Digitally archiving files is one of those low effort tasks that has huge results. If done properly it will save your stress levels, financial state, and even your company. In order to see the logic behind it, let’s start at the beginning.
Digitizing is a topic all on its own. To keep it short though, any company of any size will benefit from converting their paper documents to digital ones. Digital copies have the capabilities of being tracked. Digital copies do not take up space in paper file folders in cabinets or on desks and are environmentally friendly. Digital copies can be saved to a central location which the user accesses from anywhere at any time; paper copies must be in multiple locations at once, where each of the users is. Digital files are easier to access by people who are not always sitting at the same desk or even the same office. Remote employees and colleagues from partner companies can also be given access from their offices.
Digitally archiving files. The digital part means that your files are in an electronic format. The archiving part means you’ve compressed and stored away. The difference between a saved file and an archived file is that your saved file is in a quickly accessible format on your computer. Unfortunately, this is exactly where most files get left. Once somebody is finished with it, they save it and forget about it. It remains just where it was left for years and years. While this is still a step up from throwing a paper file in a box, it still does not reap the full benefits of what digital filing can do for you. By simply saving and forgetting, you are slowly using up valuable computer space that can be better used for current projects. Archiving these documents will compress and shrink them – filing them away until they are needed at a later time. This saves space and removes them from your view so that they don’t clog up your screen or your active filing structure. Have you ever waded through hundreds of files and file folders looking for that one particular document? Archiving removes all of the “complete” ones making these searches much more bearable.
Consider this, an employee completes a project, the results are printed, and the file is closed. Three years later that employee moves onto another company or even out of the country. Five years after this a similar project comes along and the question is raised “What did we do the first time?” Well the answers are all on file, but which file? That was eight years ago. What name did the employee save it under? What file did she use? Even worse, which computer did she use? Archiving files avoids scenarios such as this. Properly archived files act quite similar to a library. Everything can be sorted by date, time, topic, or whatever is most meaningful to you and your company. The files get catalog sorting order and are put on a “shelf” until they are further needed.
Your archive is not organized the same way your active documents are, and that makes a huge difference. You should not store current files the same way you store ones which have no immediate use – “immediate” depending on how long your team works on a document. The first step to archiving everything digital is to determine or overhaul your active file system. What categories do document types fall into? How do you search for these currently? Is there an agreed upon naming convention and standard practice for organizing these files on named machines? It may be that a little spring cleaning is in order. If your archive is your library, every file given the same data-rich treatment, then your current content is closer to the structure of your own department breakdown. Luckily, both archives and active directories can benefit from similar techniques: sticking to the naming convention, dating all of the files, including metadata for retrieval based on keywords, etc. No matter where you’re storing something, these best practices will streamline storage, retrieval, sorting, all of it!
So, considering that archiving files saves future downtime, saves computer space, and saves your stress level, where and how do you archive? Many computers will actually come with very basic archiving software in it, and many online stores sell archiving software. However, if you are planning on truly keeping and preserving your files, store them with redundancy and security. Archiving will consist of years and years of valuable data. You have finally gotten the time and the system to catalog and properly store your files, do not let a computer crash or network failure instantly remove years of your history and work. Online options such as ours here at Contentverse are one of the ways to obtain digital archiving services. In the event that something happened to your own computer, your history of work can still be accessed and restored if needed. Secure archiving is the final step in the digital world. Do not let this simple oversight be your company’s undoing.
A version of this article was originally published as The Logic Behind Properly Archiving Files Off-site by Mike Mineo on October 1st, 2013.