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Best File Management Practices

File management best practices are often overlooked, but for teams of all sizes, it is important to know how to optimize your workflow. This provides better overall efficiency and productivity for an organization by reducing the risk of errors and even costs when file management is delegated to an outside company’s IT services.

Best File Management Practices These best file management practices can be applied to any type of file in any organization. Information is shared with more employees, and more employees are privileged users. This means that you need to share one or two documents with many people, but those documents should not be accessible to all privileged users.

File management is not one of the first things that comes to mind when people decide to start blogging. It’s always about some plugin or a theme. Those are important, yes, but a file management system you use for your blog is just as critical.

Good file management is more than just organizing your documents with a folder structure. This Best File Management Practices document discusses how to properly name, label, and organize files to effectively manage them.

Managing Information

When you receive a document from a co-worker, vendor, or customer, it’s tempting to “just put it away” in a pile on your desk or drawer, or to keep it in your email inbox or downloads folder. “Hmm. Looks interesting, but I’ll take a closer look at this later, when I’ve got more time.” Sound familiar?

After a while, many such documents build up, leading to clutter. And it becomes less and less likely that you’ll ever find time to go back and get all of that information organized.

Meanwhile, you can spend lots of precious time searching for documents that have got lost in all the mess.

So why not take a different approach, to ensure that you’re always confident of finding things when you need them?

Effective File Management

Here are seven ways to manage your documents and files efficiently and effectively:

1. Avoid saving unnecessary documents.

Don’t make a habit of saving everything that finds its way to you. Take a few seconds to glance through the content, and keep a file only if it’s relevant to your work activity, or required by your business. Having too many unnecessary documents adds to clutter and makes it harder to find things in the future.

2. Follow a consistent method for naming your files and folders.

For instance, divide a main folder into subfolders for customers, vendors, and co-workers. Use shortened names to identify what or who the folders relate to. You can even use color coding to make it easier to identify different categories of folders.

3. Store related documents together, whatever their type.

For example, store reports, letters, presentation notes, spreadsheets, and graphics related to a particular project in a single folder – rather than having one folder for presentations for all projects, another folder for spreadsheets for all projects, and so on. That way, you’ll be much faster finding documents for a particular project.

4. Separate ongoing work from completed work.

Some people prefer to keep current or ongoing work on their desk or computer desktop until a job is completed. Then, once it’s done, they move it to the appropriate location, where files of the same category are stored. At periodic intervals (for example, weekly or every two weeks), move files you’re no longer working on to the folders where your completed work is stored.

5. Avoid overfilling folders.

If you have a large number of files in one folder, or a large number of subfolders in a main folder, break them into smaller groups (subfolders or sub-subfolders). For instance, you could divide a folder called “Business Plan” into subfolders called “BP2021,” “BP2022,” and “BP2023.” Likewise, you might divide a folder for a client named Delta Traders into subfolders named “Delta Traders sales presentations” and “Delta Traders contracts.” The idea is to place every file into a logical folder or subfolder, rather than have one huge list of files.

6. Organize documents by date.

Make sure that the date of a document is clear, by highlighting it or adding it to a paper document, or including it in the title of an electronic one. That will help you to organize your documents chronologically, without having to open each one. And you’ll then be able to find them more easily in future.

7. Make digital copies of paper documents.

This is useful if you don’t have much space to store paper documents; you want to archive documents without destroying them completely; you need to share documents electronically; or you want to make your information storage more secure. (This won’t be appropriate for all types of documents, though – for example, legal contracts or documents with original signatures – so use your best judgment here.)

Sound organizational practices are vital to minimizing confusion in any file system. Here are a few surefire file management tips that will help you keep the most helter-skelter infrastructure in order.

1. Devise a Good File Naming Strategy

Even the most promising file management regimen will fail you without consistent labeling conventions. The best file names are generally short and sweet since longer ones can cause issues when factoring in the full path name. Whether they’re built around abbreviations or corporate culture, make sure users have a set of guidelines to follow. The last thing a company needs is a rules-free environment that lets employees randomly come up with their own zany file names.

2. Build a Folder Structure

Locating files is a breeze with a solid folder structure. Sometimes it’s as simple as creating a pool of subfolders and grouping similar files together. An aspiring managed service provider could create a “Graphics” folder that contains all the images the IT guy gathered for logo ideas. A “Services” folder might contain subfolders for “Application Management”, “Network Monitoring”, “Security” and other specialties that will make up the firm’s portfolio of offerings. Remember to keep your subfolders to a minimum in order to maintain an at-a-glance view of the main contents.

3. Optimize with Metadata

Folders are useful, but can be problematic when you’ve got hundreds housing thousands of files. This is where metadata demonstrates its value. Metadata will tell you how big your files are, when they were created, and who has permission to access them. The secret to making the most of this asset is keeping metadata in mind from the outset. Take a little time to add those keywords, tags, and descriptions when creating your files. You’ll be happy you did when you have the luxury to sort through and find the files you need at a moment’s notice.

4. Plan for Retention

Different industries have different regulations that dictate how long you are required to keep data. Whether you operate in the financial arena or healthcare field, a good retention strategy will help you come up with policies on archiving, modifying, and removing specific files up until a designated maturity date. A good backup plan powered by a solid backup and disaster recovery solution will take in account all the organization’s storage needs. For added efficiency, IT managers can create rules that govern who has permission to perform actions such as editing, moving, and purging those files.

5. Dump the Dead Weight 

My email provider probably hates me by now. I rarely use my personal email account these days. That means I regularly have anywhere from two to three thousands messages racked on their server. Be it emails or images, there is no need to keep every single file that comes your way. Being a file hoarder will simply create a chaotic environment filled with clutter that takes up precious space and makes stuff harder to find. Conduct an internal audit every month or so to check for and dump anything that doesn’t bring value to the table. This goes for copies of old stuff you have stored elsewhere, too.

6. Bring Your File Infrastructure Online

Even for today’s robust hard drives it is a challenge to support the many tasks a business runs on a daily basis. PowerPoint presentations, podcasts, and spreadsheets all equate to files that eat up space as well as resources like RAM and processing punch. You can free up local resources and streamline a huge chunk of your file system by bringing these activities. For instance, a company wiki will provide a destination staff can use to find presentation notes and other documents. Meanwhile, cloud apps like Google Docs can support spreadsheets and other office files you typically manage offline.

7. Think About Cloud Storage

With files across servers, external drives, and remote sites, cloud computing is at least worth some consideration. Cloud storage with Google is a very attractive option, offering a whopping 15 gigs of online space for free. These type of services in general are incredibly easy to use, making it simple to share files and collaborate with team members. You can work from desktops, mobile phones, or wherever there’s an internet connection. Of course there’s always a pro plan you can bump up to if you need more storage. These may also unlock additional tools that come in handy for managing your files online. Beware though to think of cloud storage as backup for your data – is it certainly not designed for that.

Extra Tips

1. Use the Default Installation Folders for Program Files

Use the default file locations when installing application programs. Under Windows, by convention application program files reside under the (Drive Letter:)->Program Files directory. Installing applications elsewhere is confusing and unnecessary. 

2. One Place for All Documents

Place all documents under a single “root” folder. For a single user in a Windows environment, the default location is the My Documents folder.2

In a file sharing environment try to do the same. Create a single root folder (called “Shared Documents” for example) and store all documents in subfolders inside the root folder. Having a single location for all electronic documents makes it easier to find things and to run backups and archives.

 3. Create Folders in a Logical Hierarchy

These are the drawers of your computer’s filing cabinet, so to speak. Use plain language to name your folders; you don’t want to be looking at this list of folders in the future and wondering what “TFK” or whatever other interesting abbreviation you invented means.

4. Nest Folders Within Folders

Create other folders within these main folders as need arises. For instance, a folder called “Invoices” might contain folders called “2018”, “2017” and “2016”. A folder named for a client might include the folders “customer data” and “correspondence”. The goal is to have every file in a folder rather than having a bunch of orphan files listed.


Storing paper documents is feasible and works well in certain cases, but in this electronic age it’s often not the best option. Because when you think of your records or documents, do you EVER consider storing them on paper? Sure you can keep a copy around the office, perhaps even while traveling; but long-term storage is best accomplished electronically. When it comes to managing the files, data and information in your office, you have a lot of options. You can use a simple iPad app to store them, an old-fashioned filing cabinet or a cloud storage service like Dropbox to keep track of all your important data. There are many different solutions out there for you to choose from when it comes to creating a solid file management system for your home office as well as for your business. The truth is that none of these solutions may be the best fit for you or your employees, so evaluating how much you will use them is a crucial step before investing in any new software.

There are many choices for managing and archiving personal hard copy files, such as photo and memorabilia. While there may not be a best practice for all situations where files are involved, there are some universal file management best practices that anyone can follow to keep files safe.

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