XU Magazine - Issue 17

From the experts: How to create a beautiful file system

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Written by Kim Anderson

It might feel a little counter intuitive, putting the words ‘filing system’ and ‘beautiful’ in the same sentence, but believe us, when you experience it for yourself, there’ll be nothing but positive adjectives that come to mind.

What is a Beautiful File System?

We’re not talking multi-coloured manila folders and stylish storage boxes. As you know, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and when it comes to your system’s inner beauty, it’s all about order, consistency and structure.

Why does it matter?

With good filing habits and engrained processes, come added benefits:

  • Improved security – all your documents are stored in one secure location, accessible to the right people.
  • Improved accessibility and findability – Everyone can find the right document when they need to. This is particularly important when staff leave.
  • Improved organisation – Files are where they should be and they’re easy to find.
  • Less bloat – Knowing what files you want to save and where will limit potential clutter that will bloat your file system over time.
  • Time saving – Keeping good filing habits will make managing your documents easier and save time that you might otherwise spend cleaning up after people.

Storage Shed vs Library

There’s much more to creating an effective storage system that may meet the eye. It starts with an important mindset shift: treating your file system like file management, rather than simply file storage. It can help to think of it like a storage shed versus a library.

A storage shed is simply a space to put your files and data. It’s basically a place to dump your ‘stuff,’ where it’s ineffective and unorganised, cluttered and chaotic.

On the other hand, in a file management space, your files are active; they’re ready to be used effectively, it’s beautifully organised with a naming convention, you know where to look, and you know where to put files – in much the same way that a library maintains order to its shelves.

Implementing Change

So, you understand why it’s important, now what do you need to do to make it happen? There are some common behaviours which will impact your business’ ability to maintain a good system, so here’s where change needs to happen:

  • Filing is not a last minute task

Filing needs to be included as a regular and consistent part of any project, rather than treated as an unprioritised administrative task. To make it manageable, get in the habit of filing as you go.

  • Don’t forget about email and attachments

With the majority of correspondence undertaken over email, it’s important to not forget about filing emails, along with documents and attachments. As staff changeovers occur, or correspondence is deleted, there is potential for important pieces to the puzzle to be omitted from project files.

  • Remember to archive or delete files regularly

Filing systems need regular maintenance to prevent them from getting unruly. That includes clearing out unnecessary documents or folders that are otherwise taking up storage space or causing confusion.

  • Use consistent file-naming conventions

A file naming convention is a framework for naming your files in a way that explicitly describes what they contain, and how they relate to other files. It groups similar information together, making it easy and quick to find what you’re looking for, while also helping others better navigate through your work.

  • Create a pre-determined folder structure

Have clear, enforceable guidelines and processes for how you file and manage documents in your business. Even better, automate these workflows. These processes will be unique to your business depending on what you value and how you prefer to work.

  • Manage all your files in one place

Data sprawl is where pieces of data are filed or stored in different places, like apps or individual desktops. However, having a central ‘home’ for your files makes it dramatically easier to keep track of important documents and to work on the right version of a file.

  • Move to the cloud

Relying on paper files or terminal servers can leave you open to risk that impacts on the overall security and productivity of your business. Instead, a cloud file management service is centralised, accessible, secure, curated and backed up, while also automating the process for a more streamlined system.

  • Back up, back up, back up

A full backup of your files should be taken on a regular basis and kept somewhere safe. Whether you want to keep an online copy and a hard drive copy is up to you. Online services, such as SuiteFiles, make backups a simple and integrated part of managing your files.

Having a systematic, logical filing system will deliver the stability and reliability that your business needs as it scales. It’s not just for the benefit of internal stakeholders; a beautifully organised filing system will influence your ability to find files, and to know what their contents will be, helping your business avoid roadblocks in workflow, communication and project deliverables for clients and partners.

Remember, change doesn’t happen overnight, however the long-term benefits of a beautiful filing system will be worth the time and productivity efficiencies it delivers to your team going forward.

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About the author

Kim Anderson

Marketing Manager, SuiteFiles. Kim is the Jane-of-all-trades Marketing Manager at SuiteFiles. After falling into software a bit by accident, she’s now a passionate advocate for better tech and people-focused processes for businesses.