Document security sets safety net for going paperless

Like so many other popular business initiatives, going paperless stems from a desire to save money. But without the right safety net, these savings come with some serious strings attached.

Going digital is all the rage. Companies around the world have put a lot of resources into converting their paper documents into electronic files. This is a radical move for many organizations, but an enticing one; paperless businesses gain efficiencies, reduce their environmental footprints, and avoid the outrageous costs of courier and shipping services for sensitive documents. Like so many other popular business initiatives, going paperless stems from a desire to save money. But without the right safety net, these savings come with some serious strings attached.

Clearly, there is a return on investment in going digital. The green factor is one compelling bit of ROI. No longer required to expend ink, paper, or fuel-driven delivery services, businesses get to save money while touting their environmental sensitivity. But unprotected digital document sharing can make it really easy for recipients to forward documents to others (accidentally or on purpose).

Customers or partners might leak your data to competitors or to the press (can anybody say WikiLeaks?), and employees might leave the company with all your documents on their laptops. Either scenario is troubling, but when you add in the regulatory implications, these occurrences are downright frightening. For these reasons, many businesses are hesitant to go paperless. The loss of revenue -- or the irreversible damage of intellectual property leaks -- needs to be addressed if organizations want green business practices without detrimental effects.

Many core business documents -- product specifications, financial research reports, clinical trials results, reports to board members or limited partners -- are so critical that companies remain reluctant to include them in electronic document sharing. The security risks seem too high, so, these organizations stick with physical shipment of documents or even resort to more extreme methods, such as shipping information on nonphotocopy blue paper.

That is a pricey choice. Consider this word problem: A company shares reports with a 1,000 customers on a monthly basis and may pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in shipping fees. This organization's reliance on paper is pounding its bottom line. Electronic delivery could save the business anywhere between $100,000 and $1 million each year. This seems like an easy choice for the business to make, right? The only problem is the executives fear data leaks, which could erase the savings from going paperless.

Some companies try to solve this problem with some long-existing technologies. They might place simple passwords on documents or use basic encryption techniques, but these inadequate approaches are bound to fail. Recipients can easily forward passwords along to others. Another solution frequently used in merger and acquisition transactions is a virtual data room, but that typically fails to prevent leaks once documents have been downloaded.

In any case, the lure of going green remains strong, and the current market offers a safety net for paperless initiatives. Today, document protection and control solutions ensure less waste and less risk by preventing unauthorized copying, printing, and forwarding of files at all times.

Further benefits of document protection and control include:

  • Restricting the distribution of the documents by preventing copying, printing, and forwarding of these documents
  • The ability to yank access to documents even after they have been downloaded
  • Options to track documents and see who viewed them, where, and when

Many companies put money into digital delivery without ever using the technology; they are too wary of data leaks. That was once understandable, but today's technology should give a green light to paperless efforts. Document security now lets companies manage, protect, and control documents throughout their entire life cycle, delivering on the promise of cheaper, greener information sharing. With a document security solution in place or a next-generation virtual data room service, businesses enjoy all the savings with none of the dangers. This means they can, and should, go green. Go forth and prosper, paperlessly.

Adi Ruppin is vice president of marketing for WatchDox, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that enables the confidential sharing of important or sensitive documents in an easy and secure way.