If there is an engine room for driving the development of social collaboration within the enterprise at scale, SharePoint is it. 

Yes, it may be fashionable to bash Microsoft, but for the scores of enterprises who use the Microsoft stack (Microsoft Office and Azure, along with SharePoint), there are levels of familiarity, usability and productivity that have yet to be matched by other options. However, while SharePoint has the built-in advantages of being a core part of the Microsoft stack for the enterprise, it may surprise you that there really isn’t an effective and secure way for SharePoint users to share sensitive documents within the enterprise.

This is causing some to scratch their heads while others put their hopes in solutions that are outside the firewall or choose to ignore the challenge altogether. In other cases, enterprises try to address the issue of secure document sharing by trying non-enterprise-ready solutions. The time to change this is now!

I believe there is a substantial and important opportunity that bears watching for everyone in our industry, especially those of us who work regularly with or on SharePoint: to build a solution that enables easy and truly secure document sharing.

When it comes to SharePoint, some people love it more than others, but the simple fact is that a ton of enterprises are using it, and with good reason: it works, it has a track record of pretty solid reliability and there are a lot of very smart people at Microsoft behind it.

That said, everything seems to be coming to a head with using SharePoint as a document store, especially without best practices in-place to securely share, update or improve the documents. As a result, this means that some enterprises are, often unintentionally, using SharePoint as a place for documents to die.

With such a complex and important piece of software as SharePoint, it should be imperative to enable truly secure sharing, especially given the name of the software! Consider:

Keep Your Stuff in the Cloud, but Keep it Securely

The promise of the cloud is both enormous and exciting: cloud storage is a huge part of this, especially for the enterprise. Being able to store a vast array of files in one cloud-based place cuts operating costs and can greatly improve efficiency, something that can obviously be beneficial for SMBs, too.

With all this promise, there has rightly been some trepidation about security and the cloud. For its part, Microsoft has built a pretty robust offering via Azure and I am encouraged by how well it seems to complement other elements of the Microsoft stack, including SharePoint. Today, there is a greater need than ever for enterprises to have confidence that they can securely share and update documents and data stored in the cloud, whether involving SharePoint or not. For our purposes today, we’ll keep the focus on SharePoint.

You Need to be Protected by More than a Password

This doesn’t mean needlessly complex credentials, but passwords alone don’t cut it, especially if we’re talking about mission-critical and highly sensitive data such as financial or legal documents. SharePoint actually does support solutions that can provide enhanced levels of security, so the onus is on the rest of us to develop these solutions in ways that integrate effectively with Microsoft’s stack and provide ease-of-use for everyone involved.

In addition to peace-of-mind, there are practical reasons to have more than a password standing between your most important documents and the rest of the world. There are some promising things on the horizon, but we’re not quite there -- yet.

In Thinking About Security, Think Vertically

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When it comes to security needs in the enterprise, not all verticals are created equal. Counterintuitive as it might seem, some of the most vulnerable verticals out there, such as legal and financial services, are among the slowest to make adoption of full security provisions a high priority, especially on the technology side. The irony is that financial services and legal enterprises stand to benefit the very most from having more efficient and effective secure document sharing capabilities. And these very same verticals tend to use SharePoint pretty heavily.

If you’re a talented external developer, there is great opportunity to make a real difference for client companies in these and other verticals which needed solutions yesterday but are only now realizing it. And if you’re working within such an organization, you can become an internal hero by being a champion for developing more secure solutions over SharePoint and otherwise. We’re not far from some pretty exciting developments here and certain verticals should position themselves now to reap the benefits. Stay tuned!

Seize the Moment, Don’t Let Uncertainty Rule the Day:

It’s been well-documented here on CMSWire and throughout the industry that there are some big changes likely in the works involving SharePoint and maybe even the entire Microsoft stack. It sometimes seems that almost everybody’s unsure about the future of Microsoft enterprise suite. So why invest in developing security solutions that could be obsolete, the argument goes?

Simply put, enterprises need solutions now, and we can all make adjustments as needed in the future. If ever there is a time to innovate, this is it. My own team is on the cusp of some pretty promising breakthroughs and I am hearing some intriguing things from elsewhere in the industry, too. Point is, we cannot let uncertainty stand in the way of needed innovation!

These are exciting times as I think we’ll look back on 2012 in a few years as a real inflection point: In the world of SharePoint and beyond, we all need to keep focused on the mountain of opportunity that exists for us all and not get discouraged or sidetracked by periodic uncertainties we encounter on that path. At a tactical level, there are some promising things in-store that will also go a long way toward providing truly secure sharing for SharePoint and beyond. Fitting as it may seem, I look forward to sharing more about this as some of these exciting and important possibilities become real.

Image courtesy of Feng Yu (Shutterstock).

Editor's Note: To read more by Kevin Conroy: