Digital File Management Tips

Digital file management is an ongoing challenge. We not only store files on desktops, laptops and mobile devices but everything can also be sent to the cloud for storage. Add-in file sharing and keeping electronic file management systems neat, organized with naming structures easy for all to remember can become a file management nightmare.

Statistics show that 7.5% of an organization’s documents are lost and 3 % are misfiled.  This means companies spend as much as 50% of their time looking for misfiled files, which is a loss in productivity. Proper organization of digital documents is critical. It is vital that your file structure and the naming convention is simple, makes sense to all parties who share and access the files and can be easily maintained.

Signs that you need digital file organization intervention:

  • Your desktop has over 40 icons
  • You use the windows search feature every time you need to find a file
  • You can’t find programs
  • You save all your word documents in one folder
  • Any file you are looking could be in any one of four or more folders

Choosing your organization system takes thought and time.

  1. Devise a good file naming strategy

Depending on how large your business is it is a good idea to have a team of people working together on creating a good file naming strategy. Remember no one thinks alike and what may seem simple to you will not always make sense to the next person. Keep it logical; simple and keep file names from being excessively long.

My experience in database management gave me several opportunities with different companies to devise a good naming strategy that was simple and made sense to the industry. When I worked for higher education, the curriculum development department would name the files based on the project number. It seems like a good idea, right? The problem was that the other departments were not aware of the project numbers so this created a problem. The challenge was to create a new system that would be easy to access campus-wide. A committee was formed and after much discussion, it was decided the easiest solution was to keep the files named in the same manner as the courses listed in the course catalog such has ECON102. This made it super easy for administrators, instructors and support staff to access the files.

  1. Build a Folder Structure

Using my ECON102 example the “root” folder was ECON102, within that folder was a subfolder of ECON102 graphics, ECON 102 video, ECON 102 student worksheets or whatever another document was needed for that course.

On a small business model, you may have a root folder titled: Financials and then subfolders with the year ‘2020’ and withing the year more folders for invoices, etc.

WARNING!! Be careful of overly long file names. When you decide on your system, stick to it!!

Be diligent in sticking to your system and don’t just start dumping things on your desktop.  Spend the extra few seconds to file new files where they belong. It will make it easier int he long run and especially if you share files.

For example, this is a sample of one of my file structures

⇒ Documents

    ⇒  BOD
⇒ 2020 BOD
⇒ 01 2020 BOD
⇒ 02 2020 BOD

⇒ Marketing

⇒ Logos
⇒ Member Logos
⇒ Chamber Logos

  1. Dump the deadweight

This is especially important in email. It is too easy to have our inboxes filled with thousands of emails. Don’t be a file hoarder. Not every email needs to be kept. It is important to dump old files. If it hasn’t been used in over a year and does not bring value then dump it. The exception is financial documents and records. If you scan your documents digitally and run regular backups then you don’t need to keep paper copies.

  1. Use Shortcuts and the cloud.

If you have a poplar folder that you access all the time instead of creating a copy, create a shortcut on your desktop. The shortcut still keeps the file structure and is just a virtual pointer without creating a duplicate. Remember you can delete the shortcut and it won’t delete the original file. NEVER, never have two copies of the same file, use shortcuts.

  1. Backup Files regularly

I cannot stress enough the importance of running regular backups. If you have ever experienced a system crash with data loss you know the headaches and heartaches this causes. Block time on your work calendar for at least a weekly backup.

When I worked for higher education the curriculum development was backed up nightly on a server and then a second back up weekly was also generated on a jazz drive. As luck would have it the server crashed and after sending the hard drive off for recovery, we learned that no files could be recovered. The secondary backup on a Jazz drive was neglected and not backed up regularly. The department had to spend hours of time and labor recreating files. Your diligence with backups will pay off. Having a simple file structure makes the backup easy and seamless.

Digital File Management is essential in today’s technological age. Having a simple streamline system is achievable. Whatever system is created be sure that the naming and file structure is documented and taught to all staff. Schedule in the time to clean house regularly, run scheduled backups. Following these simple steps will make file management must easier and you won’t lose productivity time by searching for files.

Cheryl Viola, Executive Director


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