Top 5 Reasons to Replace All Email Attachments with Links

Email is the collaboration and file sharing tool of choice for most of us for many reasons. For some it is a muscle-memory thing. It is how we collaborated before Skype, Yammer and Teams emerged. Email has the advantage of ubiquity and virtually always working. When you hit Send you have great confidence that the recipient will quickly receive your message with zero friction.

All of this came to mind upon reading a Linkedin post from an astute industry colleague, which stated that: 

"Behind every problem at this company is a spreadsheet. In an email."

I suspect this problem resonates with most of us, but our attention may mistakenly (IMHO) focus on email being an inadequate method to share a sensitive file. But the underlying issue is that in almost all cases, attachments result in data being given away forever. But this does not have to be the case as the attachment can be replaced with a link to the file. Here are the Top 5 reasons to do so.

• Links can be expired. An emerging best practice is to have a default link expiration duration, for example 60 days. Long enough to meet the business need in sharing the file in the first place. And if requesting and approving an extension is easy (as it is with eShare), there is virtually no impact on the sender or the recipient.And if you have sent an email in error (have you ever succeeded in recalling an email?), or you have terminated a business relationship, or have reason to believe a recipient's mail server has been compromised, you can immediately expire any/all attachment links.

• Links allow rights management. Perhaps attachments should be available for viewing only, with no download. Perhaps downloaded attachments should be dynamically watermarked. And perhaps the sharing of an attachment with a co-worker is okay, but sharing outside of the recipient's organization requires the sender's approval.

• Attachments are not sitting in the recipients email system. Attachment links allow you to keep your shared files safely tucked away in your cloud file storage (e.g., the sender's OneDrive). The recipient can view an attachment at any time, without having the file in their mail system, accruing risk by the day, long after the business need in sharing the file has been met.

• 80% of recipients do not need a local copy of the file. Even when the recipient has the right to download an attachment, 80% of recipients will not. They prefer to preview the file, perhaps to approve it or to determine what action is needed. Knowing they have access to the file at some later point is good enough for 80% of recipients. Attaching a file in the absence of a link is grossly oversharing, adding no business value and accumulating risk.

• Links enable modern collaboration. Platforms like Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) allow for online editing, co-authoring and redlining of shared content, but not if that content is shared as an attachment. Links make modern collaboration possible, as does eShare's native integration with Microsoft Office Online.

• Bonus Reason: Links eliminate version confusionLinks ensure all parties are working from the same version of a shared file. No longer are drafts of contracts being merged and compared. And you can update an attachment link even after you hit the send button.

With attachments links, email can remain your user's preferred method for for initiating their collaboration and file sharing while providing the organization the control it needs over shared files.

You can read here how a leading Health Insurer has implemented attachment links to protect PHI and improve the customer experience. And you can see the sender and recipient experience, including modern collaboration around attachments, in our virtual demo.

Better yet, schedule a demo with us to learn more and discuss use cases of specific interest to your organization.

Bill Fletcher

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