Email attachments can be forwarded, downloaded & distributed, making them insecure. Owing to these disadvantages, it makes sense to look for an alternate way of sharing files. Secure file sharing through trackable links is a promising new avenue that has many advantages over traditional attachments.
Email attachments are not secure. Anyone can forward the email, download and distribute the file or save a copy for later re-use. The fact that you lose control over your attachments as soon as you hit the send button makes sharing files through email attachments insecure & unreliable.
In this article, we answer the age-old question of "How to send a secure email attachment?". Our focus would be on a universal solution that applies to Gmail, Outlook, and any other email clients.
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Space & Time: Files can be large. It takes time to attach and download them, and space to store them. Moreover, email clients usually have limits on attachment size, limiting the scope of applicability. Although many workarounds can be used, specific apps may be needed to make these happen.
No Security: Email attachment security is a central focus of this article. Attachments can be downloaded and forwarded. You tend to lose control of your files as soon as you hit send. It is difficult to reliably password protect a pdf without Acrobat Reader or other hyper-specialized & expensive software. Even if you encrypt your Gmail attachments with a password, a static password that must be shared is un-secure. You need to rely on your client, not to forward the password. This makes even the most secure Gmail / Outlook attachments, insecure.
Loss of Visibility: Client engagement on email attachments cannot be tracked. PDF tracking is not possible in its native form. Along with control, you also lose visibility of your document after hitting send.
Loss of Actionability: You cannot do things automatically when your attachments are viewed. You lose the power of automation that modern apps such as Zapier provide.
Advantages of Sharing PDFs / Files As Links
Owing to these disadvantages, it makes sense to look for an alternate way of sending secure attachments through email. Secure file sharing through trackable links is a promising new avenue that has many advantages over traditional attachments -
Feels like text: Links can be attached to email just like text. No more waiting for upload to finish.
Better Control & Security: Link properties can be changed on the fly. You can update document link security settings in a single click. You own the link even after you send it to someone.
Links can also be used to create gated content. This means that when you send a secure document as a link, you can put up an identity wall that only lets certain users through or asks for some specific information (e.g. capture lead's email) before giving access to your content. This feature can make files secure without the need to encrypt email attachments. E.g., not only can you password protect your PDF, you can go one step ahead and require dynamic ID verification for file access.
Insightful Documents: Links can be used to track files & documents and produce detailed analytics. This includes a number of metrics such as file downloads, unique views, time spent on different pages, etc... Thus you can gauge client interest in your trackable document links and push for better lead conversion.
Automate Content: Links can be connected to workflows. This powerful feature enables you to automate your content. This can be useful for aligning content management between teams and focusing on what's important.
How to send email attachments securely using file links?
Files are sent, links are shared. This is a subtle but important difference. When you send an attachment, it is usually downloaded and served from the client's local storage. As a sender, you can have little to no control over the files in that storage even if your attachments are encrypted. Sharing files as links is different. These links can be accessed through any browser. However, when these are accessed, the files are served from a cloud storage. If link properties are changed, it takes immediate affect, restricting the next access of the file.
Certain apps allow you to upload your files onto cloud storages and create links out of them. When viewing the files, they may appear as PDFs or other native format. Thus sharing these file links may simply simulate sharing PDF links. However the type of security settings you can configure or the metrics that you can track on those links vary from app to app. Below we talk about these tools in detail. With your files converted to secure links, you can now add them to your emails like any other hyperlinks, thus securing your Gmail, Outlook or any other email client's attachments.
Tools to share files as links
There are a variety of file sharing tools available in the market that can send files such as word documents, PDFs, presentations and others as secure links. However the method of conversion and the capabilities of the link varies from app to app. We have segregated these into 2 categories. Content creation tools & content sharing tools.
Content Creation Tools - These tools help create beautiful digital content from scratch. These may not be suitable for teams that already have a content creation process in place. Nevertheless, these tools enable you to create beautiful proposals, contracts, and pitches as a webpage using templates. You can share this content through a link that can be secured and tracked. Some of these tools include Qwilr, GetAccept, Proposify, etc…
Content Sharing Tools -Content sharing tools are the ones that truly enable secure file sharing with clients. These can be further subdivided into security, analytics, and automation. Certain tools exclusively focus on security (content gating). These may or may not offer good content tracking features. You can upload existing files in these tools and generate secure links for those files. You can configure various security settings on your files such as require the client to enter some information (e.g. lead capture on document views), authenticate identity (e.g. Email verification on file access), password protect document or even disable PDF download and print.
A more interesting variation of these tools are the ones that extend link capabilities by tracking viewer engagement & providing integrations with other tools. These have interesting implications for start-ups sending investor pitch decks, sales executive gauging interest of a hot lead or even a professor sending a confidential and must-read document to a student. Some of these tools also enable secure file sharing for popular cloud storages such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, Dropbox & Amazon S3 by allowing content import directly for a connected account.
Tools that make this possible include CloudFiles, DocSend, Sharekits, and more... Tools that especially focus on document security may include LockLizard, Digify, etc...
What is CloudFiles?
CloudFiles is a secure file sharing and tracking app for businesses that lets you send your files as secure, trackable, and actionable links. You can secure your email attachments by converting them to links and using the ID validation feature. You can also -
Create a trackable library with your existing files in various file formats from various sources
Configure security settings on the document links or soft / hard gate your content
Send these links to people who will see the file as a trackable pdf
Track these file links and get detailed analytics
Connect file events with your existing workflows to create powerful content automations
Check this article to see how to send secure email attachments using CloudFiles.
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