The 10 best tips to easily organize your digital documents

Posted by media on December 27, 2016 at 9:00 AM

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Properly storing files has been an obsession and priority ever since the dawn of computing. Although great advances have been made in hypertextual searches, maintaining organized files continues to be fundamental to easily manage large amounts of documents.

Currently, most of us store our files locally, in the cloud and in servers connected to a single network (called NAS, from network-attached storage). So, saving and organizing our documents is perhaps more important, and at the same time, more complicated than before.

This claim is based on the evidence that misplacing a file can force us to re-do hours or even days of work. In fact, there is literature that supports this statement from a quantitative viewpoint: according to the widely cited whitepaper - The High Cost of Not Finding Information - by IDC, a global provider of market intelligence for the IT sector - a company with 1,000 workers loses almost 45,500 euros per month and 2.4 million per year just for not being able to find and retrieve already existing information.  

In this post we will list the 10 best recommendations so that the documents in your company are organized impeccably.

This post is also available in Spanish.

Organizing our files well is a source of competitive advantage

Although file search engines continue to improve, and hopefully in the future a file's location will become irrelevant, keeping and organizing our documents today is a source of competitive advantage, because in the digital economy time is money.

Timely access to critical information
separates the winners from the losers
in today’s information economy.

Source: The High Cost of Not Finding Information

Therefore, companies must establish and consolidate systems to ensure that all information is organized and updated, and to ensure that they do not neglect other benefits that could be instrumental - such as the possibility to easily retrieve old versions of specific documents, or to allow remote and simultaneous editing of the same file by multiple people on a team. 

There are naturally many solutions in the market to ease this document management, but today we will focus on ten recommendations, which are independent of any software or protocol that you may implement into your organization.

Top 10 recommendations to correctly organize digital documents

1. Establish a protocol on how to store information

Create and share among your employees a governance or company rules on how to store information. This should address specific rules on how to name folders and files, when to switch local use with the network or the cloud, and when and how to perform backups.

2. Save all of your documents in the same folder

Of course, with a subfolder structure. Incorporating all of your organization’s files in this main folder - commonly referred to as “My Server” or with a similar name - will make it easier to search and backup.

3. Use self-explanatory names

It’s very important to use self-explanatory names for folders and files. Acronyms may seem like a good idea to abbreviate, but in order to continue interpreting its meaning and hierarchy over time it’s important to use descriptive formulas (current clients, old clients, invoices, offers, …).

4. In addition to being self-explanatory, names should be brief

Related to the previous point, do not allow the descriptive names to get out of hand. Although Windows allows folder and file names up to 260 characters, be brief, separate words with underscores and avoid using any strange characters that may make those names incompatible with other platforms.

5. The greater the volume of information, the greater the need for sub-folders

Over time, your files’ complexity is sure to increase, as the amount of files increases. In this moment, consider incorporating subfolders that share the information. For example, if a directory with invoices grows exponentially, don't delete the old ones nor create a new folder: instead, put them in a subfolder corresponding to the different fiscal years (2014, 2015, 2016,...).

6. Code files with the date reversed

To code specific files, head their names with the last editing date inverted - that means, 20161204 for December 4th, 2016 - so that when alphabetically ordering a folder, it will be  automatically organized by dates. At the end of the name, it's also recommended to include numbers of successive versions (_v2, _v3, _v4...).

7. Assign each file to the appropriate folder from the first storage

It’s important to properly organize files from the first moment, rather than falling into the recurring temptation to save them first locally and later move them to where they belong. This is an unnecessary step that often leads to the “disappearance” of the document in question.

8. Don’t delete anything

Opt to create subfolders with Old Versions or Inactive files when certain documents become redundant or irrelevant - two circumstances that can easily change over time.

9. Be scrupulous with your backups

In the current context, backups can revolve around the periodic dump of information from a NAS server to a cloud, or to a third storage medium (such as an external hard drive). Another option is to store the information coming from the cloud in some physical device of your own.

10. Review your desktop or local document folder weekly  

The challenge: leave your local document folder empty and transfer all of your content to your server, so that it is properly stored in the appropriate folder.  

Although they often go unnoticed, the costs of not finding the right information when it’s needed are enormous. It is not only about the time lost looking for information that may not be stored, or about the time lost duplicating documents that are there but can't be found, but about accessing relevant information in the right time is crucial to make the right decisions.

After all, the problems that arise from bad decisions are simply a failure in the information used (because it is wrong, obsolete, etc.). We hope these 10 tips will contribute to organizing the documents properly in your company, and with this you will take decisions that are well informed, on time, and are therefore the right decisions

This post is also available in Spanish.

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Topics: Productivity

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