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- The risk of using outdated information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 File 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:
- OneDrive for Business which comes as part of your Office 365 subscription
- Google Drive which comes with G-Suite
- On-premise computer servers
- Dropbox, Box, AWS, Adobe Cloud or other cloud document storage solution
- If you are confused about the differences between SharePoint and OneDrive, you’re not alone!
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:
- Human Resources
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:
So the file name might look like:
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 / Microsoft 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:
- Deciding where files should be stored (on a server in your office or in the cloud)
- Helping you choose on a cloud hosting platform
- Determining your performance needs when selecting an on-premise computer server
- Building a file archival schedule
- Creating backup and recovery procedures
- 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.