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Articles 19 · 03 · 20

Teleworking and file sharing

3° challenge of remote collaboration: how to share documents between collaborators?

The situation

We saw in the first two e-mails that in order to telework efficiently you had to :

Today’s problem: how to share your files?

When everyone is at a distance, it is essential to be able to share the different files that the organization produces. Whether it is price offers for sales representatives, a text to be published on the website, other documents to be shared within the company: all these documents must be accessible to the collaborators involved in the task.

The basic tool: the email that serves as a trash can for everything!

Very often, the majority of people use email to send files to their colleagues.

Unfortunately this is a bad solution… we’ll see why!

The different ways to collaborate on files to share

1. The waterfall

The water of the cascade goes down from the mountain to the valley: it will never go up the slope.

In some collaborations, when a file is finished by a collaborator, it can be definitively transferred to another department.

There may be a possible correction, but the new department will not modify this document to return it to its issuer.

Typically, it is the graphic designer who sends a print order to the client or sends the files to the printer.

2. The washing machine

The water of the washing machine will run during different washing cycles.

Some collaborations require the ability to edit documents in different ways.

Files must be able to “go back and forth” between different people.

There will be two aspects: real-time collaboration and asynchronous collaboration.

In real time, the different collaborators can be on the same document: at the same time or offset. They edit the same source.

In asynchronous: everyone can edit the document, but one person at a time. Typically a document that you open in your favorite spreadsheet or text editor. Once you finish your work, you close the document, it is centralized to be made available to other collaborators.

Email is therefore not the solution to manage file sharing:

It is not made to support efficient work processes. Documents get lost in the different responses. Not all emailing softwares are efficient to retrieve this type of files.

The big risk is to lose the versioning of the documents.

We recently saw one of our customers suffer from this work logic: the text of a press release was shared exclusively by email. The officially published version was not the last one validated internally. The press release was circulated to editors all over the world with factual errors.

Sharing solutions

For “Cascade” type operations

1.1 The Transfer Transfer of Files

  • Commercial freemium : WeTransfer
  • Open source: Firefox Send

These services offer momentary online storage. Your file (a zip folder for example) is accessible via a short URL. It is public or password protected.

1.2 File Sharing

  • Commercial solution: Dropbox, OneDrive, GoogleDrive
  • Open source solution: NextCloud and other solutions

All these solutions offer the installation of software on your computer. This will establish a synchronization between your computer and a backup on a central server. Each employee then receives a copy of the update automatically on his or her computer.

All these applications offer the possibility of a Web access behind a login.

And they are accessible via dedicated applications for mobile devices (smartphone, tablet).

It is possible to share public folders via simple URLs.

By working in teams, everyone synchronizes only the folders they need. It is even possible to establish hierarchical levels to manage access rights to certain folders.

To manage the confidentiality of information (GDPR), open source solutions provide an interesting level of security. They are configured on a dedicated server so the organization is the only owner.

This is an interesting alternative to commercial solutions that are often hosted in the cloud. Cloud management technologies are managed by Gafa. (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook,…). None of these technologies can guarantee the strict confidentiality of your data since all secret services have permanent access to it.

The other interest of open sources solutions is that they are constituted in a marketplace that offers libraries of extensions. They allow you to create a real intranet (calendar, notification, collaborative editing, chat and video conferencing…).

Within the framework of projects with our customers, we establish extranet (European association with its European members) or intranet (internal teams) bases with this type of software.

It can be synchronized with a CMS such as WordPress. We can establish a private site (reserved for a group of members). Shared documents will then be accessible directly from a protected web interface.

For “Washing Machine” type operations

Commercial applications : Google Apps: Docs, Sheet, Forms, Slides, … .
Open source application: NextCloud or Alternative OpenSource

All major office applications are available in collaborative versions.

These applications allow real-time collaborative work on the same documents. It is therefore necessary to save the documents and send them to the collaborators. A simple URL is enough to access the documents directly. The search engine part and the display of folder listings allow you to find the documents quite quickly.

Open source applications are an interesting alternative if the data you wish to work with is sensitive. The management of a dedicated hosting and the configuration of custom modules will be necessary to implement this type of application.

As with file sharing above, data security sensitivity is a dimension to be assessed for the security of your organization.

Project Management

As we saw in the article dedicated to project management in teleworking mode, all the applications mentioned allow to share URLs very easily.

They also offer a document backup feature. Put very easily import images, PDF files…

But they are not designed to follow a logic of versonning that will follow the evolution of each document.


It’s up to you to assess your needs for internal document management in your business processes. It’s up to you to see what is cascading or washing machine related and therefore choose one of the solutions suggested above.

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