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File Management

File management is the process of assembling all data into a single organizable and scalable system. A well-developed file management infrastructure helps teams get quick access to a needed asset, streamlines workflows, and helps avoid information losses.

Here are the processes that are included in file management:

  • 1.
    Creating new files
  • 2.
    Organizing existing assets into an easy-to-navigate library.
  • 3.
    Moving files to different orders
  • 4.
    File sharing
  • 5.
    Asset protection and data backup.

Benefits of File Organization Software

Creating a system for managing digital files is vital for business owners and team managers since it promotes collaboration, introduces order, and structure into the workflow.

Here are the main benefits of developing a file management infrastructure:

1. Improved security

Keeping all data in a single protected library helps reduce the risk of leaks or third-party attacks. On the contrary, storing files across different platforms makes it harder for team managers to control who has access to data and prevent asset misuse.

There are a lot of tools file management platforms implement:

  • 1.
    Multi-factor user authentication
  • 2.
    Data encryption
  • 3.
    Customizable access settings
  • 4.
    Tracking file edits and keeping access logs
  • 5.
    File backups.

2. Streamlining workflows

File management platforms create a single source of truth where your team’s entire data library is stored. This way, the entire team has free access to needed files, can review assets or suggest edits.

Other than that, using a file management system facilitates employee onboarding - a new hire will have a clear understanding of what types of content and at which frequency his teammates create.

A newly-onboarded employee can even use the assets uploaded by seniors as a reference point for the content he’s working on.

3. No risk of data loss

Your team’s productive time is essential. That’s why business owners should eliminate one of the key factors eating up the working hours of their employees - re-creating assets from scratch because the old version is no longer accessible.

File management is a powerful way to solve this problem. It’s a reliable archive for all files created by your team. File management systems allow business owners to store files created weeks, months, or years ago promoting reusing assets instead of creating new versions from scratch.

Additional features & their value

File comparison software also brings you lots of value thanks to its extra features. For example, you may benefit from simple & robust version control. This solution will help you store your revision piling them up one onto another instead of saving them all across the storage as separate versions.

With version control, your revisions are also marked in chronological order. So you can see how your content has changed over time. The latest version always stays on top unless you decide to return to a specific version of your file. Then you make this revision as current – and it becomes the main in your library.

For images & videos, you’d get more visuality placing them one next to another. This side by side comparison enables you to compare two files in one go & without switching any windows.

For text files, diff tools offer an opportunity to comment on changes (for example, your editor might give their 2 cents on some change). Some apps could also clarify the type of change like whether it’s the change in content or format. Others help you archive older versions when there are too many of them.

Types of File Management

Depending on how tech-savvy and innovative teams are, they use different approaches to file management. Here are the four most common ones.

Traditional file storage

In 2020, fewer teams use paper-based documentation, switching to a digital cabinet instead. Having said that, most companies still have a small fraction of paper-based documents (for example, tax returns) - so there’s no way to fully resign traditional file storage.

Recommendation: To avoid the risk of losing paper-based files, store copies of all important documents digitally.

Pros:

  • 1.
    Requires no tech training
  • 2.
    Not subjected to hacking

Cons:

  • 1.
    No data access
  • 2.
    No real-time editing
  • 3.
    Negatively impacts the environment.

PC folders

Creating a manageable system of folders on a computer, designated for file storage is another common approach to file organization.

Although it’s cost-efficient (there’s no need to invest in data management solutions), developing a clear folder hierarchy and ensuring all teammates comply with it is challenging for employees.

Other than that, using a basic folder file management system deprives teams of many handy features of specialized file organizer tools - metadata editing, keyword-based search, and others.

Pros:

  • 1.
    Cost efficiency
  • 2.
    Only basic tech training required
  • 3.
    No reliance on a third-party platform provider

Cons:

  • 1.
    All team’s files are stored on a single device
  • 2.
    Developing a functional organization structure and ensuring compliance takes time.
  • 3.
    Limited scalability (it’s easy to get disoriented as the number of folders in the library grows).

On-premises file management platforms

To improve the efficiency of data management, business owners start installing file organization software on the computers at the office. There are a lot of benefits to this approach - such as access to advanced labeling, searching, and metadata editing features.

On the other hand, on-premises file management platforms aren’t capable of dealing with many challenges - limited storage, restricted asset access, and confining the entire file library to a single device.

Pros:

  • 1.
    No dependency on online servers promotes higher data security.
  • 2.
    Access to metadata editing, search, and advanced organization features.
  • 3.
    Easy-to-manage file library.

Cons:

  • 1.
    Limited data sharing features
  • 2.
    High license costs for installing a solution on each PC at the office.
  • 3.
    High risk of data loss if a device that stores files goes out of order.

Cloud-based platforms

The newer and more scalable way to manage data is using cloud-based solutions. These are online platforms that offer unlimited (or considerably larger than a stationary PC) storage capacity, facilitate access to assets, and make data sharing an easy task.

On the other hand, when choosing a cloud file management system vendor, business owners need to make sure they entrust the company’s entire library to a reliable platform provider.

If you choose to go for a server-based platform, spend some time discussing the ways vendors protect the security of your files and help deal with the aftermath of third-party attacks.

Pros:

  • 1.
    High accessibility
  • 2.
    Scalability
  • 3.
    Lower risk of data loss (files aren’t attached to a single device).

Cons:

  • 1.
    High vendor dependency
  • 2.
    Need for stable Internet connection
  • 3.
    Requires training the team.

Best File Management System Practices

File management seems like a straightforward task for team managers - however, according to statistics, most organizations struggle to wrap their heads around it. 7.5% of all corporate documents are lost forever - meaning teams have to recreate them or go through hell and high water to get access back.

How can you optimize and streamline file management? Start by following these straightforward yet impactful practices:

1. Be consistent in naming

To start with, a team manager should create a set of practices teammates use to name new assets. Depending on the purpose and type of files you upload, the conventions can vary - however, here are a few helpful tips to get you started:

  • 1.
    Using file identifiers: dates, project, or client names.
  • 2.
    Being descriptive, not cryptic. Instead of using incomprehensive strings of numbers and letters make sure file names are easy to understand for everyone on the team.
  • 3.
    Using lowercase letters for naming.
  • 4.
    Avoiding special characters.

2. Create a file hierarchy

A top-tier file management system allows business owners to organize files vertically into a series of parent and child folders. This is a convenient system that helps fit your team’s entire asset library into a well-defined structure.

It’s up to team managers to choose the classification criteria for their assets. Here a few ideas to inspire you:

  • 1.
    Thematically: dividing the entire file library into topics and sub-topics.
  • 2.
    Alphabetically.
  • 3.
    Geographically - creating a country-state-city-area hierarchy (helpful for local businesses).
  • 4.
    Chronologically - a year-month-week-day hierarchy.

3. Use metadata

By definition, metadata is all information you add to the file: creator’s name, upload date, camera specs, etc. Most file management systems support metadata editors - that’s why you want to make sure you use these tools to the fullest extent.

Here are a few metadata management teams that help improve file organization:

  • 1.
    Customize metadata fields.
  • 2.
    Use controlled vocabulary to ensure uniformity of metadata content.
  • 3.
    Document the practices of filling in metadata fields and share them with your team.

4. Adopt version control

Keeping track of file edits is not easy. To make sure you use the latest version of an asset and haven’t missed out on important comments and tweaks, use file management platforms that support version control and allow viewing all the editing iterations of an asset.

Conclusion

A differentiation tool is a must for you if you need to compare two files and see the difference between them. The software will help you notice the difference quickly and easily.
And if you want to learn more about file comparison & digital asset management in general, feel free to browse our glossary any further. With us, you’d become a real expert in file management.

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