The Case of the Missing File

Have you ever found yourself searching in vain for a client presentation on which you need to make final edits? How about being unable to locate a vendor invoice you just downloaded? Or, maybe a client proposal is ready to go to the next stage of review, but it’s gone missing. Would you like to solve the case of the missing file permanently? A well-designed file management solution that makes sense for your organization will eliminate the need for detective skills and make locating necessary files easy.

As you develop a system that works for your organization, consider the following questions.

  • Why is file management important?
  • What do I do about file sharing and collaboration?
  • How can I design a system that everyone will use?
  • Where is the best place to store files?
  • Are there software solutions that can help?

Why is file management important?

Files are critical to an organization’s existence. Whether they contain financials, day-to- day operational data, or client information, files need to be cared for so business isn’t impacted. Good file management practices will yield higher productivity and lower operational costs. Here are some basics to consider when establishing a file management strategy.

  • Storage Options – Factor in accessibility, security, cost, and scalability as you select an appropriate storage option.
  • Folder Structure and Naming Conventions – Create a simple, clear folder structure for storing files and implement a naming convention guide for files that is easy to use and supports version control.
  • Duplicate Files– Avoid file duplication by using shortcuts to provide easy accessibility to key files instead of duplicating a frequently accessed file in multiple locations.
  • Version Control – Enable effective document collaboration with a comprehensive mechanism for version control.
  • Backup and Restore Solutions – Ensure business continuity and limit data loss with backup and restore solutions that enable file and system recovery in the event of a hardware or system outage.

See Improve Efficiency with an Effective File Structure for more details.

What do I do about file sharing and collaboration?

Tools for sharing files provide access to electronic files by more than one person and can include simultaneous access to multiple users or sequential access for one user at a time.

  • File Sharing generally means that only one person is accessing the electronic file at a time and does not usually require specialized software.
  • Collaboration refers to simultaneous access for multiple people which typically is accomplished through a software solution.

See Achieve Better Team Collaboration with File Sharing for more details.

How can I design a system that everyone will use?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic formula for designing an effective file system and ensuring that it is used. However, the less complicated the better. Some effective groupings to use are category, date, or department. Considering the following factors in your design will help to increase adoption and use.

  • Departmental Requirements – Keep in mind that different departments or functions may use and access files differently.
  • Subfolders – Use subfolders thoughtfully and intentionally.
  • Documentation and Training – Develop adequate documentation for reference and provide training to support the transition.

See Achieve Better Team Collaboration with File Sharing for more details.

Where is the best place to store files?

There are multiple options for storing files. While there are pros and cons for each, you need to review solutions carefully to determine which is the best one for your business. Consider these primary factors when selecting a location for your business to store files.

  • Accessibility – Does your data need to be accessible outside the office? Providing remote access requires attention to security precautions as well as uptime protocols.
  • Privacy and Security Requirements – Are there requirements for privacy and security to which your organization must adhere? Where and how your data is stored may be subject to mandated privacy and security requirements depending on your industry, client/customer demographic, and other factors.

See Select a File Storage Solution That’s Right for Your Business for more details.

Are there software solutions that can help?

Yes, there are many software options that can assist with file sharing, collaboration, and version control. Determining which solution is the right choice for you depends on organizational size and complexity, business needs, and financial investment for initial implementation as well as ongoing maintenance.

  • File Sharing - Popular cloud-based file storage solutions include Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive (part of Office365). Other options can be found in this article. These solutions provide file storage and access to files from anywhere, any time. They may also provide some synchronizing functionality, but not a complete collaboration or version control solution.
  • Document and File Management Systems - File management software provides the ability to organize, edit, and track the workflow of files as well as document collaboration and sometimes version control. Sharepoint is Microsoft’s file collaboration solution and is part of Office365. Other file management solution options can be found in this article. Document management systems (DMS) provide the capability to store, manage, and track electronic documents as well as images of paper-based files. DMS options can be found in this article.

See Select a File Storage Solution That’s Right for Your Business for more details.

Navigating the options for file management can be daunting, and ensuring that you don’t spend more than you need to on a solution is a must. Ninestone has the experience to support you in this effort. Let us help you define and implement a strategy that fits your organization and business needs.

Additional Resources

Debbie Crooke, Principal Consultant

January 2019