Experts Offer Guidance on Balancing User Experience and Security in Data/File Transfers

OpinionBy Ken Phillips
May 16, 2022
Data and Information Security

The ability to easily and securely transfer data and files requires centralized control and broad user adoption. How do you achieve it all? Experts share their advice.

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Every day, individuals participate in a perpetual cycle of uploads and downloads as files are created, updated, and shared. However, there are risks throughout this cycle. Like any valuable commodity, data is continually being sought by bad actors.

Yet, many enterprises struggle to provide a secure data transfer solution that also provides a frictionless user experience.

How can IT leaders centralize control over file transfers while simultaneously ensuring that users embrace the data transfer solutions they put in place? For answers we turned to the experts in the IDG Influencer Network, a community of tech experts, industry analysts, and IT professionals.

Accept that employees will use file-sharing tools

The pandemic upended the centralized data transfer controls at many enterprises.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen that the ways we communicate, collaborate and work have fundamentally changed,” says Bill Kleyman (@QuadStack), EVP of digital solutions at Switch. “COVID-19 was both an accelerator for the transfer of data and a perfect storm for insiders to put data at risk, with Deloitte finding that employees are 85% more likely to leak files today than before the pandemic. This points to two truths: Users will continue to leverage file-sharing and data transfer tools to be as productive as possible. And secondly, everyone is a target.”

It’s a reality that Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), president and CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems stresses is unavoidable.

“We create roughly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily across the Internet,” says Schober. “That adds up to billions of files moving across networks and onto desktops every day, so secure file transfer protocols are essential for both senders and receivers.”

It only takes one breach or one file in the wrong hands to create a problem.

Communicate with users

The ramifications of compromised data can be severe. Gorilla Glue’s Director of IT Infrastructure Cedric Wells (@cedricfwells) stresses that IT leaders must educate users on why compliant data and file transfer is important.

“Avoiding friction altogether is an excellent approach to take in general and it’s no different when it comes to data and file transfers,” he says. “Take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of users to see what their experience is like and to gain a better understanding. Keep users involved and over communicate. The key is getting the communication right and getting buy-in from users through education.”

Benjamin Ajibade (@Benni_aji), data analytics lead, agrees: “You have to take into account the transfer method’s speed, security, efficiency and dependability, as well as its applicably to your organization’s size and the skill set of employees. Regardless, extensive training so teams understand the importance of data security and privacy ethics is crucial.”

Debra Ruh (@debraruh), CEO of Ruh Global IMPACT, stresses that society’s expectations have also changed.

“Organizations must create a secure, accessible, and usable experience for data and file transforms,” says Ruh. “Brands that misuse data, are not accessible, or don’t care enough about keeping data safe are seen as bad players. It’s important not only to do the work, but to tell us – your employees, customers, partners and vendors – about your efforts so we can support you.”

This ensures users that their data is safe, says Brandon T. Jones (@BrandonJonesCIO), CIO at WAEPA.

“Organizations must be transparent and educate users upfront and throughout the process to create understanding,” he says. “Organizations can also gain trust by responsibly securing and encrypting data in transit and at rest. Personal information is sacred and should be safeguarded as such.”

Make file transfer easy

Jones also says that any file-sharing solution must be user friendly, and recommends a four-pronged approach to create a frictionless user experience that doesn’t sacrifice security.

“Organizations should take an approach that educates, simplifies, empowers and empathizes,” he says. “Ultimately, by providing self-service tools, users are empowered to make informed decisions.”

Kleyman agrees: “We must ensure that the user experience is never deprecated. What good is a secure data transfer architecture that no one wants to use?”

Choose the right technology

A frictionless user experience isn’t the only consideration. Any data transfer solution must address numerous security considerations.

Will Townsend (@WillTownTech), vice president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy stresses that enterprises should employ zero-trust principles.

“By authenticating users of applications rather than networks, enterprises can ensure the highest levels of security,” he says. “This also safeguards data privacy and ensures compliance with frameworks like GDPR in the European Union and HIPAA for healthcare patient data in the United States.”

Another suggestion is to account for user behavior, says Kayne McGladrey (@kaynemcgladrey), security architect and practice lead at Ascent Solutions.

“Deploy tools that have data loss prevention and user behavior anomaly detection built in and educate users so they know the best way to transfer files,” McGladrey says. “Make it as easy as possible for them to find and use the approved solution, and use a cloud access security broker to identify unapproved file transfer solutions.”

A delicate security balance

Compliance and security considerations require a holistic approach, says Adam Stein (@apstein2), principal at APS Marketing.

“Endpoint, network, cloud, applications and data traffic – each vector provides a different potential security threat and UX challenge,” says Stein. “IT needs to blend these requirements into a unified threat management profile with real-time insight and actionable remediation.”

All of this requires a delicate touch.

“Achieving a frictionless user experience for data and file transfers while ensuring streamlined security and compliance requires enterprises to strike a delicate balance,” says Will Kelly (@willkelly), a product and content marketing manager. “Organizations seeking to purchase a solution must lead with their security and compliance requirements up front while also seeking a tool with a modern UX that satisfies their users.”

Check out a demonstration of GoAnywhere and other secure file transfer solutions from HelpSystems.


Ken Phillips is a Contributor to CIO