Computer Files Management for Businesses: How to Stay Organized

The digital revolution has caused our computers and servers to become bloated with old, useless, and redundant information. Because storage has become cheap, many companies address the problem by buying additional hard drive space.

But… the cost of poor computer file management isn’t just the hard costs of acquiring and maintaining additional digital storage space. You also have to consider:

  • The loss of productivity looking for the right file
  • The risk of using outdated information
  • The risk of files not being included in routine backup procedures

Without IT Policies and Procedures in place around computer file management, employees will store files their own way, using a system that makes sense for them. But that may not be the best way for everyone in the company, and as your company grows the problem is likely to only get worse.

Computer Files Management Considerations

1. File Storage Location

The answer can be anywhere EXCEPT on an employee’s computer or laptop, because these devices are not typically backed up. You may have multiple file storage options, but picking one main location will make it easy for people to create good document saving habits. Popular options include:

Wherever files are stored, you’ll want to make sure you have good backup and recovery procedures in place. Yes, the cloud automatically backs up your electronic files, but only for a short window of time. If you don’t happen to notice in time, the files will be purged.

Rather than emailing documents as attachments, you may also consider using shared email boxes and distribution lists. 

2. File Access and Security Roles

As a Michigan IT services company, we’re always thinking about data security. As a rule, most job roles are given similar security roles. So when it comes to creating file folders, it usually makes sense to organize file folders around job functions:

  • Accounting
  • Consulting
  • Engineering
  • Human Resources
  • Marketing
  • Production
  • Sales

Of course, you’ll need sub-folders under each area. It’s a good idea to work through the structure on a whiteboard.

3. Folder and Document Lifecycle

Before creating sub-folders, think ahead to how long you’ll need active access to this information. For example:

  • In accounting, you may want to first create sub-folders by year, because after the financial year is closed, those files can be moved to digital cold storage.
  • In marketing, you may want to create sub-folders by campaign.
  • In sales or consulting, it may make sense to create sub-folders by client name, then put projects under that sub-folder.

4. File Naming Conventions

Every company has their own unique requirements in this regard. What we’ve found works best for us is to create file names that move from general to specific. In your IT policies and procedures document, it’s a good idea to create a document legend for people to interpret the file names.

So for example, for a website development company, the file naming may be something like this:

CLIENT-PROJECT-FILE-VERSION-REVIEWER

So the file name might look like:
ABC-WEB-Services-V3-RJS.docx

When the file is finally approved, it’s easy to know which file the most recent and delete the rest.

5. Document Templates

In a prior post, we shared how easy it is to use Microsoft Word Templates to create professional and consistent-looking documents. But because Microsoft templates and themes are stored on employee hard drives, extra steps have to be taken to allow multiple people to share and update a master file template.

To share a document template company-wide, we recommend keeping an un-editable “master” template in a shared location for employees to download. Then have another version stored on a Team or SharePoint site that team members can use to continually improve the template within their workgroup. Your IT Provider / Office 365 Administrator can also push templates to individual users.

6. Sensitive File Consideration

Many companies maintain electronic information that contains sensitive information – health information, personal contact records, social security numbers, passwords, etc. Whether legally mandated or not, it is vitally important to take extra measures to safeguard this information. Failing to do so puts you in legal and financial jeopardy. Please consult an IT professional about the steps you can and should take to protect this information.

7. File Archival, Retention and Purging

Keeping “everything” bloats your IT environment, however, there are business records that you must maintain for a length of time. Shred-It offers a helpful business retention record guide (click to open). You should contact and attorney and/or accountant to get personalized advice about your business record retention requirements.

How Eclipse Consulting Can Help

As your IT services provider, we can help control your digital chaos in several ways:

  1. Deciding where files should be stored (on a server in your office or in the cloud)
  2. Helping you choose on a cloud hosting platform
  3. Determining your performance needs when selecting an on-premise computer server
  4. Building a file archival schedule
  5. Creating backup and recovery procedures
  6. Identifying and deleting duplicate records

We’ve been providing technology solutions, support and services to growing businesses in Metro Detroit for more than 20 years. Let us show you the difference we can make for you.

Learn how we as an Office 365 Partner can increase your business productivity – or request a FREE IT strategy session

Scan Paper Documents for FREE with Office Lens

Your Microsoft Office 365 subscription comes with lots of hidden perks. One of these gems is Office Lens, a document scanner you can use from your phone.

Ways to Use the Office Lens Document Scanning App

  • Scan signed contracts and store in the client’s OneDrive folder
  • Scan business cards to add to Outlook / Customer Relationship Management system
  • Scan whiteboards to save our brainstorming sessions
  • Scan old photos to preserve a digital copy
  • Scan paper documents to turn them into editable Word documents

12 Steps to Getting Started with Office Lens

  1. Download Office Lens from the App Store / Google Play Store.
  2. Launch the app on your phone.
  3. Give One Lens access to your device’s camera.
  4. Login with your Microsoft Office 365 account. You can use a free version of Office Lens without an Office 365 subscription, but you lose some of the great features like saving to OneDrive and exporting as an editable Microsoft Word file.
  5.  Select the type of document you’re scanning.  Use the slider at the bottom to select the type of document you’re scanning. Your choices are:
    • Whiteboard
    • Document
    • Business card
    • Photo
      Office lens document scanner
  6. Take a photo of the document. The document will automatically remove the background and frame the document to only include the paper portion of the image captured.
  7. Make any adjustments to color or cropping.
    Office Lens Phone Scanner
  8. Add pages. To add another page to this same document, click the Camera + icon in the lower right corner.
  9. When finished, click the red checkmark.
  10. Name your document.
  11. Choose where and how to store your document. Your options are:
    • Photo Library
    • PDF
    • OneNote
    • OneDrive
    • Word
    • PowerPoint
  12. Choose where to share this document. Your options are:
    • Outlook
    • Mail
    • Any other apps with permission on your phone.

Office lens export

 

Office Lens Recommendations

Start using Office Lens. You’ll soon be hooked! Our whole team uses it inside and outside of the office. If you are using Office Lens in business environment, setup some IT policies and procedures around document retention.

  • How should documents be named?
  • Where should they be stored?
  • Which contacts should be added to the company database?

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Custom Software Development: Care & Feeding Tips

custom software development maintenance

Custom Software Development – Post Implementation Tips

Custom software applications help businesses get the exact functionality they need. When you’re the only business that does what you do, custom software is a way to add speed and enforce structure, while retaining your unique business processes.

Software Development Tools

Over the last 20 years, our software development team has developed, modified and maintained tons of custom applications. In our early years, we used Microsoft Access for many of the applications we developed.  In fact, we still do quite a bit of Access maintenance work. However, for new software projects, we’ve primarily switched to using rapid software development tools like Django and Python with PostgreSQL or Microsoft SQL Server.

If you’re the business owner or department head, you probably don’t care that much about the software development tools themselves. Your focus (rightly so) is on getting the right solution that fits your needs and is easy to maintain.

What often gets overlooked is the plan for routine custom software maintenance.

Maintaining Custom Software

Like ALL software, custom software needs to be regularly updated and maintained. Unlike off-the-shelf software, the maintenance schedule is primarily driven by you. Certain events may trigger an update:

  • Release of new operating system environments (like Windows 10)
  • Loss of a key software developer
  • Upgrade of a connected software application
  • Change in business processes and procedures

But some clients like to play the “How long can we hold out from upgrading?” game.

Is this you?

  • You have an older computer or server entirely dedicated to running this one application.
  • There’s only one person who is allowed to touch the programming code for fear the entire system will crash.
  • Your business can’t upgrade its systems or business processes because you don’t know how it will impact your custom software.

Outdated Custom Software Creates Risk

You may think you’re stretching your IT budget, but that’s not always true. Delaying custom software updates can add unnecessary risk and cost.

  • Clients who maintain their software regularly typically don’t have to start from scratch every few years.
  • As technology advances – and your custom software doesn’t – your company may be missing out on features that increase efficiency, security and profitability.
  • You may be “forced” to upgrade or replace your software at a time that’s inconvenient.
  • You risk having no one left who is willing or able to support your application.

Make Updates Part of Your Custom Software Development Plan

If you decide to build custom software, budget a certain amount of money to keep your software up-to-date and backed up. You may not know which operating system or database updates will require a patch to your software, but you can expect to do some software maintenance on a regular basis.

Backup and Recovery for Custom Software

Companies that use custom software need to have backup and recovery processes for both the production system and the software source code. The production system, which is the executable version of the software in use in your office, should be backed up regularly with the rest of your company files and databases.

You should also consider how and where the source code is backed up. Without the source code, you won’t be able to make changes to the software program itself. You and your software development company should discuss how many versions of the source code to keep, and the frequency and location of the source code backups. You should be able to access this code in the event something happens to your software development team.

Finally, insist on keeping a change log of updates to the software. If you ever need to bring in a different software development team, this documentation can help them get up to speed quickly.

Need Help?

The custom software development team here at Eclipse Consulting has built mobile apps, custom apps, integrations, and customizations using a wide variety of software development tools. We can help you build from scratch or update the solution you have in place today. See the questions you need to evaluate small business IT consulting services.

Give us a call at 586.263.1775 or click below to see how we can help.

Request a Tech Check

How data silos hurt your small business

small business data silos

Small Business IT Strategy

Sometimes it’s not what we DO that hurts our business growth, but rather what we fail to do… like planning out our small business IT strategy. Data silos pop up because we don’t have an IT technology plan. We don’t always ask the right questions to help us decide between cloud and desktop software or know how to evaluate SaaS solutions.

Read more

Every business is a technology business

small business technology

No matter what your business actually does – real estate, retail, manufacturing, services – you’re dependent on technology.

You are a technology business!  Read more

Small Business Project Management: 5 Tips

small business project management tips

Small businesses don’t have time to waste. Unfocused meetings, and tedious follow up on projects can drain your energy and your bank account. How do you regain control without micro-managing your team? Typically, the problem isn’t the project planning, it’s in the follow up. Having the right small business project management tools is critical.

To keep your team on track, we put together our 5 best small business project management tips and tools to keep your team on task.

Small Business Project Management Tips

1. Use a file sharing site.

Stop sending document back and forth via email. Store your documents in a central location. Project files can be stored on a cloud file storage site like:

2. Use small business project management software.

Today, there are dozens of affordable cloud-based small business software project management tools to choose from. Some of the more popular ones include:

Your project management can often link to the files you have stored on your file sharing site. Using the project management software for communications will reduce the back-and-forth of trying to find the most recent version of “that one document” and sifting through hundreds of email messages to try to remember what was said and who is responsible.

3. Share your calendar.

Both Google G-Suite and Office 365 allow you to share your calendar with others in your office, or even to publish your calendar online. You can create custom calendars for business areas, like the Marketing and Tradeshow calendar or the Conference Room 1 Resource calendar. You can also subscribe to internet calendars, and even bring in the project management calendars mentioned above. 

To streamline your home/work life, you can create a separate calendar for personal obligations. The beauty of having multiple calendars is that you can see all your commitment in one place, and selectively share your availability with your team. You can then access your calendar via your phone, iPad or other device.

4. Create workflow.

Document your process. Once you have everything “set” like you want it to be, use automation tools like Microsoft Flow, IFTTT (if this then that), Zapier and even Outlook Tasks or Boomerang for Outlook to remind you of overdue tasks. People will be amazed how on top of things you are when you use technology instead of your memory to keep projects moving forward. If you keep thinking, “There has to be a better way!” …there probably is!

5. Use chat and online meeting tools.

There’s nothing more frustrating than needing “just one quick answer” to finalize a project…. Except maybe having someone commandeer 30 minutes of your time for “one quick question.”

Get your entire team committed to using an instant messaging tool like Microsoft Teams to get answers quickly.  Instead of meeting face-to-face, schedule online conferences where you can share your screen, and even record the session for people who couldn’t participate.

Popular online meeting software includes:

Your business success largely depends on your ability to manage projects efficiently to completion. As a leader in your company, your job is to get everyone on the same page, enthusiastic about the mission at hand, and provide employees with the project management tools to do their jobs efficiently. We hope these small business project management tips and tools have been helpful.

Anything you would add?

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Using Small Business Software: There has to be a better way!

there has to be a better way

As a small business technology advisor, we’ll often be called into an office to provide technical support.  Sometimes the client will casually mention some glaring inefficiency that we know could be easily be remedied with a software program.  Read more

Website Designers: Not Always Enough

We’re Not Website Designers.

However… We do a lot of work on websites – just not those things you see on the surface.

We do back-end website development work like:

5 Examples of Advanced Website Functionality

The right technical website functionality can make a huge difference in your business. Here are five common website software development projects we regularly see.

1. Enabling Website Self-Service

Today, do-it-yourself sales and support is a growing trend. Adding features like secure distributor portals or customer knowledge bases provide more autonomy at less expense. Built-in security measures can prevent unauthorized users from accessing private information. Self-service gives you economy of scale to support multiple customers and distributors at once. Less overhead for you!

2. Accepting Orders Online

Spend less time taking orders over the phone. Automate the response process. Smooth streamlined sales features ensure your business is presented as professional and trustworthy.

3. Managing Business Processes

Whatever your business is, technology can usually create an easier way to manage the process from end-to-end. Recent projects we’ve worked on include:

  • For a flower shop, we created a workflow that told the florists which specific flowers went into each bouquet.
  • For an events company, knowing the stage of a project, from lead to delivery.
  • For an insurance company, tracking policy applications through to payment of agent commissions.
  • Sending alerts reminding employees what action needs to be taken next.

What needs to happen next in any process? That’s what we help you automate, so you create consistency and build trust with your clients.

4. Routing Requests

Automating workflow reduces paperwork for you. Don’t let sales or support requests get lost in the virtual shuffle – augmenting online support through your website will take care of that for you! Clients get answers promptly. Support personnel can prioritize cases and keep on top of open support tickets until the issue is resolved. Automation can be set to follow your unique business rules.

5. Integrating Sales with Processing and Shipping

There’s no value in re-typing information, only risk of making mistakes. Setting up software integration one time can send new sales orders directly for processing and recoup your precious time for more valuable things.

If you’re a website designer who wants technical assistance, we’d love to work with you! If you’re a customer who loves their website designer but wants more functionality, we’ll work with your website designer to get you exactly what you need. Request an Explore the Possibilities discussion.

Technology to fuel your business