From the time we're in preschool, we're taught that when we create, purchase, or build something good, we should share it with others. For whatever reason, we instinctively view sharing as something we should do, especially if it’s something we're proud of or which could be useful to someone else. This instinct naturally finds its way into the workplace. We’ve built powerful tools and platforms to enable us to easily share items with other employees. From interoffice mail to email to instant messaging to the internet to Google to Dropbox, all these types of information transfer are born from our desire and need to share with others.
In today’s workplace, files, photographs, and graphics are among the most shared items. As you’ve surely heard, “content is king.”Whether they be videos, advertisements, stock images, or product shoots, these files are vital to the success and growth of an organization. This means they need to be used by many different teams across many channels. Partners and/or clients must also be able to see and approve them for use. Some files may have strict permissions around who can access them or use them. Because of this, the practice of file sharing, no matter the system used, is one of the most important to nail down.
Digital asset management (DAM) practices can be leveraged for effective and secure file sharing no matter what platform or software you use. Below we outline some of the most practical ways to make your file sharing seamless.
Types of File Sharing Platforms
Before we dive into the best practices of file sharing, let’s define the different platforms commonly used for this purpose and how they compare to one another.
Email or Other “Online” Tools
While it’s easy to do, sharing files through email or free websites is very unwise. The process isn’t scalable, is fraught with opportunities for user error, has no governance, and isn't as secure as the other methods discussed below.
If your organization stores a majority of its digital files on servers and/or individual hard drives, you likely depend on internal file-sharing tools. This usually means that the creator or owner of the original file shares it locally using a USB drive or external hard drive. Employees may also be able to share digital assets across your local network through servers or Microsoft software like Excel and Word.
While this may seem like a simple way to share files, it isn’t a very efficient or secure method. When files aren't centralized, many employees are unable to access them in a timely manner, if at all. There’s also a total lack of governance in this type of system. No one is overseeing the file-sharing process, the management of the files themselves, or ensuring nothing gets lost or winds up in the wrong hands.
Cloud-based File Sharing Software
You’re likely to have heard of Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, and SharePoint. In fact, your organization probably uses at least one of these cloud-based tools for file sharing and collaboration. They’re great places for teams to store and centralize files for easy sharing. Many of these tools also have simple permissions capabilities, allowing users to use filters to see who can access specific files and folders.
While these are powerful tools relative to plugging in a USB drive to share files between computers, they do have limitations. The biggest of these is the scalability of these platforms. As the volume of your files increases, they are more difficult to manage and use effectively. Search capabilities are often limited to fields like filename and creation date. It’s also difficult to centralize all assets in one place because many of the tools listed above specialize in managing a specific type of file, whether it be photos, documents, or presentations.
Digital Asset Management Platforms
Digital asset management (DAM) platforms are the most secure and well-built tools to handle all your organization's files and file sharing needs. These platforms are designed to be the single source of truth for your organization when it comes to managing your important files. These files are known as “digital assets” because of their significant value.
Many of these platforms have robust features that allow your team to share assets securely and quickly with people both inside and outside your organization. These features can include preview links to share with partners and clients, robust permission structures, integrations with other tools, reformatting capabilities, and lightning-fast metadata searches. If you don’t currently have a DAM platform and are struggling with file sharing issues, investing in this kind of tool should be your first consideration. The DAM experts at Stacks will be happy to help if you need guidance selecting and implementing a platform.
File Sharing Best Practices
1. Gather Assets in One Place
As discussed previously, when digital assets are spread out across an organization they're impossible to properly manage and keep track of. They can easily get lost, sent to the wrong person, or find their way to the wrong channel. The first step in making your file sharing efforts secure is to collect all your relevant files into a single place, whether it be a network server, cloud storage software program, or DAM platform.
2. Standardize File Names (and Metadata)
Once your assets are gathered, you’ll need to get all stakeholders to agree on how to name (and enrich) them going forward. Start by developing a file naming convention and metadata taxonomy. Then train your end-users on the new standards and document them somewhere easy to find and reference. This will decrease search time and ensure the right asset is shared with the right person. If your file names and metadata are a mess when you collect assets, you may also want to go back and clean them up as part of this process.
3. Assign Management Responsibility
With your stakeholders, assign someone or a group of people to manage your digital asset library going forward. These responsibilities include retiring assets as needed, controlling who can see and share what, enforcing standards and processes, and ensuring that large cleanup efforts won’t be needed down the road. Without assigning these tasks, your library will quickly fall into chaos and files could easily find their way into the wrong hands.
4. Develop a Proven Process Internally and Externally
Once your files are in one place, named appropriately so they’re easy to find, and are being governed effectively, your teams can share them quickly and securely. Before giving end-users access, however, they'll need defined processes to follow around file sharing, both internally and externally. This ensures that if something goes wrong you’ll have something to reference to help identify the issue and develop solutions.
5. Create and Follow a Roadmap
The final consideration is future-focused. Hopefully, your organization will continue to grow, as will the amount of content you’ll create and need to manage and share. You may sign more clients, agree to more partnerships, or expand your creative or marketing efforts. Whatever the reason, you need to have a game plan for the future of your digital asset library. Take time now to think about what markers would indicate you may need to switch to a new platform.
Your organization may not be ready to purchase a DAM platform. That’s okay! Using the digital asset management best practices discussed above, you can easily and securely share files no matter what platform you’re using. If you need help developing a roadmap or getting started on this process, contact Stacks! Our specialty is helping people and organizations implement DAM programs effectively.