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How Can Government Agencies Receive Files from Citizens Securely?

 In Blog, Fax, FoIP, Security, Technology, Unified Communications

 

Most governments recognize the need for cybersecurity these days, from hardening agency networks against outside incursions to training staff in the use of 2-factor authentication and proper phishing defenses.

Unfortunately, once members of the public get involved things become trickier. It doesn’t make sense to give each citizen the extensive training needed for complex security solutions when they’ll likely only be using them once or twice. What’s needed is a solution that’s simple and intuitive, while still providing the necessary security.

Document exchange solutions can generally be separated into two categories: physical delivery and digital delivery.

 

1. Physical Document Exchange

The simplest way to receive things like passport applications, permit requests, and other documents containing private information is physically.

In Person Drop-off

Making citizens (and their documents) come to you couldn’t be simpler. Unfortunately, depending on how your agency is set up, it can come with a host of additional expenses.

If your office already engages in direct interactions with the public, you’re likely already paying for the necessary staff time and office space. If you don’t however, both these things get expensive very quickly. Waiting areas need to be built, customer service staff need to be hired for all open hours and trained. Security becomes more complex with unscreened people coming in and out all day.

Requiring in person delivery can also be seen as obnoxious and old-fashioned by taxpayers who have become used to the convenience features proliferating in the private sector.

Certified Mail or Couriers

Using established delivery infrastructure is easy, doesn’t require customer-facing offices, and all costs can easily be passed along to customers in the form of fees. This helps preserve taxpayer-funds for day-to-day expenses.

Companies and services that specialize in transferring documents safely bear the costs and responsibility for getting the documents to your door, and pieces of paper can be physically filed or distributed on arrival.

Unfortunately, physical delivery is slowly being phased out for good reasons: it’s very expensive compared to digital methods (planes, trucks, ships, delivery staff, storage in transit, etc) and requires citizens to travel to drop off points. Your staff to be available at designated pickup and drop-off times. They may also have to sign for deliveries, which may not take long for a single envelope, but can quickly add up. Having sensitive documents in physical forms means they need to be stored, filed, and possibly destroyed

 

2. Digital Document Exchange

Cheaper, more convenient, and more modern, digital exchange methods seem like the obvious answer. Email is inherently insecure, so other systems must be used instead.

Fax

The original non-physical document exchange method. Despite its reputation as a dying communications medium, fax (often as its more modern flavor, Fax over IP (FoIP) these days) is actually still seeing tremendous use. While fax is still the secure communications standard for many healthcare, finance, and legal organizations, a machine is no longer something consumers are likely to have at home. That means they have to go out to find one, or sign up for an online faxing solution, both of which can be a source of frustration they need to navigate for a single use.

Secure Portals

Secure portals at the solution a lot of national government agencies use to get the documents and information they need from their citizens securely. A custom built solution can help guide the user through providing exactly the information they need in the required formats, attaching documents, etc. They can also input all received information into a purpose-built database automatically, streamlining workflows for your staff.

The tricky thing is that some agencies, particularly those serving smaller communities, don’t have the budget for a customized solution…especially one that’s up to strict security standards. They also may not have quite enough interaction with the public to justify the expense. Maintaining such a portal in top form can also be tricky as software changes. You’ve likely experienced this yourself as a consumer – some portals do not work well with certain browsers, or are not mobile-friendly.

File Transfer Software

Secure file transfer software (not to be confused with consumer free file sharing services) is the sweet spot for many agencies looking for an affordable, easily scalable, and well maintained solution. Care should be taken when choosing one however. Many of the solutions on the market are secure, but aren’t in any way easy to use. They frequently require users to create over-complicated accounts for single transactions, attach files in ways that are unintuitive, and can conflict with some browser settings.

The more difficult they are to use, the higher the risks that your staff will be tied up in tech support, documents will get lost, or citizens simply won’t submit information when they’re supposed to. The ideal solution will be both tightly secure, but also accessibly easy to use.

 

Simple, Intuitive, Secure Document Exchange & Management

XM SendSecure is a cutting-edge file transfer solution designed to perfectly mesh security needs with accessibility. Sending files of any format and in sizes up to five terabytes is as easy as sending an unsecured email. All citizens need to do is click a customized link to start the transaction.

All files are encrypted, protected with 2-factor authentication, and stored ephemerally (deleting themselves after a set period of time).

A host of collaboration features make it easy for staff on your end to handle incoming documentation, including shared email addresses (for example, “applications@acencyname.gov”), team permissions for access to the encrypted files and communications, and easy management of the digital SafeBoxes associated with an account. Discover how XMedius can help your organization to securely receive files from citizens.

 

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