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There are many specialized tools and suites on the market today focused on social, project, and team collaboration, but do you know which collaboration tool is still used by most of us –  the “other 90%” of users? The answer won’t surprise you – it’s email.

file sharing, email

Email is the most widely used collaboration tool in the market hands down, with a reported 929 million business email accounts in 2013 and estimated growth to more than 1.1 billion accounts by the end of 2017*. And employees of organizations of all sizes use email for collaboration because it’s simple to use, accessible on any device and available to all users, whether they’re colleagues, clients, or partners.

But email stops being a great collaboration tool when files need to be shared, especially when those files are large and exceed email’s file size limitations. And even when the files don’t exceed size limitations per message, those shared files may soon exceed a user’s mailbox storage capacity and prevent them from being able to send new messages. More critically, if multiple versions of the file are being updated and shared by different users, the collaborative process can be completely derailed.

So, how can email be made once again into a great collaboration tool? The answer is: file sharing. It enables users to send links to files instead of the files themselves.  File sharing via links doesn’t impact file size or mailbox size limits and also ensures everyone is always working on the same version of the document. For email to be successfully used as a collaboration tool, an enterprise file sharing solution should include:

  • Outlook Integration:  Send files and folders as links or attachments from Outlook.
  • File Versioning:  When a change is made to a file, a newer version is automatically created and added to the folder containing the earlier version.
  • File Locking:  The system will automatically lock files when users open them for editing.
  • Change Notifications:  File change notifications are automatically triggered when new files are added to a specific folder or when existing files are changed.
  • Annotations:  File annotations give users the ability to enter comments on files.
  • Security:  password protected links, timeout of links, auditing of links (who opened, from where), etc.

Specialized collaboration tools are certainly appropriate for special project teams but are overkill for most employees (the 90%).  Email provides simplified collaboration as a tool that every employee knows how to use and is likely to already own. By adding on a file sharing solution, you can make email “work” as a simple yet powerful collaboration solution for your business.

* “Email Statistics Report, 2013-2017”, The Radicati Group:  Editor, Sara Radicati PhD; Principal Analyst, Justin Levenstein

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