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I've tried to bring in collaboration tools at my company such as Evernote, Dropbox, OneNote, GoogleDocs etc. at our company but am finding it tough to get people on board. We use Sharepoint to store documents, mostly Word docs that can be edited by everyone.

The problem is that when you have something to make people aware of (say a hyperlink to a useful blog post) it is a slow process to find the Word doc relating to the subject, open it up, add the link, email everyone to tell them it has been updated... so consequently everybody skips to the email part and the information is lost in everybody's inboxes ("hey didn't I send you a link about that six months ago...or something?").

The reason I cannot get people on board is that Evernote etc. is not backed up locally. Furthermore if CarelessBob deletes all the text and saves, the change is sync'd to everybody and they lose the text too. My boss has seen this happen with Dropbox.

Are these assumptions by them correct? In my experience they are but I'd love to know if there are some tools that mitigate this problem.

EDIT: This has been migrated from superuser to security (not my decision). "safe" is in quotes because I primarily mean from my boss' point of view i.e. will we lose the data. I am not referring to storing business-confidential data in Google Docs, Evernote etc. (though I am aware of companies that do this quite happily). Having said that I welcome any security-focussed responses.

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First addressing the point of these systems being "safe". In terms of security I suspect Dropbox and Google can afford better equipment, but the problem is how they set up these systems. As you might have noticed you can get hundreds of gigabytes of space for maybe $10 a month. These companies store their data with the lowest bidder, so the company which can provide them the cheapest servers.

The upside is your data is stored in multiple locations, so you are highly unlikely to have serious data loss in the event of technical issues on the supplier end. We will ignore the issues of having servers with your data seized by government for various reasons. Your main issue comes from someone on your end deleting your data, as you have already suggested.

Mitigating this comes down to two primary factors:

  1. User Culture
  2. Backups

As you have already suggested users do sometimes delete everything causing you something of a headache. The only way you are likely to get round this is telling/training your employees on how not to do this.

One of the perks of a system like Dropbox is in the event of someone deleting all your data you can check who did it and take steps.

Backing up your data is vital to ensuring you can recover in the event of issues. Dropbox is stored locally and in the Cloud, so as standard part of your backup you can copy the local instance and store it in a separate location. There are mechanisms for backing up Evernote, which you can find at HowToGeek here

If you are a company which cannot set up your own internal backup and document storage/sharing system then Dropbox and equivalent or setting up your own Cloud via OwnCloud are good alternatives if managed correctly.

Additionally you can use local file servers to share information (again with correct permissions), which you can set up on a Linux install. You can find a guide from ubuntu.com here to get you on the right path.

You might want to think about how you restrict your storage to ensure any data loss is kept to a minimum. This can include setting up folders for business projects and giving people who need access permission. Those who don't shouldn't get access. This can limit data loss to maybe a few folders rather than your whole system.

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  • I am just reading about Evernote backups now. I think this is absolutely fine for us. My task now is to convince people to move across to it and not send emails. Mar 5, 2014 at 10:16
  • Dropbox is encrypted while stored (although they will provide the key to law enforcement agencies when required to). Dropbox for Business (and Pro with Pack Rat add on) stores a version of every file ever synced for backup. Lastly they use Amazon S3 cloud storage for their service. Mar 5, 2014 at 19:22
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When you use a service provided by another company, you have to be aware that all data you exchange via this service is available to that company. In case of some companies (like Google) analyzing the data stored by their users and mining it for any valuable information is in fact their primary business model.

Evaluate for yourself how sensitive your data is and how much you trust that company to keep your data confidential.

When you want to be sure, you should try to find a product which offers similar functionality but which can be installed on your own server running on your local network. That way you maintain full control of your data and make sure that it never leaves your control.

There is also the problem that an external service might at any time decide to change or stop offering their service. So you shouldn't structure your internal workflow too close around these tools. But that's a topic for a different stackexchange site.

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I will downvote any question that includes the word "safe" unless there is a definition of the word. You defined the word, and in doing so, you made it clear that you are actually looking for something very specific. Thank you for asking a precise question.

The answer is "wiki".

You're looking for a shared knowledge management resource tha is resilient to damage from careless Bob. (Backed up locally is just one way of ensuring that it is available; don't confuse the mechanism with the goal). (Aside: I believe that Careless Bob needs to be a staple character like Alice and Eve and Mallory).

Most wiki's implement change history - if Careless Bob deletes everything anyone can revert the change. If your management is unable to separate the mechanism from the goal and demands local backup, then many wiki's provide an export format that would allow you to do that. Some wiki's can also be deployed locally for companies that are still waiting to see if "this cloud thing" takes off.

IIRC Google Docs also implements a change history feature, which permits recovery from the Careless Bob attack.

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