File Management

Hello Everyone - a bit shy here starting a new topic, so please be forgiving, or at least tell me I am doing this wrong if I shouldn’t do it here. I think y’all are fabulous and would love your input.

I am an avid organizer and would love to know everyone’s file management strategies. I manage my organization’s digital files (I am not IT, but I am a manager), and I strongly believe in the most efficient file management system for use by fellow employees. For some background information, I work in a municipal forestry program and I work with people who primarily work in the field and people who exclusively work in the office. We all use Windows and Mac computers to organize PDFs, Excel documents, Word Documents, PPT’s, etc. I am trying to build a file hierarchy that is user friendly (I am constantly thinking about Jed, who only goes into our shared drive to pull tree permit PDFs - “how will Jed know where to look?”). Someone told me once, “don’t worry too much about where things are saved, just make sure the file names make sense for searches.” I really want to believe this, but I am still a strong believer in proper file hierarchy. Another manager told me, “Just share links, don’t worry.” Anyway, I would love your ideas, comments, discussion.

I love you all!

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You need a document management tool. The physical location of the files should be mostly meaningless. They should be tagged with metadata that makes them easy to search for and find. https://www.capterra.com/document-management-software/

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For a one computer set up, this is pretty straight forward - yes, name the files and let Windows index the files. Simple enough to find using Windows Search after that. Add in multiple computers and multiple drives, then it gets a bit more complicated. Use a document management system on the network.

If you have good Internet connection, an alternative is to store the (shared) files on something like OneDrive or Google Drive where they are easily searchable and shareable with other users who have accounts.

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I’d use some form of data management system, whether that is a standard document management system (DMS), like ELO or something that does all types of data, like SharePoint is a personal matter.

ELO and SharePoint (and other similar products, like d3) allow you to also set up tasks and workflows, so a document created at one point automatically flows to the other people who need it - for example a scanned delivery note at goods in gets sent directly to the relevant project/department manager to be checked, when he digitally signs it off, it goes on to bookkeeping, so they can book it into the finance system and pay the bill, for example.

These systems also provide tracking and change control (either a user can’t change the document or the changes are stored, along with the original document, so that you have a history), you can also have access control on sensitive documents - you can see who looked at the document, who modified it, when and why, a lot more powerful than just using the rights on the file system.

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Sharepoint Online is great and comes with some Office 365 Business packages. On prem Sharepoint would take some administration…

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Agreed, but any solution will need proper administration, whether it is setting up the folders and maintaining the access rules or setting up a “proper” document management solution.

We use a mix of ELO and Genesis World at the moment.

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Yep, but at least no need to set up hardware and Sharepoint Online is a bit more sane with defaults. I still think OneDrive may be easier if it is a very limited number of users. Office 365 for x number of users and share OneDrive folders with other users.

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Too long, did not read (TLDR):
Absolutely agree - a good hierarchy is useful! Why not establish and implement a structure and naming scheme suitable for your work subject?

Long form:
Hear hear - I am with you! :slight_smile:

I wonder whether that has more to do with your “work subject landscape” and a simple naming convention and locked-down folder architecture or with search. I know that nowadays, everything appears to drift towards searching and not caring where the file is stored, but this always makes me come close to an anxiety attack.

Especially in an administrational environment, would you not have forms, regulations, meeting minutes, concepts, projects, and that’s about it? Below that the relevant sub-folders. In that, appropriately named files. You might work with main folders that adhere to different analogy-borne rules: one might be “regulations” which would be, as the book of laws, more or less immutable. One person has access and the duty to keep up to date. One might be “projects” which would host the respective project folders, manipulable by the teams. There might be an “other” that is free for all, but might seemingly “auto-delete after two weeks” (move out of sight into limbo for another four weeks before it really deletes).

Sure: searching has come a long way. But for documentation purposes and the ability to efficiently exchange data or onboard a new colleague, setting up something that provides a sensible overview and orientation and not something that requires you to know what to look for might be useful.

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Thank you, all! What a great range of ideas and y’all have given me such a great path to explore. Many thanks to this great community.

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One other thing to remember with using folders and files is that filenames, with path, have a maximum length. If they go beyond that, you can’t copy them or back them up.

E.g. you have on your server D:\Shares\Department\ and the user accesses it over a mapped drive O:\ on their PC. From the maximum path and file length, the first 20 or so characters have already been used, but because the user goes over O:, they can still use the full 255 characters, before Windows complains.

But on the server, you won’t be able to move the files or back them up properly, because the path + name is too long. (I had to cope with this recently with a user that was moved to a new server, I had to manually rename over 500 of around 130,000 files, before I could successfully move her over. If she had accidentally deleted the files, I wouldn’t have been able to restore them - and they included contracts and insurance documents.

A DMS database will handle this better, but requires more administration skills and probably costs money.

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I’m trying so hard not to laugh right now… Where I work, we’ve got a nice Xerox machine that will scan documents into a PDF format, and save them with a date/time stamp. Works fine locally.
Upstream to the regional office, where they get the files from everywhere downstream, all with the same date/time stamps; chaos.:rofl:

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Oh my goodness!!! Thank you for this

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