Small Business IT Guide – File Sharing

What is File Sharing?

File sharing is the practice of distributing or providing access to digital media, such as documents, images, audio, video, or software. File sharing can be done through various methods, such as peer-to-peer networks, cloud services, email attachments, or removable media. File sharing can have benefits such as reducing storage costs, increasing collaboration, and enhancing access to information. However, file sharing can also pose risks such as violating intellectual property rights, exposing sensitive data, or spreading malware.

How can I store files in Microsoft 365?

There are two main ways of storing files in Microsoft 365.

OneDrive: Each Microsoft 365 subscriber has their own storage area called OneDrive. This can be used to store any documents that don’t need to be shared by default as well as sync your Documents, Desktop and Pictures folders across devices.

SharePoint: SharePoint is an online collaboration platform that allows people to share information. It includes many difficult capabilities but one the main ones is SharePoint Document Libraries. These work as repositories for a company or team files so that everyone who is a member can access them.

File Sharing

Can I just store files on my laptop?

Storing files on your laptop allows you to access them offline and keep them secure from unauthorized access. However, you also need to consider the storage capacity of your laptop, the risk of losing your files if your laptop is damaged or stolen, and the difficulty of sharing your files with others.

If you need to do this you should make sure to encrypt your laptop and take encrypted backups regularly.

How should I organise my files?

When deciding how to store your files one of the main considerations you should have is if everyone should have access to all of the files. The answer to this is usually no. In fact using a policy of providing minimal access is a foundation of good cyber security. Giving only the least amount of access to privileged resources by default reduces the risk of unauthorised access, data breaches, or malicious actions by limiting the potential damage that can be caused by compromised or misused accounts.

The easiest way to do this is to break up the files in to individual silos based on department or theme. Then only allow access to this pool of data to a specific group of people. If you find that you need to further restrict access for a certain subset of data it is usually a good sign that the data should be separated out in to its own silo.

Some of the files may need to have sharing restrictions or data loss prevention policies placed on them so that they can’t be shared outside of the business or department.

In general you should:

  • Minimise the number of data locations to avoid the risk of people not being able to find the files they need.
  • Implement an access control process, so that there is a clear audit trail when someone requests and is granted access to data they were previously denied access to.
  • Have a systematic folder structure and stick to it.
  • Use descriptive and consistent file names. Ask yourself if you would be able to find the correct file if you didn’t know its name or location.
  • Backup the data regularly to avoid data loss.
  • Implement a data lifecycle policy policy.

What is a data lifecycle policy?

A data lifecycle policy is a set of rules and procedures that govern how data is created, stored, accessed, used, and disposed of in an organization. A data lifecycle policy helps to ensure data quality, security, compliance, and efficiency throughout the different stages of data management.

Data is only useful when it has a purpose, by removing it when you no longer need it you can make valuable data easier to find, reduce the risk of data breaches, and optimise data storage and management costs.

When sending an email why should I send a link to a document rather than attaching it?

Some reasons to email links to files rather than attach them are:

  • Links reduce the size of the email and the risk of exceeding the storage limit.
  • Links allow recipients to access the latest version of the file and avoid duplication.
  • Links enable collaboration and feedback on the file using online tools.
File Sharing

How can I access files stored in Microsoft 365?

There are several different methods to access files in Microsoft 365

OneDrive App – The OneDrive application for Windows and macOS allows you to sync files from OneDrive and SharePoint to your computer. The “Files on Demand” feature lets you access all of the files without downloading them until you actually use them.

OneDrive Web App – After logging in to Microsoft 365 you can access OneDrive from the App Launcher. This allows you to access your OneDrive files and any recent SharePoint Document Libraries.

SharePoint Web Page – Each SharePoint Document Library is stored on a SharePoint Site. By accessing the SharePoint Site you can access any of the files in its Document Libraries.

Microsoft Teams – In addition to its chat, phone and video conferencing abilities Microsoft Teams can also be used to access the OneDrive Web App. In addition you can also access files via the Teams Channels.

Microsoft Office Apps – Once Microsoft Office has been logged in using your Microsoft 365 account it will display any recent documents stored in Microsoft 365 as well as links to access your OneDrive and SharePoint Document Libraries.

How can I share files in externally Microsoft 365?

Each of the methods to access your files in Microsoft 365 also have a “Share” button allowing you to enable file sharing on individual files or folders.

Anyone – When you want to generate a link which you can give out to anyone internal or external you can use this option. It will not require the recipient to sign in or authenticate themselves so is a good choice for documents like Terms and Conditions what you may want to have a static link for. There are options to restrict if the recipient can edit or just read the file, set an expiration date for the link, or set a password which needs to be entered before the recipient can see the file.

People in your organisation – This grants access to someone inside your organisation. To access the file they will need to authenticate if they are not already logged in.

People with existing access – If someone already has access to a document or folder this option allows you to send them a simple link without changing any permissions.

People you choose – Allows you to select people internal or external to share with. Unlike the “Anyone” option this will require the specific people to authenticate to access the data.

Contact Us

Whether you want to find out more about Microsoft 365, or need some consultation about your data please reach out to us via one of the contact methods below or the contact form.


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