Properly storing files has been a priority for companies, ever since the dawn of computing. 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 just for not being able to find and retrieve already existing information.
This claim is based on the evidence that misplacing a file can force us to re-do hours or even days of work. In this post we list the top 10 tips to easily organize your digital documents.
This post is also available in Spanish.
Why is it important to properly organize your digital documents?
Currently, most of us store our digital files locally, in the cloud and in servers connected to a single network (called NAS, from network-attached storage).
Although great advances have been made in hypertextual searches, maintaining organized files continues to be fundamental to easily manage large amounts of digital documentation.
So, saving and organizing our digital documents is perhaps more complicated than ever before.
Although file search engines continue to improve, keeping and organizing our documents today is a source of competitive advantage, because in the digital economy time is money.
Therefore, companies must establish systems to ensure that all information is organized and updated. It’s also important to not neglect other important benefits of good document management:
- to easily retrieve old versions of specific documents
- to allow remote and simultaneous editing of the same file by multiple people on a team.
There are naturally many software solutions in the market to ease this document management, but today we will focus on top ten recommendations which are independent of any document management software that you may implement into your organization.
Top 10 recommendations to best organize digital documents
1. Establish a protocol on how to store digital information
Create and share among your employees company rules on how to store digital documents. Rules should be precise: how to name folders and files, when to switch between local use or the cloud, and when and how to perform backups, among other rules.
2. Save all of your digital documents in the same folder
Of course, with a subfolder structure. Saving all of your organization’s digital files in this main folder - by default referred to as “My Server” - will make it easier to search and backup.
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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 the meaning and hierarchy over time it’s important to use descriptive formulas (current clients, old clients, invoices, offers, etc …).
4. In addition to being self-explanatory, names should be brief
Descriptive names must also be short. Although Windows allows folder and file names with 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.
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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 to distribute 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 subfolders corresponding to the different fiscal years (2014, 2015, 2016,...).
6. Name digital documents with the date reversed
A good way to name your digital files is by using the last editing date inverted - that means, 20161204 for December 4th, 2016. This way, 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. Store each digital document in the appropriate folder from the beginning
It’s important to properly organize files from the first moment, rather than saving 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
Create subfolders with Old Versions or Inactive files when certain documents become outdated. You never know if you’ll need them in the future.
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9. Be scrupulous with your backups
In the current context, there are different ways to perform a backup:
- a periodic dump of information from a NAS server to a cloud or to a third storage medium (such as an external hard drive)
- storing the information coming from the cloud in some physical device of your own.
10. Review your desktop or local document folder weekly
The challenge: to empty your local document folder and to transfer all of your digital 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.
It’s that 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 digital documents properly in your company. And with this you will take well informed decisions on time. Therefore, the right decisions.
This post is also available in Spanish.