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Important Questions to Ask When Utilizing Electronic Attachments

Electronic AttachmentsIt is often common in software applications today to have the ability to attach documents directly within the software. Electronic attachments are a fantastic way to reduce your reliance on paper and help to streamline your workflows and processes.

Are you utilizing this functionality?

If not, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to not only reduce paper but also easily access information you may need in the future. By attaching supporting and relevant documents directly in your software, you can access them when needed making the process much more efficient. No more digging through paper files to locate that important document or critical piece of information. It is all readily available with the click of a button.

While attachments is a fabulous feature that you should be utilizing, there are some important things to keep in mind and questions you need to ask as you begin to setup and utilize this functionality.

Understand what file formats can be attached.

    • Does the software you are using have restrictions on what type of files can be attached? Often only certain file formats can be saved as attachments. While common formats such as word, excel and pdf are generally an option, each software is different and you need to determine which ones you can use in your system.
    • Do you have the appropriate software installed to open file attachments? In order to open attachments, you'll also need the relevant software installed on your system. For example, if excel files have been saved to your budget worksheets, do you have MS-Excel installed on your system so you can open the files to view them at a later date?

Verify security of saved files. 

    • Are the files encrypted? File attachments can be done in a few ways. If they are being uploaded to the software, are they encrypted so that outside users cannot access and view them outside of the software. You'll want to confirm that any attachments you include are secure and safe.
    • Are the files stored in a location with restricted user access? If the files are being saved to a directory and linked via the software, you'll want to be sure that unauthorized access to the information is prevented. Is the directory where they are stored secure? Does it restrict access to only those users who have appropriate privileges to see the files?

Know where your attachments are stored.

    • Is the storage location accessible by authorized users? In addition to the security related to where files are being stored, you'll also need to confirm that authorized users have access to the file attachment location. Is this a cloud based directory accessible to multiple users or are you saving something locally on your hard drive that only you will be able to access.
    • Do you have user rights to the storage location? If you are authorized to access the attachments, do you have appropriate user rights to the directory or location where they are stored. Without this, you may have security to access the attachment, but be unable to open them if you don't have rights to the directory where they are stored.

Backup attachments on a regular basis.

    • Does your software backup include attachments? If your attachment files are being uploaded into your software, then they are part of the system and should be included in your system backup routine, but you'll want to verify this in your software.
    • If not, does your backup routine include folders and directories where attachment files are stored? If the attachments are stored in a directory that is not part of your software system, it will be important that you establish a backup plan and schedule that includes these remote directories.

These points are not reasons to discourage use of attachments. Attachments are a wonderful feature that can be extremely beneficial. The goal is to provide you with some key questions to ask and setup components to keep in mind as you move forward with this type of functionality.

Soft Trac is a woman-owned business and accomplished team of nonprofit software consultants.  We believe in making nonprofits "do good" better.   For more information on any of the topics discussed in this blog or to learn more about the software products and services we offer, please visit our CONTACT page.

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