It is just so easy: plop the documents in an email address, add a few people in the address line, and WHOOOSH it is delivered. But there is evil lurking, hidden by the patina of simplicity.
Instead, you should place the document in a repository, and email a link to download. Delivery by email is far and away the most common way to deliver a document, but here are seven reasons that you should avoid doing this.
- 1. Email is not secure — An emailed document can be read and even updated while it is being passed though all the servers in between your outbox and their inbox. Security professionals know this, and that is why you never get things from the doctor or the lawyer by email. Not every document is top secret, but some are very sensitive and would cause a lot of problems in the wrong hands. A document downloaded from a repository using HTTPS protocol cannot be intercepted, read, or altered by anyone else.
- 2. Addressing mistakes can’t be undone— if you accidentally send the document to the wrong address, there’s no way to pull it back. It is gone, and almost instantly in their inbox. On the other hand a document at the repository could be restricted or renamed and that would prevent access if done in time. A document in a repository could be restricted or moved to prevent access by the wrong person if realized quickly enough.
- 3. It is hard to eliminate out of date versions — When the document changes, it is very hard to replace it. If course, you can send it again, but that just makes a second copy out there. It often does not replace the prior version. Old versions floating around the system can be harmful.
- 4. It is hard to find the current version — When someone needs the document, how sure are you that they will look at the latest, correct one? It gets worse when the document gets updated several times. Imagine having ten copies of a document sent with email messages with slightly different topics: how sure can anyone be that the one you are looking at is the latest one?
- 5. Divergent branches can appear — if many copies of the document exist, someone wanting to make a small change might pick an old one. After the change they send it out to others not knowing that parts of the document are out of date. Once you have divergent versions of documents walking around it can be very hard to re-merge all the changes back together.
- 6. Unnecessary clutter — when you get multiple updates on the document each of the updates stays in your inbox. There’s no automatic function to remove the old copies so they simply stay there cluttering up your inbox unnecessarily.
- 7. Forced Download Bandwidth — email with documents are often much larger than the email would be if it simply had a link in it. This means that all of that email flows through all of those servers. Download is all or nothing before they even open the document. That is fine if you need to see the document, but if there are multiple versions running around it might be a waste. A document on a repository is downloaded only when you actually want to look at it, and sometimes you can view online only downloading the pages that you need.
- 8. Sender Decides the Format — a document is emailed is in the format chosen by the sender. A document repository on the other hand can make multiple formats available such as doc format and PDF or a format as well as others that can be chosen by the person who wants to read the document.
- 9. Document Stripping — some email servers strip out some documents and then users simply can’t get the document. You can never know exactly who sent the email so it is easy to spoof. Accessing a document from a repository is more trustworthy and the downloaded document can’t be altered.
- 10. Blacklisting — Sending large attachments can cause your email address to be blacklisted.
So, I know it is easy but just say “NO” and don’t send people documents by email.
What to do instead? Put the document in a shared repository like Circle Weaver. Then send an email with a link to the document.
The advantage is you are only sending a link, so that it is not big and does not occupy bandwidth. But when the link is accessed, only then is it downloaded. You can update the document into Weaver, and the recipient only gets the latest version of the document. The document remains in the repository so that everyone can access it in the future, and they always get the latest version. Everyone can update back to Weaver so that you don’t have divergent paths. You rarely need it, but when you do, you can access all the old versions of the document.
So what do you say. Are you ready to break the document email habit?