According to Forrester Research¹, 94% of us use email as our primary collaboration tool.  Whether it’s for sharing medical research information, financial records, or the latest marketing campaign creative layouts, email has become the ubiquitous vehicle for sharing today’s rapidly growing wealth of unstructured data (e.g. PDFs, PowerPoint charts, digital images, audio and video).

In fact, a recent survey conducted by Group Logic showed that 70% use email most often to share large files (read unstructured data).  So what’s the problem here?

As the amount and size of digital content grows over time, it has simply gotten to the point where it won’t fit through the email pipe anymore.  Take for example, marketing creative files.  A short television ad spot can take hundreds of megabytes of storage.  Sending this through traditional email systems simply won’t work.

Using email to send files is slow, inefficient, unreliable, and actually creates a great deal of potential for legal liability.  It’s an example of one of the ad-hoc business processes that smart companies are eliminating now in favor of more effective technologies like Managed File Transfer (MFT).  We see more and more companies extending their existing email tools with embedded MFT solutions that strip out attachments and transfer them in a more secure, efficient way.

And then there’s the security aspect.  Objects like medical images, or sensitive financial records needs a whole new level of security – not just to make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands, but also to comply with today’s strict regulatory compliance standards – standards like SOX, HIPAA, or GLBA.

In the survey referenced above, over half (51 percent) admitted at least one type of other email error while trying to collaborate with large digital files.  Perhaps most alarmingly, nearly 10 per cent admitted emailing a customer an attachment meant for a different customer altogether.

Despite email’s prevalence, it’s clear that once companies really begin to scale their collaboration efforts, company leaders quickly realize the importance of using solutions like MFT for secure and governed transfer of digital assets.  And while we view MFT as an critical means of bridging the gaps in today’s email and collaboration tools, it goes without saying that the adoption of known best practices is essential to ensuring effective control and compliance over how information is shared within the enterprise.

1 – “The State of Collaboration Software Adoption”, Forrester Research, April 2010