Calm the File Frenzy: 7 Best Practices of File Management and Archiving

OCTOBER 23RD, 2014
My laptop is barely over a year old and already I've accumulated thousands of files. I can imagine how hectic it is in a company network environment that caters to dozens or hundreds of people. Even companies that made the transition from manilla folders and file cabinets to digital files and hard drives face tremendous challenges in managing their informational assets. And unfortunately, those challenges come with some serious downsides.Statistics show that 7.5 percent of an organization's documents are lost entirely, while another 3 percent are misfiled, victims of the human blunder bug that strikes ever so often. 90 percent are shuffled throughout the file system. This resuls in lost production as companies spend as much as 50 percent of their time looking for them. In terms of money, they spend roughly $120 in labor tracking down the misfiles. They spend another $220 reproducing those written off as gone and never to be seen again.
Sound organizational practices are vital to minimizing confusion in any file system. Here are a few surefire file management tips that will help you keep the most helter-skelter infrastructure in order.1. Devise a Good File Naming StrategyEven the most promising file management regimen will fail you without consistent labeling conventions. The best file names are generally short and sweet since longer ones can cause issues when factoring in the full path name. Whether they're built around abbreviations or corporate culture, make sure users have a set of guidelines to follow. The last thing a company needs is a rules-free environment that lets employees randomly come up with their own zany file names.2. Build a Folder StructureLocating files is a breeze with a solid folder structure. Sometimes it's as simple as creating a pool of subfolders and grouping similar files together. An aspiring managed service provider could create a “Graphics” folder that contains all the images the IT guy gathered for logo ideas. A “Services” folder might contain subfolders for “Application Management”, “Network Monitoring”, “Security” and other specialties that will make up the firm's portfolio of offerings. Remember to keep your subfolders to a minimum in order to maintain an at-a-glance view of the main contents.3. Optimize with MetadataFolders are useful, but can be problematic when you've got hundreds housing thousands of files. This is where metadata demonstrates its value. Metadata will tell you how big your files are, when they were created, and who has permission to access them. The secret to making the most of this asset is keeping metadata in mind from the outset. Take a little time to add those keywords, tags, and descriptions when creating your files. You'll be happy you did when you have the luxury to sort through and find the files you need at a moment's notice.4. Plan for RetentionDifferent industries have different regulations that dictate how long you are required to keep data. Whether you operate in the financial arena or healthcare field, a good retention strategy will help you come up with policies on archiving, modifying, and removing specific files up until a designated maturity date. A good backup plan powered by a solid backup and disaster recovery solution will take in account all the organization's storage needs. For added efficiency, IT managers can create rules that govern who has permission to perform actions such as editing, moving, and purging those files.5. Dump the Dead Weight My email provider probably hates me by now. I rarely use my personal email account these days. That means I regularly have anywhere from two to three thousands messages racked on their server. Be it emails or images, there is no need to keep every single file that comes your way. Being a file hoarder will simply create a chaotic environment filled with clutter that takes up precious space and makes stuff harder to find. Conduct an internal audit every month or so to check for and dump anything that doesn't bring value to the table. This goes for copies of old stuff you have stored elsewhere, too.6. Bring Your File Infrastructure OnlineEven for today's robust hard drives it is a challenge to support the many tasks a business runs on a daily basis. PowerPoint presentations, podcasts, and spreadsheets all equate to files that eat up space as well as resources like RAM and processing punch. You can free up local resources and streamline a huge chunk of your file system by bringing these activities. For instance, a company wiki will provide a destination staff can use to find presentation notes and other documents. Meanwhile, cloud apps like Google Docs can support spreadsheets and other office files you typically manage offline.7. Think About Cloud StorageWith files across servers, external drives, and remote sites, cloud computing is at least worth some consideration. Cloud storage with Google is a very attractive option, offering a whopping 15 gigs of online space for free. These type of services in general are incredibly easy to use, making it simple to share files and collaborate with team members. You can work from desktops, mobile phones, or wherever there's an internet connection. Of course there's always a pro plan you can bump up to if you need more storage. These may also unlock additional tools that come in handy for managing your files online. Beware though to think of cloud storage as backup for your data - is it certainly not designed for that.Do You Need Third Party Software?In the event that your file system is treading toward out of hand, you may want to consider investing in a third party document management system. This type of software can help you store, organize, and retrieve files on a day to day basis. Or you could go the DIY route of drawing up a strategy looking at existing resources, company policies, and computer management skills. Either way, good file management is essential to improving access to data, increasing productivity, and meeting compliance requirements. Respect it! Like this article? Check out fellow Recovery Zone writer Christine Hall’s article on storage management policies.

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