There are two major problems that businesses often face when using email. The first is something you've probably run into at one point or another, and that's the inability of most email systems to send or receive large files.
It’s hard to imagine our personal or professional lives without email. It’s fast, it’s easy and for the most part it’s free. There’s no doubt that email has changed the way we communicate and revolutionized the way we do business, but alas, it does have its shortcomings.
There are two major problems that businesses often face when using email. The first is something you’ve probably run into at one point or another, and that’s the inability of most email systems to send or receive large files. However, there’s another problem with email that has lately become such a major issue that the federal government and many state governments have passed new laws to address it.
The problem is that sending sensitive information over email is not secure. Imagine sending a postcard through the mail with someone’s social security number or bank account information written on the back for all to see. Crazy, right? But that’s essentially what’s happening every time an email goes out into cyberspace. Once it’s out there, it can be intercepted at any point along the way, and that can mean big trouble for both sender and recipient.
Personal health records, Social Security numbers, and financial account information are three primary types of data that are too sensitive to be sent through standard email channels. There are a number of federal and state laws that address the security of transmitted information. One well-known federal statute is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, which regulates the electronic transmission of information in all areas of the health care industry.
On a state level, both California and New York Social have statutes regarding the transmission of Social Security numbers over the web. Both states forbid the transmission of even the last four digits of a Social Security number if not encrypted, and violation can result in heavy fines. It is important to note that these state laws govern transmission of data across state lines. In addition to these, there are many other existing laws as well as pieces of legislation currently before congress that will impact the way data is handled in the future.
So how do businesses get around these issues and stay compliant with federal and state regulations? One option is to set up an FTP (file transfer protocol) site as a central repository for files that need to be accessed by different parties. This is fine for some, but many companies do not have the time or technological know-how needed to set up and maintain an FTP site and, as a result, this “solution” ends up being more of a headache than it’s worth.
There’s always the option of doing things the old fashioned way and sending paper documents by mail, courier or delivery service. This is generally assumed to be a safe method, but not the best way when you need it there ASAP. Also, depending on the method and speed of delivery you choose, the cost associated with sending a physical document can be high.
A better solution is a secure file transfer service. In the simplest terms, a secure file transfer service is like an online post office. A sender logs on to the service’s website, designates a recipient, uploads the file they would like to send the recipient, and hits send. As the name implies, the file is sent securely using some form of encryption technology, such as secure socket layer (SSL). The file goes to the “post office” and the recipient receives notification via email that the file is there waiting for them to download it.
How do you choose the right secure file transfer for your business? Here are three important things that you should look for to help narrow down your search:
Ease of Use – A secure file transfer service should simplify your life, not complicate it. By choosing a service that requires little to no technical know-how to use, you ensure that everyone in your organization will be on board and comfortable using it. This is key, because if the service is too complicated, people may revert to using email to send sensitive documents, simply because it is easy and familiar.
Security – Since one of the primary purposes of using a secure file transfer service is to protect sensitive information, it’s imperative that the service you choose has an adequate level of security.
Support – As with any service, be sure that someone will be there to help you out if you ever have questions or concerns.
Regardless of which solution your business implements, be sure to keep abreast of current and developing federal and state regulations regarding transmission of sensitive information. Your provider should be able to keep you informed about these regulations. Ensuring that you are compliant will keep you out of trouble and has the added (and very important) benefit of protecting your clients.
Qwipit is an example of a service that offers ease of use, security, support and compliance. Qwipit is a state of the art secure file transfer service developed by online data backup provider Backup My Info!, Inc. For more information on Qwipit or Backup My Info! please go to www.qwipit.com or www.backupmyinfo.com.