5 Digital Document Management Tips

Digitizing your documents has a ton of benefits. If you’re already convinced that this is the next step you need to take to improve your office’s efficiency and save on storage space, then you don’t need us to explain these benefits. In case you’re still curious, you can read up on some reasons here, here, here, and here.

When you decide to take the document digitization plunge, however, you may hear a tiny voice in the back of your head quietly saying, “So, what happens now?”

The answer to that question is to develop some basic best practices for how your company will manage its digital documents. That can include everything from how you name each individual file to the design of your folder system, backup plans, and what you’ll do overall to make sure your plan is as foolproof as possible.

1. Establish Naming Standards for Your Files

Before you do anything else, the most basic thing you should consider is how you’ll name your files. This is such a basic concept that most business owners don’t think twice about it or let their employees figure out naming schemes that work for them.

At the end of the day, if people in your company are finding exactly what they need, whenever they need it, and can do so without wasting time, there’s probably nothing wrong with your current naming scheme or lack thereof. That said, it’s doubtful that having some standards in place will do anything but improve response times and workflows.

Unless your company has a dedicated digital asset manager, adopting a simple naming system is all your company really needs.

You can do a lot with only three data points, too:

  1. The client’s name
  2. Document name or type
  3. Date

By separating these bits of information with underscores or dashes, you can discern at a glance what kind of information the document contains, who it pertains to, and how recent the information may be. This can be important for digital filing purposes as well as data retrieval in the future.

2. Build a Sensible Folder Convention

A folder convention, unfortunately, is not an origami enthusiast meetup. This term instead refers to how you name and organize your folders. There are great minds in the digital asset management world that are hard at work and always trying to build a better folder convention, but most small businesses don’t need the best – they need something that works for them.

A rule of thumb here is to keep things as simple as possible and limit the number of folders as makes sense. Your goal here should be striking a balance between grouping relevant files close together without getting so specific that you end up with many folders only containing a few files apiece. Likewise, you should avoid creating too few folders that the purpose of coming up with a folder convention in the first place is moot.

Stanford University – we weren’t kidding when we said great minds were working on this – addresses some common problems and best practices when it comes to naming and organizing your folders. Among these is a suggestion that you should build no more than three levels of folders, don’t use spaces (for aesthetic URL purposes), and the kinds of characters you won’t be able to use in filenames (these are called illegal characters).

Again, all of these tips – even the experts’ advice – are guidelines. There’s no right or wrong way to do this if it works. Build a system that works for you and tinker with it along the way to perfect it for your needs.

3. Opt for OCR Scanning Services When You Digitize

Companies like Acro Photo Print Inc. offer optical character recognition (OCR) services that can help you quickly identify information that’s in a document and what the document’s purpose is. When a hardcopy document with machine-printed text is scanned, OCR software converts that text such that your computer can “read” it. This gives you the ability to perform a search function for any information throughout the scanned document and even make edits along the way.

4. Create & Manage Backups of Your Files

You never want to find yourself in a position where you’ve completely lost all of your company’s documents due to a hard drive failure, damage, theft, or any other malady that would wreak such havoc.

Your digital document plan should include considerations for how often you plan on backing up your data and where it’ll be stored.

How Often You Should Back up Data

There is no rule or industry standard for how often data should be backed up. Businesses with large volumes of data or especially sensitive information should probably perform backups every few minutes. That said, smaller companies can probably fare well if they limit their backups to once a day while everyone is away from the office or even once a week.

Where You Should Store Your Data

Most businesses should consider a hybrid data protection strategy that includes onsite backups and those to the cloud. Onsite storage can a dedicated server in your office or even a dedicated external hard drive (as long as you keep a redundant backup of that hard drive and move your data to new hard drives every 3-4 years to avoid the risk of failure).

Storage to the cloud has never been easier or more secure. This is a system that allows you to upload your data to offsite servers owned and managed by private companies. If you’re concerned about security, many advancements have been made throughout the years and clouds have never been more secure than they are now. We found some cloud-based backup solutions we liked here.

5. Make Things as Easy to Handle as Possible

Lastly, whatever you do, make sure it’s easy enough to sustain. You may feel enthused and invigorated to create complex systems that may function fantastically, but these may fall apart as soon as you’re too busy or disinterested to properly manage them.

After all, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Keep things simple and sustainable, and you’ll be doing the right things that can work for your company and help it increase its efficiency and organization.