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Productivity & business

Secure Link Sharing Explained

By September 30, 2021October 1st, 2021No Comments

Secure Link Sharing
Updated October 2021

Link sharing is an increasingly important part of personal and commercial activity. Whether you’re using secure link sharing to transfer orders and instructions or trying to send large files for people working from home, how you handle each file sharing link matters. Here’s what you should know about secure link sharing.

What Is Link Sharing?

Secure link sharing is the process of creating and sending a secure link that connects someone to a document or files on one or more devices. Most people only focus on the user interface level where systems automatically generate links, but servers and computers have to do quite a lot to create links that work.

Secure link sharing goes further by adding new features and controls to file and document sharing needs. This can help secure access, enable document collaboration with a chain of custody, or even help detect fraud.

A Link Is Not Just a Link

In the early days of the internet, links were primarily a way to get from Point A to Point B without memorizing the exact destination. It’s functionally an early form of automation for the internet, providing secure access to anyone with the link.

Today, links are closer to a set of instructions for the receiving server. They tell a computer where to go and what information to display, but they can also trigger personalized settings, improve security, and help collect valuable data.

For example, some stores use a system known as affiliate links to help attract customers. These are links with a unique identifier on the end that says a particular person participating in the program helped create the link to the store and should get rewards if people buy something.

The store’s servers will track which site people came from, but by using the affiliate link, the affiliate in question can get rewarded regardless of which site people go through. This type of link transforms one unique identifier (where the customer comes from) into two (where they came from and who sent them), enabling otherwise challenging marketing strategies.

In the same way, secure communication and link sharing make it possible to give companies additional control. Links can do things like tell download servers what speed to send data at or trigger security systems that make people enter PINs or passwords. This is safer than trying to share large files with the public.

Sharing Large Files via Link Sharing

What defines a file as large depends on who you ask, but some companies regularly transfer files several gigabytes in size. A decent server can handle requests like that with no problem, but what happens when you have dozens or hundreds of employees and customers trying to transfer that much data simultaneously?

Worse, what happens if someone wants to be malicious?

Secure link sharing can help mitigate many issues with sharing large files by detailing who should get priority and even how to try and manage download speeds. Having a URL trigger a page before people can access a file drastically reduces server loads by preventing unauthorized contacts.

What Makes Secure Link Sharing So Effective?

Whether you’re sharing Dropbox links or letting Google share the links for you, using a secure link sharing app like Sizle can offer numerous advantages. Here are some of the best features you can add when you want to share link information.

Personal and Group PIN Controls

PIN controls help manage access by providing individuals and groups with personalized access to files and systems. This can be as simple as only allowing file downloads from anyone with the PIN. Still, you can also use these to identify accounts and expand access or redirect people to different pages.

This means it’s possible to have one link that sends people to different places based on the PIN they enter. You can do something similar with managed accounts in robust systems, but group PINs take it a step further by essentially creating a semi-private account that everyone on a team can use.

The main reason this matters is security. When most systems see the same login information coming from around the world, it’s flagged as suspicious and might get blocked. However, a group PIN will accept access from multiple areas without causing disruptions. With Sizle, you can add a password or PIN to PDF, Word, PPT, XLS and many more popular file types.

Viewer Email Address Capture

Links can automatically capture viewer email addresses when people click on them within an inbox. This is good for helping verify the identity of the person using it. At the more advanced levels, this can also help you determine if someone is sharing the link when they’re not supposed to. If the link is coming from the wrong email address, that’s a potential security risk.

Gathering identifying information is a crucial aspect of improving privacy with various services. This doesn’t need to extend to protected data, especially in areas with laws about gathering that, but there are ways to improve security simply by having people click on links.

To a lesser extent, this is a great way to get people onto marketing and advertising lists. Don’t abuse this because people will ignore you if you do. Still, if you keep capturing the same email address from someone who isn’t a customer yet, they might be a good candidate for targeted marketing opportunities.

File Expiry and Access Controls

Traditional web pages are mainly static once live, and especially so when they hold document downloads. As long as the page itself exists, people can access and download information from it. You can intervene in this with redirects and other tricks, but that usually requires a lot of work.

A proper file sharing link can help manage secure document sharing by setting up expiration and access controls. For example, you can set a link up to work just once or have a predetermined time where the link is valid.

Most importantly, you can do this without changing the file’s actual availability. By obscuring the real destination from users, you can put a gate around the file and choose when to open it rather than having to move the file itself.

Advanced Security Controls

Advanced security controls can cover things like individual access rules for documents. When you combine this with options like user PINs, you can set up limits for each account based on their intended role.

For example, you can give clients a link that allows them to comment on documents but stops them from changing anything. This will ensure that clients can’t take everything into their own hands, or worse, accidentally deleting everything.

Meanwhile, you can give your employees a separate access key that allows them to edit files and information. With the correct setups, clients can see these changes in real-time.

Link Sharing For Managing Secure Links

The increasing complexity of links presents an obvious concern: how do you manage them? It’s easy enough to maintain a list of all the links you have, but when you start adding customized access rules, marketing campaigns, and other material, it can feel like secure links are about to spiral out of control.

This is where apps like Sizle come into play, and there are three main reasons for centralizing your creation of secure links.

Live Updates

The first reason for using an app to manage your secure links is that you can make live updates. A static link is one that always behaves the same way when people click on it. Most links on the internet are static links, by design.

However, sometimes you want to share links to files and only realize later that you made a mistake. A proper link manager can let you change how the links behave when clicked, even after you’ve already sent them out. Companies don’t need live updates every day, but they offer enormous amounts of extra support and control when you need that the most.

Automatic Records

The second reason for using an app to manage secure links is that the app can create automatic records of every link you made through it. That means you have a single centralized, searchable database of every single link.

This is more important as your company grows in size. It’s acceptable to ask people to memorize five or six links to files, but when you start having hundreds of links, records and databases are the only practical way for people to keep track of things.

Better Analytics

This ties into the previous benefit, but apps that help create secure links also offer analytics and information about how people are using those links. You can use this to see how well marketing campaigns perform, remove old links that could exist as security holes, and otherwise gather the information you need to improve your business.

Link analytics have a security aspect to them because you can use them to check for unauthorized access. If the only person with a specific PIN is in the United Kingdom and someone tries to use it in Brazil, you know there’s a real likelihood of a security breach, and you can shut down that access.

Security systems like this work best live. You can even add two-layer authentication by requiring a second PIN or password when people are operating in unusual areas. You can generate these on-demand (or use something like Google Authenticator) to further secure your most important files with the proper setup.

Use Cases for Secure Link Sharing

Whether you want to edit and share PDF files for work or share files with specific groups for free, here are some use cases that help show how, when, and why the link sharing Sizle offers can help.

Biotechnology

Biotechnology technologies often deal with a lot of data. This includes files like test results, research notes, and sometimes even patient healthcare information that can’t float around with public access.

Secure link sharing supports biotechnology firms by making it easier to manage and control data. With this, you can use live updates to indicate when files are out-of-date, track and gather commentary from people, or share data and results with partners through a managed access program.

By locking access to documents behind PINs, you can make it easier for researchers to find information by limiting it to certain access numbers. This supports access while reducing the amount of time spent searching for different documents.

Consulting

Consulting takes many forms, but in business, it focuses on niche markets outside of financial and legal consulting. For this realm, link sharing can help you present your business as far more professional than what you get by link sharing Google Drive documents, contracts or business proposals with clients.

In this route, secure sharing can let you take clients to specific parts of your website that are gated off from other areas and don’t link to them at all. You can also provide links to specific helpful files and redirect people to new ones without sacrificing your ability to link to the old ones.

Consulting has many important aspects, but from a business perspective, maintaining trust is especially important. If your company looks amateurish or behind the times, that’s what customers will assume you are.

Every business needs trust, but consulting companies require it more than most because customers will not rely on people they don’t consider experts. One of the best ways of establishing and maintaining trust is providing a better user experience, and that’s what secure link sharing offers.

Education

From children going through primary school to adults obtaining career-advancing degrees and certification, education is one of the central pillars of today’s society. As teachers know, however, managing access to materials is vital for making remote learning fun, delivering excellent distance learning outcomes and running the best possible virtual classrooms.

Secure link sharing enables access to course materials for a predetermined period, then locking people out once a class is over. This doesn’t compromise the ability to create a new link for the next class.

With a smart setup, secure link sharing can also support education in less obvious ways, such as randomizing test questions based on unique account information. For classes that don’t need to use the same questions for everyone, this can go as far as using an algorithm to select test questions based on a student’s grades and demonstrated skill.

Finance

Finance is one of the primary consulting areas, but it also has added security needs because certain information being shared can make or break an opportunity. If a large hedge fund is about to buy shares in a company and raise its price, anyone who knows this could try to buy first and take advantage of the change.

Secure link sharing can make it harder for people to access sensitive financial data without authorization. This particularly includes security measures like two-factor authentication, limiting what accounts have access to, and restricting what clients can see.

On a different level, secure links make it easy for employees to collaborate and share information about opportunities and analysis. Knowing that files are private and protected from casual scrutiny and web crawlers can encourage people to be more forthright and honest in their comments.

Healthcare

Sharing documents for healthcare is different than doing so for many other industries. In areas like consulting and education, sharing data correctly is helpful, but it’s not the end of the world if people can still access course or class materials after they’re done.

The same is not true in healthcare, where various patient privacy laws around the world impose strict limits on who can access certain data. Using secure link sharing is a crucial part of following legal guidelines and not exposing sensitive patient data.

Speed is also a factor here. There are often times when a patient’s health depends on getting information quickly, but speed could come at the cost of following regulations. Generating links correctly can help doctors access information intuitively, without having to spend their valuable time organizing information.

Secure link sharing can also provide access to patients who request healthcare information. Sending an email with that information is usually inappropriate and too easy for others to monitor, but protecting it with a secure link can enable on-demand access from anywhere in the world.

One thing that’s not obvious about secure links for healthcare is that they’re good for doctors outside a hospital’s normal system. Most healthcare places have internal systems with users and accounts where doctors can cooperate and share information.

What they don’t have are accounts for outside experts that may get called in for a case. This happens regularly in healthcare, especially for complex cases where specialists could be halfway around the world.

A proper link generation system can enable access to documents for cases like these without requiring a permanent account or slowing things down. Instead, a qualified staff member can select a document, select the limits for the link, and send it to the collaborator.

Legal

Like healthcare, law firms have certain obligations when it comes to running their business. This includes sharing information with clients, providing secure access to information during the discovery process, and submitting things to the court.

Furthermore, lawyers also have an obligation to protect the privacy of their conversations with clients. Using secure links can support this by stopping external access, even if clients accidentally share the links with people who shouldn’t have them.

For some cases, secure link sharing is an effective way of providing access to repositories of information and share links to documents. This can include copies of legal agreements, papers submitted to courts, or anything else that might be relevant.

Note that legal regulations aren’t limited to complex criminal court cases. Many lawyers focus on legal processes that need a professional’s help but aren’t adversarial. They may not even involve going before a judge, though lawyers often need to visit courthouses at some point in their job.

The complexity of a case has little bearing on the need for the secure link sharing Sizle offers.

What Are Some Link Sharing Options?

Most file-hosting services offer some form of link sharing. For example, the link sharing Dropbox offers provides access to their stored files.

However, there’s an important difference between companies that let you link to the content they’re hosting and companies that provide advanced link sharing as Sizle does. This is why it’s important to research your options and make sure a link sharing service supports your industry.

One thing people often forget is that link sharing services can and do take suggestions for customers about new ways to control links. In short, if you don’t see the option you need for your industry, Sizle would love to hear from you.

How Much Does Secure Link Sharing Cost?

Prices vary by company, so there are no universal answers here.

Sizle is free to use, These accounts have no time limit and include document delivery tracking, personalized links, basic analytics, file conversion, markups, and even advanced security access controls for your documents.

Sizle’s Pro plan offers an annual discount, but monthly plans are also available for shorter-term needs. These plans allow for more users, unlimited workspaces, PIN access, advanced analytics, team administration, and numerous other business-oriented features that support advanced link sharing.

Tools like Sizle offer features beyond link sharing to justify the price for paid subscribers. This generally includes high-speed document readers, customer service, help with integrating it into existing workflows, and other benefits.

Final Thoughts

Link sharing has come a long way from the early days when it was an amazing way to go from one web page straight to another. Links will probably continue evolving alongside the internet, growing and changing to support the needs of casual users and major businesses alike.

One thing that won’t change is the increasing need to manage and control links at every step. Links now gather valuable data, help manage affiliate programs, and manage access for people at different levels of each company.

Integrating a secure link service is easier and more profitable than it’s ever been, with the ability to test out various systems and see how they interact before you start paying. Don’t wait any longer to start taking advantage of what secure links can do for you with Sizle.

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