Even If the Mail Isn’t
When you can’t mail documents, secure messaging and file sharing keeps things moving
Just because the mail isn’t getting through, doesn’t mean business stops. People still need important documents, contracts, and other confidential information to get to employees, customers, and outside partners. While the dream of a truly paperless office still eludes us, we can use technology to avoid mailing a lot of the paper documents we send today. But while mailing something is considered secure, emailing the same document isn’t secure. What can take the place of mailing a document when the easiest option—email—isn’t a secure option?
Well, email is still the answer, but not regular email, but secure email and messaging through mobile device managed (MDM) networks with strong encryption.
Hold on, my document is still on paper
The first hurdle—going from paper to an electronic version—is easy and there are (at least) three ways to get it done. You have all the tools close at hand and you’ll be done in just a minute.
If you were just emailed something, like a contract you need to sign, you can sign the document electronically on your laptop or smartphone. From Preview on a Mac to Acrobat Reader (Mac and Windows) to any number of PDF apps on your phone, nearly all of them let you sign the screen or trackpad with your finger and insert the signature into the document. By far this is the easiest way to sign something, plus it saves paper. Once signed, you can re-save the document as a PDF and prepare to send back. If you’ve printed the document already, or need to do more than simply sign or initial a page or two, you’re going to need to scan the document.
Most office printers, and a lot of SOHO (small office home office) printers, include scanning and copying as a core function. When you scan a document through your printer you can send it right to your laptop or to your phone through your printer’s mobile app. Over the past few years the mobile apps for many printers (like the one for Canon printers here) have made great strides. This particular app lets you print from a phone, scan from the printer to the phone, or scan with your phone to print or email. Mobile apps for office printers make it easy to deal with both printing and scanning, check if your printer has an app and give it a try.
The last way to get a document into your device to send electronically is, of course, your smartphone. Both iOS and Android have basic scanning tools included with the default camera for notes apps. These will work in a pinch, but there are a lot of other options available (both free and paid) if you find yourself scanning a lot of documents with your phone. When you’re scanning with your smartphone camera, there are a couple tricks to help you get a good scan. Put the paper or document on a contrasting background to help the camera pick out the “paper” from the “table”. If you’re scanning a piece of light coloured paper, put it on a dark surface, if you’re scanning something dark like a business card, place it on a light surface. The contrast will help the app and camera pick out the edges of the document more easily and you’ll get a more accurate scan of the entire document. You need nice, even light for a good scan, but it can be hard to get even light without glare on a flat surface, and the camera’s flash won’t make it any better. If you can’t change positions or turn out some lights, sometimes it helps to put the paper on a vertical surface like a wall or whiteboard. This isn’t practical for a long document, but if you only have a couple pages, it will let you get a good scan without glare or shadows.
It’s gotta be secure to be safe
With your document saved electronically again, now it’s time to send that document securely to colleagues or contacts. Just like scanning the document in the first place, there are several ways to send the document while still making sure that only the people who should read it are the people who do read it. We’re going to look at three methods here: secure email, secure chat, and secure file sharing, each of which gets the job done with a minimum of hassle.
If you’re sending documents within your company, and everyone is using the company mobile device management (MDM) to secure their devices, then secure email from your smartphone is the fastest and easiest way to go. Through your MDM’s secure email app, sending the document should be as simple as tap, tap, click. Email is ubiquitous, adding the extra layer of security through your MDM just makes it better. When you have to include people outside your company, email is still the easiest option, but unfortunately it also becomes one of the least secure. As we talk about on the SKY ECC blog, email isn’t nearly as secure as people think. When you’re sending private, confidential information, regular email won’t protect your information. When you’re sending information outside your company, secure chat messaging is an option you need to put on the top of your list.
You’re probably already familiar with secure messaging and chat apps, but you might not think of them as integral to business communications. Many secure chat apps allow you to encrypt and share files with your contacts. For quick, person-to-person messages like sending a signed contract or authorizing purchases, secure messaging is perfect. Many apps allow you to set messages to expire (or self-destruct for the Mission Impossible crowd) after a few minutes, hours, or days. Message expiry gives you another layer of security for sensitive documents you don’t want sitting on recipient’s phones beyond a certain time. The final method is the most flexible, especially if you need to share very large files or a lot of files at once.
Secure file sharing
Many of us use file sharing services like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and OneDrive on a daily basis. All of these services are great and make sharing files with people easy, but they don’t have a tremendous amount of security by default. All the services protect your files with usernames and passwords, and many offer granular security controls, but none of them are good enough for your most sensitive documents. Secure file sharing tools are becoming more popular today as the need for robust security is increasing with each hack and data breach. When you’re evaluating secure file sharing, look for tools that offer encrypted storage, document specific passwords, two-factor authentication, and sharing links that expire after a period of time (like secure chat messages). Secure file sharing links can be sent via secure chat or email to recipients. Don’t forget to send the link securely and, for extra protection, if there are additional passwords needed, send them through a separate method. For example you could email the link to the files, but send the password needed to access the files by secure chat.
Security, especially protecting important documents like contracts, should be on the top of mind whenever you’re sharing files with colleagues or contacts. From email to chat to secure file services, there are several easy and efficient options out there for you to look at and use to protect yourself.
Paper has had a good run, but we have the technology to do better now
There was a time when the only practical way to send contracts or other important papers was printing them out, signing them, and putting them in an envelope. And while the paperless office isn’t quite here, we’ve made huge strides in reducing our need to physically mail documents in envelopes to send them. From scanning with your smartphone to secure email, chat, and file sharing, you can significantly reduce the number of documents you print and send.
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