Requesting Files from Clients (Without Email)
There are many times you need to ask that your clients send you files. Most everyone knows how to attach files and send via email, but is there a better way? Are there a lot of files? Large files? Do the files hold sensitive information like bank records, taxes, or insurance claims? There are many ways to securely request files that will make it easier and more secure for you and your clients. And you probably have the tools to do so already!
When you set up a way to gather files from clients you want to create the least busy work possible. That means choosing a method that is likely to get the file closest to its final resting place, so you don’t have to move it later, although that is not always possible. You want to make sure that it is easy for the client to use and adequately secure. Do you want to receive an email notification when a file is uploaded? You may need to take extra steps to set that up. Also, check your storage limits in cloud file storage to make sure you have enough room to store the files.
If you use a web-based (aka SaaS) practice management application, it may have a built-in client portal. Client portals provide a secure space to communicate with clients, let them pay bills, check for upcoming meetings and to-dos, access their documents and upload documents. They will have a secure login with a username and password. Client portals are similar functionally to the popular healthcare portal MyChart. Many of the practice management portals have apps so your client can easily upload photos from their smartphone too. If you haven’t used your client portal because you think your clients won’t use it, you might be surprised. Some document management systems, like NetDocuments, also have client-facing interfaces to share and receive documents.
Dropbox for Business
If you are using Dropbox for Business, it is easy to create, edit, and close a file request. You will click File Requests – New Request and then add a name and description for the request. Choose a folder or create a new folder for the files to be uploaded into. You can set a deadline with a date and time, and even allow late uploads. Then type in the name and email of the person(s) you want to request files from or copy and paste a link into a separate email. You will receive an email confirmation that the request has been sent, and a notification when files have been uploaded. The destination folder for uploaded files is private, though you can share the folder after the files have been uploaded.
If you are subscribed to MS 365 Business versions, you have Microsoft OneDrive. Even if you use a file server you can still request files with OneDrive and move them to your server with a drag and drop. You will need to make sure your admin enables “Anyone links” and configures View, edit and upload permissions. Once enabled anyone (with or without a Microsoft account) can send files to a folder of your choosing. Each file will have a prefix to help you identify who uploaded it, and OneDrive will automatically add a number if two files of the same name are uploaded. People who send you files can only upload files. They can’t view or edit the contents of the folder or your OneDrive. Both you and the sending party will receive confirmation emails that the files have been uploaded.
To request files, navigate to a folder in MS OneDrive or create a new one. Select the folder and then at the top of the screen click “Request Files”, then follow the prompts to request the file.
If you are accessing OneDrive by going to File Explorer, you will not see the choice to Request Files. Instead go to https://office.com and log into your account. Choose OneDrive from the apps options. You can bookmark OneDrive in your browser, add it to your taskbar, or add it to your start menu live tiles in Windows 10.
You can’t set an expiration date on requested files, but you can disable/delete the file request link. Here are complete instructions with screen shots.
There are several ways to request files through Citrix ShareFile. You can send a secure message through the ShareFile Dashboard, send a link in email, chat, or embed it in a document, or use the MS Outlook plugin. Files will be uploaded to File Box by default, or you can choose a specific folder. You can require recipients to enter a name and email, and to receive a notification email when files are uploaded. You can also set an end date. The Citrix Files for Outlook lets you add a link to request files when you are composing an email, or you can embed a file upload in your email signature.
Google Workspace (Drive)
There is no native capability to request files for Drive in Google Workspace. You can do one of the following –
Method 1: You can create a blank folder and give the client full access to it so they can add files to the folder. Just don’t put anything else in the folder or they will have access to it. The permissions would be “anyone with the Link” and make the person an editor. This also requires a sign in.
Method 2: A slightly more elegant way would be to create a super quick Google Form and add an “upload files to Drive” option in the form. This will create a folder in your Drive named the same as the form. The downside here is that the person will have to login with a Google account.
There are several third-party add ons such as File Request Pro, which creates a branded upload page and works with Google Drive, OneDrive, Sharefile, and Dropbox.
You can use any number of form creation tools to request files. This might be an excellent choice when you need to gather more information than just a file. Citrix ShareFile offers a form builder, as does Microsoft through the Forms in MS 365 subscriptions (here is an example). Google Forms is an effective way to collect files if you are a Google Workspace user (see an example).
There are many other form tools you can use to gather files. If you use WordPress for your website you can embed a form with WP Forms. Or you can use an inexpensive stand-alone form tool like JotForm, which is a fantastic way to convert clunky PDF forms into user-friendly web-based forms.
There are lot of ways to securely gather files from clients besides email. These methods add more security, ease of use, and allow you to have more control over where the files go so you don’t have to save them from an email. Of course, it also removes the file size limit issues with email we are still plagued with today.
*Article first appeared in the NCBA Center for Practice Management digest on May 24, 2022
About the Author
Catherine Sanders Reach serves as director of the NCBA Center for Practice Management.Read More by Catherine >