downloaded or created on an end user's device should be saved in a dedicated encrypted folder (also known as a vault) to prevent it from being compromised if the device is lost or stolen.
  • Portal websites, like Microsoft's SharePoint Online, let users share files and folders via a shared link with coworkers and, occasionally, those living outside the organization. Through real-time, collaborative access via a web browser or mobile app, these portal-based file sharing services enable users to view files from almost any location and on almost any device.

How does file sharing work?

An administrator creates a folder and allows access to the designated users in order to arrange files in a corporate file sharing solution. Usually, this entails making a group or groups and then adding the groups to the access control list of the folder. This enables the administrator to configure read/write access for specific users or entire groups as needed.

Users can then access files by going to the folders that they can access. Files are hosted on a physical server or in the cloud, or they are kept on another computer. When users click on a file that is available to them, their local desktops open it. P2P file sharing, in which every computer is a client in a wider network, allows files to be accessed from another computer. In contrast, server-based file sharing is a feature of the File Transfer Protocol (FTP), to which an administrator can impose restrictions on access depending on permission settings.

A user can often view and edit a saved file, save any changes, and have those changes show up when they open the file again. The most recent changes to a shared folder or file are visible to all users who have access to it.

How to choose file sharing software

Finally, it comes down to matching features with the requirements of the organization when selecting file-sharing software. The company might be able to make use of cloud computing or a built-in operating system if granting access to numerous files inside one or more folders is the top priority. Maybe there's already file sharing built into the network-attached storage (NAS), so no software is required. A portal website, however, might be a useful substitute for a traditional file server, depending on the overall business use case. Comparably, if a large number of remote users often operate offline, an enterprise file sync and sharing system like Box, Citrix ShareFile, or Egnyte would be a smart choice.

There is no requirement for an organization to employ a single kind of file-sharing software. Organizations ought to consider utilizing a variety of file sharing solutions, each suited for a certain use case.

Importance of File Sharing

Collaboration and communication between people and organizations are greatly aided by file sharing. It makes remote work possible and reduces the need for in-person meetings by letting users share files quickly and effortlessly between locations. Because file sharing removes the need for actual file transportation, it also helps people and organizations save time and money.

Risks and challenges of file sharing

Sharing files can lead to a number of dangers and difficulties, such as the transmission of viruses and malware, data breaches and leaks, legal consequences, and identity theft. Financial losses, reputational harm, and the loss of intellectual property can all arise from unauthorized access to sensitive files.

File Sharing Methods

When it comes to file sharing, the possibilities are limitless. ranging from cloud storage to peer-to-peer networks. Here are a few techniques for sharing files:

1. Email

Email is a popular and easy way to share files. It has been around for decades and makes file sending and receiving quick and simple for users. Email is incredibly user-friendly for non-technical consumers because it doesn't require any additional software to utilize.

What is File Sharing

That might cause issues, though, if users need to transfer large files. Email file size limits prevent users from sending files larger than 25 MB. As a point of comparison, 1000MB makes up 1GB. You are aware of how little data there actually is if you have ever used a cellphone. Furthermore, since email is not encrypted, any information transferred over it is not safe. A document being transferred between systems can be readily intercepted by cybercriminals.

2. Courier

Sharing files by postage is known as courier file-sharing. A courier service delivers a physical document or USB and delivers it to its final location by ground or air.

What is File Sharing

The use of couriers raises security concerns, which are contentious. A courier service physically transports the information, and they are frequently tracked and monitored, thus, on the one hand, it can be more secure than email. However, as courier services need human contact, human error is a factor. Documents are frequently misplaced, stolen, or lost via courier, which might compromise the security of your data. It is inconvenient if your documents need to be completed quickly because it takes longer than instantaneous electronic file-sharing solutions.

3. Fax

Is your office modern, or does it still have fax machines? Documents can be sent swiftly and safely with the use of fax, a traditional file sharing technique. The process of faxing involves encoding a document before sending it to the receiving fax machine. The receiving device then decodes the data sent, which is then printed on paper.

What is File Sharing

Technology has progressed beyond the necessity of fax machines, which were created in the 1960s. Faxing is costly not just because it requires a landline phone number, which most contemporary homes and companies no longer have, but also because of the high maintenance costs (i.e., ink, toner, and paper). In addition, the recipient of your documents must also have a fax machine, which is unlikely.

There are better file sharing options available for modern, safe file sharing.

4. Secure File Transfer Protocol

The lawyers have been using Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) for more than ten years. The way SFTP operates is by establishing a secure connection between the SFTP server and the client making the file request. After that, the files are encrypted and sent to the client. Encryption is the main advantage; it protects the integrity of all files and keeps unauthorized access at bay. Additionally dependable and built to be strong and secure, SFTP guarantees error-free and corrupt-data transmission.

What is File Sharing

SFTP can be challenging for non-technical users, even though it is secure. It is not an easy operation to manage and validate SSH keys in order to gain access to the remote site and documents. It's not easy or quick, not even for IT staff. Regretfully, when exchanging big files or a lot of files, SFTP can also be slow. Finally, as this option only allows for binary communication, it might not be the most up-to-date if you need to communicate with clients instantly.

5. On-Premise Software

On-premise software, which is set up and maintained on a business's own servers or PCs, enables users to exchange and store files safely and offers access control and other security features. On-premise data security and compliance offer greater control in the event that your business has stringent information security standards. Unlike the other alternatives on our list, on-premise software does not require an internet connection, so if a network fault happens, your ability to exchange documents will not be hampered.

What is File Sharing

However, security comes with a cost. Your management of on-premise servers entails upfront expenses for things like purchasing hardware, hiring security personnel, and maintaining IT teams. Regular software updates, backups, and manual or semi-automated procedures are also necessary for these systems. Cloud-based file sharing can be the best option for you if you want file sharing at a lower cost with the highest level of security.

6. Cloud-Based File Sharing

You can upload, store, and share files on distant servers run by a third-party provider using cloud-based file sharing. It is widely used by businesses worldwide and is regarded as one of the safest file-sharing techniques available today. File sharing is incredibly convenient since users may access files from anywhere on the globe because data is hosted in the cloud. Businesses that employ cloud-based storage also save money since it eliminates the need for capital expenditures and upkeep on physical infrastructure.

What is File Sharing

There are a ton of reliable cloud-based file-sharing apps available these days. Choosing the best decision for oneself could lead to a choice paradox.

Why is Secure file sharing important?

It's important to use secure file sharing that encrypt the data to protect confidential documents during transit. Secure protocols make it safe to send sensitive information, like confidential files, financials and customer data, without having to fear that it might be intercepted or accessed by the wrong parties. Businesses can send these secure files to trusted recipients.

Implementation of Guidelines and Regulations

By using secure file sharing, businesses are able to confirm to privacy regulations and industry needs. Secure methods can help in complying with regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA and PCI DSS, which require safe handling and exchange of sensitive data, ensuring that customer data and personally identifiable information (PII) is being responsibly managed as per legal requirements.

Implementation of Guidelines and Rules

Businesses can adhere to privacy regulations and industry needs by using secure file sharing. Companies can comply with regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS, which demand the secure handling and exchange of sensitive data, by implementing secure practices. This guarantees the responsible handling of customer data and personally identifiable information (PII) in compliance with legal requirements.

Prevention of Data Breaches and Unauthorized Access

The hazards of data breaches and unauthorized access to private files are reduced by secure file-sharing. Access restrictions and encryption make ensuring that only people with permission may access shared files, which lowers the risk of data getting into the wrong hands. Encrypting files containing trade secrets, intellectual property, or sensitive business strategy helps businesses avoid legal risks and reputational harm.

Maintaining Data Integrity

Secure file-sharing techniques guard against unauthorized modifications or manipulation, maintaining the integrity of exchanged content. Businesses may guarantee that shared files stay original and unaltered by using digital signatures and encrypted file sharing. Maintaining the integrity and authenticity of information is critical, and this is especially vital when addressing contracts, legal agreements, or significant financial documents.

Secure file sharing: what is it?

"Secure file-sharing" is the practice of sharing files between individuals or groups of people in a way that preserves their integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. It comprises employing methods and devices that protect data during transmission or storage from alteration, interception, and unauthorized access.

1. Encryption

In order to safeguard the content of data, secure file sharing frequently uses encryption. Encryption transforms the files into unreadable formats that can only be unlocked with the right encryption keys. Even in the unlikely event that they are intercepted or accessed by malevolent persons, this assurance keeps the files secure and unreadable.

2. Authentication

Secure file sharing may also include authentication procedures to confirm the legitimacy of users accessing or sharing the data in addition to encryption. Access controls are frequently used to make sure that only authorized users may access the shared files. Examples of these restrictions include passwords and multi-factor authentication.

3. Other methods

Moreover, safe file-sharing options frequently come with the following features:

  • Access expiration
  • Permissions Management
  • To keep file access under control, keep audit trails.
  • Keep a record of all actions taken with the files.

When shared files are saved or moved over networks or cloud platforms, these precautions help to preserve their privacy, confidentiality, and integrity.

Advantages of file sharing

  • Using a file-sharing system, particularly when working remotely, is essentially a time saver for team effectiveness.
  • Team members can access the same files without having to email documents back and forth, and they can always be confident that they're both working with the most current version of any relevant files.
  • And since most file sharing systems are set up in the cloud, the costs to maintain these file backups and system management are also reduced.
  • Using the shared drive also saves money by avoiding the errors that can arise when individuals choose to complete tasks based on inaccurate or outdated information.

Drawbacks of files sharing

  • Greater Possibility of File viruses, ransomware, and malware entering shared data are more likely.
  • A Higher Probability of Files Being Shared Publicly Shared files increase the likelihood that an employee or external hacker may attempt to expose company information in a public online forum.
  • Potential Issues with Plagiarism and Proprietary Data If an employee takes another person's ideas, thoughts, or sensitive information and uses it for their own gain or sells it, they are breaking the law.
  • It is true that file sharing requires network speeds that are rapid enough to provide simple and rapid data access.


Teams who are able to share files are more productive, particularly when they work remotely. It is also essential for promoting cooperation and communication between people and organizations. This makes it possible for users to swiftly and easily transfer files across geographical boundaries, which eliminates the need for in-person meetings and permits remote work.

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