The Collaborate 3.x series of releases has delivered some massive additions to our secure enterprise collaboration and file sharing platform. Collaborate 3.4 is the final release in the series and a huge one at that, delivering some major new features to the platform that open up multiple additional use cases and add considerable value to the platform.
As ever, many of these enhancements have been driven by requests we’ve received from our clients, including an overhaul to the Events module, the ability to edit files directly in Microsoft Office, enhancements to the secure file transfer feature, and many smaller improvements. We’ve combined these client-requested enhancements with other major security features that we believe make Collaborate incredibly secure, powerful and versatile.
Hybrid storage and encryption key management
HighQ has always been at the forefront of secure enterprise-grade cloud solutions with our private cloud, single-tenancy deployment model and data centres around the world, offering multiple hosting options and providing data sovereignty. However, the increased interest around cloud security since the Snowden revelations was a catalyst for us to look in more detail at how we could help our customers feel more comfortable with their data being in the cloud, so we developed two new solutions that we believe make our cloud solutions incredibly flexible and significantly improve security.
The first is hybrid storage. This essentially allows our customers to choose where they want to store files for each individual workspace within their instance of Collaborate. We have developed a virtual Appliance that can be installed inside a customer’s network (or anywhere else in fact) and when “attached” to a Collaborate instance, becomes an optional repository for storing files. This means that for each individual workspace you can choose to store the files in any one of our existing data centres in the UK, US, Australia, UAE, the Channel Islands or anywhere else you have installed an Appliance. This offers incredible flexibility and data security knowing you have the option of storing files within a particular jurisdiction or on-premise within your own network.
Related to this, we now also allow the same virtual Appliance to act as the encryption key manager. Most cloud-based applications store the encryption keys in the cloud alongside the data and whilst this does offer protection, it does mean that the keys are managed by the vendor and not the customer. By allowing our customers to hold the encryption keys on-premise in the Appliance, we have now added another layer of abstraction and protection that means the keys are never permanently held in the cloud or managed by HighQ. The application can only access the keys to serve end user requests so long as you allow it to and you can simply withdraw the application’s access to the keys at any time and it will no longer be able to decrypt any of the files stored in the cloud.
Together, these two options take the security of our solution to the next level and we hope they will allay any remaining doubts that organisations may have about where their data is stored and who has access to it.
Microsoft Office integration
We have been working hard to improve our integration with Microsoft Office and in Collaborate 3.4 it is possible to seamlessly open and edit files that are stored in Collaborate in their native Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications respectively. When a file is being edited it is checked out in Collaborate and edits are saved as private drafts. When the user finishes editing the file and closes it, the changes are committed and published as a new version. This process significantly improves the overall editing experience and makes the whole process seamless for the user.
We’ve also developed a plugin for Outlook that allows users to leverage our secure file transfer features seamlessly, right from within Outlook. You can configure the plugin to replace large email attachments with links to securely download the files from Collaborate instead or manually insert download links to your files from Collaborate in your emails.
Personal file syncing
Following on from the release of our secure file transfer capability which is built into each user’s personal My files area, we are also introducing the first beta release of our new personal desktop file syncing application. HighQ Drive allows users to have their personal files stored in Collaborate synced to their PC or Mac, offering a secure alternative to using consumer file syncing tools. It integrates with and leverages our secure file sharing technology so you can easily get a link to a file synced to your desktop and set an expiry date or apply view only rights. HighQ Drive is seamlessly integrated into the platform to give users one combined tool for team collaboration and enterprise file syncing and sharing.
Updates to secure file transfer, two-factor authentication and two-way file sync
This release sees continued improvement to some of our additions from 3.3 based on client feedback. The secure file transfer feature and two-factor authentication have both received updates to further enhance and make them more flexible for users and administrators. We’ve expanded our integration partners and APIs as well so Collaborate now integrates more deeply with several other platforms.
We now include the secure file transfer feature as standard for all Collaborate licenses, so everyone can have the benefit of all the new features. We’ve introduced a new process to the secure file transfer feature that allows external users who don’t already have an account to self-register when sent a secure link to a file. They must validate their email address upon self-registration and they then get access to a simplified account consisting only of the My files module that also allows them to send files back to internal users.
We’ve added the option to preconfigure and restrict the default security and expiry settings for all files shared through the system. This means that system administrators can pre-define the file sharing settings on their instance of Collaborate and restrict the options available to end users. We’ve also added the ability to enable two-factor authentication for individual organisations and sites, providing additional administrative control and flexibility.
We’ve added many new APIs across the system and now support two-way sync in the Files module so we can set up bi-directional integration between Collaborate and other systems such as HP WorkSite. Our development partners are now busy leveraging these new APIs to build integrations with various other platforms.
Calendar view in the Events module
Our Events module has undergone a major redesign in this release and has several new features that completely change the way it can be used as an integral part of team collaboration and project management.
The module now includes the option to switch between day, week, month and list views. Events can be added directly into the main calendar, colour-coded and categorised, and can be dragged and moved within the calendar. The search functionality has also been improved so it now auto-suggests events in the whole calendar across all categories.
We have implemented one of the most heavily requested features in the iSheets module, which is to allow multiple levels of conditionality in columns to allow for much more complex logic. It is now possible to set any number of levels of column conditions, and when a column is made conditional, it can now be mandatory. These two enhancements will make our document automation feature much more powerful because the questions used to populate a template can now be nested in much more complex ways.
We’ve also added the ability to secure columns and views in file and folder metadata iSheets. Now, columns and views can be secured in the same way they can be secured in a regular iSheet. A common use case for this feature will be when files have been shared with a client but extra metadata fields have been added that the client should not be able to access or edit.
Other smaller improvements
There are also many other smaller changes and enhancements including the ability to include comments when exporting wiki pages, blog posts and events to PDF; export the currently selected list of tasks to Excel, based on any filters that have been applied; suspend a user’s site membership, without removing them from a site entirely; see more detailed previews and information in certain email notifications; see more information on the System Admin home page and many other smaller items.
The end of the line for the 3.x series
Collaborate 3.4 is likely to be the last major release in the 3.x series and it completes the vision that we first laid out in 2012: to combine multiple aspects of enterprise file sharing and sync with social collaboration and secure team workspaces. However, the next step in our journey is just starting and what we have planned next is very exciting. But that’s for another day.If you’re interested in trying a demo of Collaborate 3.4 or arranging an upgrade of your instance, please contact us today.