Most offices I visit today still have tons of paper files hanging around, their electronic file structure is all out of whack, and they have the same information in multiple places. This is a great time of year to get organized! Getting electronically organized is not as hard as most people think. So why are people wasting hours per week looking for files?
2. Poor electronic filing system so files can’t be found easily
3. Sharing documents is difficult
4. Fear of losing the electronic copy (i.e. not trusting their backup)
Breaking the Habit
This is the hardest part to organizing yourself electronically. Most of the reasons people give for printing a document, misfiling a document, or not being able to find the files they need have to do with habit or not wanting to change the procedure. Creating a core structure for electronic documents is just the beginning. People need to know where things are and why so they can find them easily and start developing new habits. Then you have to give your users peace of mind that their documents are safe. Here are some tips for creating an organized and protected electronic storage system.
Solving Poor Electronic Filing
Stashing all your documents within a single folder–whether electronic or paper–makes using the system difficult and time-consuming. It is best to create an electronic file structure based on a categorized outline structure, which simplifies the process of filing data in electronic formats. Create your file structure with these simple steps:
1. Choosing a Destination – C: drive, server, Cloud, etc. Files need a consistent home
2. Creating a File Structure – Create logical folders (i.e. HR, Accounting, Customers, Parts, Proposals, etc.)
3. Organizing Your Files – separate your files by the categories you created and file them consistently
4. Developing Standard Naming Conventions – Don’t name your files generically. Come up with a naming structure that is easy for everyone to follow and is consistent (i.e. Item name – topic – date = Johnson Proposal – web design – 5-16-13).
Documents on the Go
This is another habit that needs to be broken. People will print a document to take with them to refer to. Or people will email items to the same person all the time with updates. Google Drive makes transporting and sharing documents so much more efficient.
1. You don’t have to worry about duplicate copies of the same document in multiple places.
2. You can access the information you need from anywhere you have an internet connection.
3. If your laptop or mobile device is stolen your data isn’t. It’s still in the cloud ready to access.
4. You can update proposals, pricing, documents, etc. real time!
Backups need to be Redundant for Peace of Mind
One in 10 computer or server hard drives will fail. In addition to the individual computer cost, the time required to re-enter or re-create data carries a cost. It is estimated that data worth about 1 cent can cost up to $1,500 to re-create or reenter. Even though backing up takes time, attention, and money, it can save even greater amounts of time and money. Plus electronic data is much easier to recover than say a paper document that accidently shredded or in a fire.
Backups need to be redundant. Why? Because one in 10 hard drives fail and you’re probably backing up your data on a hard drive. So:
1. Create a backup system that captures all your data files
2. Then create a secondary backup that backs up your backup!
3. And remember to always keep at least one copy of your backup offsite for disaster recovery
Now you just have to monitor those backups and ensure they are properly working. This will give you piece of mind.
Creating an electronic filing system isn’t difficult. Breaking bad habits and creating a system that works for your team is the hard part. Be sure to get your teams input when creating your file structure and picking tools to use. This will ensure that the team is on board with the idea and will be more likely to file things properly going forward.