As we all know, unencrypted e-mails are a huge potential security risk. Nonetheless, it is often difficult to get people to adopt and use any form of e-mail encryption. While I don’t understand this, I don’t beat my head against the wall trying to get people to do something that they aren’t interested in, or simply aren’t ready to do.
Instead, I try to gently nudge people in the right direction. One way to do this is to suggest using a secure file share such as Dropbox in place of e-mail attachments. Unlike attachments, with Dropbox its easy to send large CAD files, documents, and photos without maxing out the recipients Inbox. You can share whole directory trees by simply dragging them to the shared folder. By using Dropbox, the size and volume of e-mails is reduced and private CAD files and reports are far more likely stay that way. Dropbox also saves time since there’s no longer any need to save and unzip attachments to the appropriate folder. The files arrive already categorized and ready to use. Lastly, you can also dispense with the headache of return receipts and confirmation e-mails that go along with big attachments that have a habit of getting lost in e-mail.
I recommend Dropbox because it is very easy to set up and use, and it works on all major operating systems (Windows, Mac and Linux) as well as the iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry. Cross-platform compatibility is key to adoption when working with multiple subcontractors that, for very good reasons, may not use the same hardware or operating system as you do. With native support its a lot more likely to get quick adoption rather than delays and increased costs.
Dropbox offers security good enough for most types of files shared across working groups and product development teams. If additional security is needed you can add a second layer of encryption on top of what is already used by Dropbox. While secure file sharing services like Dropbox are not a replacement for encrypted e-mail, the fact is, that it’s probably a lot easier to get a diverse group to adopt Dropbox than it is to get everyone up and running with S/MIME or PGP. So, as a practical matter, using Dropbox can be a big first step in improving security.