To run your business, you not only need to share documents and information with your business partners and employees through your internal server, but you also need to think about making document sharing safe when interacting with third-party associates.

So, let’s break down the available options to see what works best.

Document Sharing Platforms

Cloud storage and sharing platforms offer flexibility, mobility, and some security for your files. So, you might think that secure document sharing through file sharing platforms sounds like a good idea.

But, you don’t really have any control after the files are on the platform.  Recipients can copy, distribute, and modify the documents, without custom controls limiting these features. Moreover, documents shared through a sharing platform can be viewed on smartphones, which makes screen grabbing another problem.

Here are a few other things that add to the list of potential issues:

  • Recipients can only view documents when they are online.
  • Recipients can share their login credentials of the platform, without you being able to detect it. This means that anyone who they have given their login details to can view your ‘secure’ documents.


Encryption is the most basic security control you can apply. However, it should only be used if you want to secure a file at rest as it’s effective if you’re storing files securely on your network or on the cloud. This is because, while sharing documents with a third party, once the file is decrypted, the recipient can make unauthorized modifications to the file without your knowledge. Moreover, the recipient can share the access key with any number of unauthorized people which means your secure information can be widely spread.

DRM Technology

An effective Digital Rights Management (DRM) system is all about letting you retain control of your documents. It may indeed be the most secure way in which you can share your documents with a third party because, with a robust DRM system, you can set up controls that restrict unauthorized sharing of your documents in a number of ways.

For example, you can:

  • Choose to share the documents for a limited time (document expiry controls);
  • Restrict functions (such as content copying and printing);
  • Revoke access manually, for example when a contract ends with a vendor;
  • Set up custom controls based on clearance levels, such as on a need-to-know basis, when sharing documents with both internal and external stakeholders;
  • Set up document logs to monitor access as well as change logs to shared documents; and
  • Set up custom location controls to rule out your documents being accessed from an unauthorized IP address, country, or laptop.

One thing to keep in mind, while sharing DRM protected documents, is that you must ensure that the recipient can view the documents. To do so, you can opt for a web viewer, which gives the recipients the mobility advantage.  However security is not as strong because there is no installed software that can integrate with the Operating System to prevent printing to file and screen grabbers.  Web viewers can also be an issue if the recipient has no internet connection.

You can also opt for an offline viewer. Such viewers are probably best in cases where the recipient won’t always have internet access as they are already locked to a pre-approved system (for which you can also set up custom vendor controls). In addition, such viewers help to maintain the controls you have applied to a document (as opposed to viewer plug-ins in apps that may override your DRM controls).

Why You Need Something Stronger Than Access Rights and Encryption

You may at times opt to share a network link with a third party, with custom access controls. However, when a recipient has read access, he or she can make copies of the document. Moreover, by inviting a third party to access your server, you’re setting up grounds for potential large-scale security breaches. And, as discussed above, encryption is not a mighty hurdle once the recipient has the access key. This means that the custom access setup can be misused in a number of ways.

Essentially, DRM is a strong combination of both access rights and encryption, making it a great option to adopt if you routinely share business documents with external stakeholders. By using DRM, you not only get to control who can view a document, but you can also say what they can do with it and what changes they can make (based on recipient usage controls).

So, how do you ensure security for your documents when sharing files with third parties?

Author Bio:

Karishma is a professional blog writer. She loves to participate nearby bloggers meet ups on weekends. Currently she is associated with Locklizard, a reputed software company that specializes in digital rights management security for PDF documents.