A Halifax-based startup wants to change the way lawyers and accountants share confidential documents by using a cloud-based Web service instead of a less-secure e-mail transfer.
TitanFile Inc. wants to be the easiest way to send and receive confidential documents. It aims to be just as convenient as e-mail, yet provide more authentication and security so that documents sent over the system could still hold up in court. It could also save small law offices accustomed to sending confidential documents via courier a lot of daily expenses.
Using the system is simple. If you want to upload a file, you create an account and then upload your file to TitanFile’s servers, which also reside in Halifax, and then enter in your recipient’s contact information. The recipient then receives an e-mail with a link, which they click to pass the first hurdle of authentication. To download the file, they must pass a second hurdle – entering in a password, receiving a verification call on their phone, or having an IP address that falls within the geographic boundaries defined by the sender.
“It lets you share a file with someone in Ontario and they can only access it during certain dates,” explains Milan Vrkic, co-founder at TitanFile. “The majority of people hook it up to a phone, because then someone would have to get access to the phone and the e-mail in order to access the file.”
Launched in 2010, TitanFile’s other co-founder is Tony Abou-Asseleh, the holder of a PhD in computer science with a focus on secure document transfer. Presenting at DemoCamp in Toronto on June 9, the co-founders demonstrated sending and receiving a file within 90 seconds, complete with phone verification. It’s easy to use and still secure, Vrekic says.
“The alternative was basically getting a Sharepoint server,” he says. “Then you have to deal with management costs.”
Using a cloud-based model, TitanFile is able to subscribe its service to small businesses for as low as $4.95 per month for one user and a cap of 100 files, $19.95 a month for three users and 1,000 files, or the premium plan of $49.95 per month for 10 users and unlimited files.
But for their target customer segment of lawyer and accountant firms, the price is low on the list of challenges before the service is adopted. Looking over TitanFile’s Web site, Ted Key, an insurance lawyer at Toronto-based O’Donnell Robertson & Sanfilippo LLP worries about the cloud storage being a target for hackers and making his clients do extra work to exchange files.
“In theory, I can see it being a useful service,” he says. “In order for it to be useful, I think the law firm has to adopt it and all of your clients have to adopt it. We have clients with their own security protocols.”
With news of Sony’s PlayStation Network breach recently in the news, Keys also wonders if the data would really be secure. “Hackers broke in and stole this stuff from a big corporation that deals with computers,” he says.
Responding to those concerns, Vrekic points out that only the file sender needs an account – the recipient isn’t required to login to receive a file. There’s also an option to use an HTML5 viewer on TitanFile to grant read-only access to a document.
As for security, TitanFile has a contract with a secure data centre in Halifax, Vrekic says. “No data crosses the border outside of Canada at any point.”
TitanFile also has hired a consultant, formerly with Cisco Systems, to conduct regular penetration testing. The results of these tests are reviewed by TitanFile, then shared with all paying clients.
At Key’s law firm, the current practice is either to e-mail documents or send them via courier on a CD-ROM, he says. Though he agrees e-mail isn’t the most secure method. “I think that is what of law firms do anyway,” he says.
The problem with sending e-mails, is that those messages may not hold up to scrutiny in a court of law. “it just takes for you to say ‘I didn’t send it,” Vrekic says. “The court doesn’t’ know that you didn’t alter the date of the contents of the e-mail, because that is easy to do.”
It’s a system worth considering, Key says. “I’m always looking for a way to make the transmission of documents to clients easier.” But he’d want his own IT team to give it a review and approve it before adopting it.
TitanFile is focusing on growth in Canada right now, and could expand into the U.S. next year with a new data centre based there, Vrekic says.