We’ve all been there. Digital systems like Dropbox, Google Drive, or similar platforms for managing electronic files can be a lifesaver, but they also can be an absolute nightmare. What could be a slick and efficient tool is nothing more than a virtual junk drawer, with ten different shorthand systems being employed by ten different well-intentioned team members. It makes sense to them, but doesn’t help you when you’re hunting for those essential digital files or electronic documents.
The tips, tricks, and “life-changing hacks” abound, but how about some practical advice to help you reclaim your systems? And trust us: as a company specializing in IT services and solutions, we’ve been around the block a time or two.
The importance of creating a folder structure
In other words, you’d never unleash 200 construction workers on a job site and tell them to wing it and do what makes sense to them… You’d have chaos. And you’d never trust the elevator.
You need a clear structure that supports the whole system, and it has to be repeatable and consistent. Otherwise, how are you going to keep track of thousands of files?
Before you get granular, step back, take a deep breath, and think through the broad categories for the files and sub-folders. Maybe: Marketing, Accounting, Onboarding/HR, Community Initiatives, etc. These are the large umbrellas that you can nest other assets and individual documents within.
Make sure the file structure is shared
This should NOT be a system that’s only on one computer, or saved to your hard drive. It really needs to be part of your shared network, ideally cloud-based for easy remote access as well. You can restrict individual document access, if needed, securing financial documents or sensitive business documents that should only be shared with select team members.
Communicate with the team
Get everyone’s input as you build the structure and document libraries since everyone will benefit from (and utilize) the new system. Plus, someone else may have an insight, idea, or request that should be implemented early on.
Make it mandatory
Planning, deploying, and leveraging a large shared folder system is a team effort. It has to be used with 100% consistency, not considered optional. And there can be no other “private” folder systems used by the team except for very special circumstances. Make it official with a Records Management Policy.
What’s the best way to organize my files?
We’d also recommend creating a template folder at this point as well, just to make it super easy to replicate the system across your entire organization.
Get consistent with descriptive file names
Maybe it’s: client name – project type – date. Who knows? You need to make it your own, but once you do, own it. And make sure that your team knows how to follow the same file naming conventions to ensure complete consistency. This will make it MUCH easier to find the occasional rogue file now and then too.
Less is not more when it comes to subfolders. In fact, we’d encourage you to make plenty! Even if you map it out on a whiteboard, or piece of paper to start, brainstorm your anchor subfolders that sit under each primary folder in your master structure. Draw an arrow down to a folder that should be within that (maybe organized by year), then down to the subfolder within that. The goal is to have a clear folder descension, leading you deeper and deeper into your system until you find the single file you’re looking for.
Ambiguity is the enemy
Folders with names like “Important” need to be erased from the face of the earth. Make sure your folders and subfolder names are crystal clear, telling you exactly what you can expect to find within it. Critical documents should be clearly labeled and accessible.
More quick file management tips
- Keep a folder for temporary files. Not every file needs a permanent home, taking up storage space and adding to virtual clutter. Just be sure you have a timeline and system in place for emptying this folder (maybe on a certain day of each month).
- Never mix business and personal files. Your structure and subfolders need to be shared, accessible, and business-only.
- Have a back-up system! Backup and disaster recovery planning is essential for any business, protecting against prolonged network downtime and the loss of critical files and data. This will help to support your legal requirements (and retention requirements) as well.
- Take it to the cloud! As we mentioned above, cloud-based collaboration is a game-changer, especially in today’s remote work environments. It’s essential that your team can access, modify, and add to shared folders and files from anywhere, leveraging cutting-edge storage devices.
- Don’t lose sight of security requirements. Whether your systems are premise-based or in the cloud, security is a must. Here’s an additional resource you may find helpful: Why Are Small Businesses Targeted By Hackers?
Need help with file management and IT solutions?
Reach out to our team at Teltek! We specialize in solutions for a wide variety of industries and applications, connecting you with real answers to your technology needs.