Working on documents online and concerned about their security? Make sure to use these most common ways of data protection offered by popular office solution providers in everyday work.

On-premise deployment

Many companies worldwide prefer to store documents locally on their own servers. It may require reliable hardware with physical space and administrative staff, which makes on-premise deployment rather costly. Still, this option gives businesses full control over the IT infrastructure, customization possibilities and independence from the Internet connection.

There is good news though — on-premise software is not only for large enterprises with high-income staff. For example, some open-source advocates have private home servers for online collaboration on documents.

Open-source solutions

You cannot see how big office software providers handle your data, but it is different in the open-source alternatives — most of them are deployable in the cloud or on-premises, have an impressive set of features and transparent source code.

For non-experts in information security, it can be complicated to scan the apps on malicious code or spyware. But the open-source community has already done it and always keeps an eye to prevent possible vulnerabilities.


There are different ways of data encryption, but it is always done at rest (when documents are just stored) or in transit (when you share files). Big office solution providers offer both, some even have end-to-end encryption for secure real time collaboration. You do not need to configure anything or remember passwords — encryption is always made by the software automatically.

Digital signatures

You can verify the authenticity of a document by adding a digital signature issued by a certificate authority. If you share the document, recipients will see a message that this file is marked as final and was not modified in transit. They can choose to edit it anyway, but then the signature disappears and you‘ll know the document was modified intentionally.


Some actions may be disabled in a document — printing, downloading, editing etc. Alternatively, you can prohibit any actions except the defined ones — commenting or filling in forms, for example. That is a common way to protect your intellectual property when sharing files.


Another way of copyright protection is a visible watermark on a document meaning that the material is for reading only. You can apply text or images as a watermark — many even use it to inform recipients that the document is a draft, not a final version.

Version History

Accidental changes, information restoring or…insider attack? No need to list all possible cases when documents can be spoiled to the extent you won‘t recognize them. Apparently all office solutions today give you an opportunity to restore previous versions of your documents in a couple of clicks.


It may sound boring, but good old passwords are still one of the most reliable ways to prohibit access to your files. As always, you just set a strong combination of digits, letters and special signs, and no one else can‘t open your docs without being given the corresponding permission. Be sure to remember a password yourself!

Now that we reviewed some common ways of protecting documents from unwanted access and violating intellectual property, let us see these features in popular office solutions.

On-premise deployment Open-source products Encryption Digital signature Restrictions Watermark Password
Microsoft 365 Desktop only Desktop only Desktop only
Google Docs With add-ons
Zoho Docs
Dropbox Paper


Microsoft 365 is a perfect solution for large enterprises and those who need rich office functionality on the desktop. No on-premise installation is available, but you still can create a hybrid environment by integrating Microsoft 365 with the existing Active Directory (AD DS) or locally installed Exchange Server.

Microsoft encrypts data at rest and in transit in the office apps using reliable protocols like TLS/SSL, IPSec, AES and more.

The online version has a reduced set of features, but in the desktop apps, you get all professional editing tools.


Google Workspace is a cloud-only solution trusted by millions suitable for those who work online. All your documents are stored in the cloud, but it doesn’t mean you necessarily need a stable Internet connection for seamless editing. Google allows making documents available offline and their modifying with official add-ons.

Google claims strong encryption of data at rest and in transit with the TLS protocol.


Zoho Docs seems to be a nice Google Workspace alternative with 256-bit AES encryption for files at rest and PFS for those in transit. Servers and clients are connected through SSL and secured with an RSA-based 2048-bit encryption key.  

Among useful options, you’ll find deleting restrictions to prevent unwanted data loss.

Get an idea about the Zoho Docs interface in this video on fillable documents:


Dropbox Paper is another cloud service with an outstanding encryption protocol 256-bit AES. To protect data in transit Dropbox uses TLS/SSL, creating a secure tunnel protected by 128-bit or higher AES encryption. Similarly, data in transit between a Paper client (mobile, API, or web) and the hosted services is encrypted via SSL/TLS.


ONLYOFFICE Docs is an open-source office suite for editing text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Available for on-premise deployment, the solution can be integrated with a native ONLYOFFICE collaboration platform or third-party cloud, such as ownCloud, Nextcloud, Seafile, Confluence, etc. All data is stored on your corporate servers.

There are flexible file sharing permissions in ONLYOFFICE Docs. All options include editing, viewing, reviewing, commenting, and access denial. In text documents, users can enable filling forms only. Spreadsheets allow custom filtering to hide data before sharing.

You can protect documents from unauthorized access with JWT or secure traffic using HTTPS protocol. Real-time collaboration is encrypted end-to-end with the technology called Private Rooms. 

Recently ONLYOFFICE has added support for password protection online.


Data security requirements are different in each industry or company. Feel like migrate to one of the above-mentioned solutions?

Consider the sensibility of your office documents and make the right choice!