“Hey Aaron, can you forward me the attachment for Project X again? I’ve misplaced it,” my colleague asked me the other day.
“Project X? Sure, let me check and get that to you as soon as I can,” I answered.
Yup! I regretted that response.
Searching my email was a PAIN. Not only do I have thousands of emails and attachments in my inbox, but I had to go through individual emails which referred to the title “Project X” to make sure I had the correct, finalized attachment. It took 20 minutes of my precious time.
That may not sound like a lot, but multiply that by several times a week and I probably spent a good hour or so just searching through my archives.
Working online means we often have files we want to share with teams or clients. We also use email to communicate and share those conversations. But is email the best way to share information among team members?
According to a global survey of workers and IT professionals in 2012 by the International Data Corporation, 21.3 percent of productivity loss is due to managing documents.
While emailing attachments is still a popular choice for sending files, it has a lot of restrictions and is not the best option for optimum collaboration. Here are some pain points of file sharing using email:
- Version issues
It’s frustrating and confusing when someone has a different version of a document than you. Versioning issues cause workers to waste a lot of time.
A creative way many employees are overcoming this is by using a central sharing location which allows team members to see who’s editing what and when the document was last updated.
- Waiting time
Waiting time is another huge factor in time waste due to file sharing. The Harris Interactive study showed that 47% of survey respondents found that having to wait while someone else finishes working on a document is a huge time waster.
For remote workers working in different time zones, this could mean multiple days of delay for a project.
- Searching for files
What is the name of the document again? This is a common question that comes up fo me when searching for documents. It can be hard to find a file when one person writes it, someone else moves it and another renames it.
Even when using a central system, there are countless folders and documents with similar names, and searching for them slows down productivity. Sometimes I am unable to find the document and need to wait for my colleagues to respond to me, just like I had to respond to my colleague the other day.
- File size
File sizes are one of the most common pain points when it comes to collaborating via email. Most email servers and mailboxes have a limit on the size you can upload and store. Because of this, employees often use an alternative, such as a file uploader platform, and share a temporary link that will expire after a few hours.
So what can we do?
Instead of overflowing email inboxes with attachment after attachment, why not try using a collaboration tool for file-sharing? This way, files are shared within conversations, and collaboration tools are great at tracking conversations.
Many unified communication and collaboration (UCC) tools offer the option to choose the model that best fits your business, whether it’s on-premise, cloud-based or a hybrid of the two.
Cloud-based systems have become more popular in recent years. Common cloud services are easily accessible, as these services are free and easy to use.
You can also opt for cloud-based software, which is typically priced on a monthly or annual subscription basis, with additional recurring fees for certain features; this gives you price certainty for a slightly tailored service.
Having said that, there are many downsides to working off a cloud system, as storage space tends to be limited. You may need to upgrade to a higher plan more than once over time to get more storage space. Another downside is security. Some documents may be highly confidential and having them on the cloud may not the best solution.
Many businesses use on-premise solutions. On-premise software is generally priced under a one-time perpetual license fee. The upfront investment can be heavy for some businesses. The benefit of an on-premise system is that information security and storage are in the organization’s hands.
On-premise solutions also provide greater customization and better management as they use your organization’s servers. File sizes aren’t an issue.
However, there are some downsides to on-premise. Business owners and employees need a quick solution for file sharing. While on-premise does a decent job of overcoming some of the issues with cloud based systems, it doesn’t solve the issue of remote document access and versioning issues, which is a major issue faced by many employees.
Collaborating should be easy!
Using a collaboration tool will solve the pain points identified by many users such as waiting time, searching for files and managing larger-sized files. These tool offer many features to track down the latest version of a file, view the latest changes and see who else is viewing a file. However, it won’t solve versioning challenges. No matter how powerful a tool is, users need to be disciplined when sharing files by adopting easy-to-remember naming conventions. Technology is there to help reduce time-wasting—but clear communication is fundamentally a human art!
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