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How-To: Effectively Organizing Files on a Shared Drive

From the smallest company to the largest organization, chances are you keep your team's files on a shared drive, either on a physical server in your office or in the cloud. Multiple people have access to that drive, altering, adding, and even reorganizing it on a daily basis. How do you keep your drive organized and logical so team members can access what they need quickly and work efficiently? Here are a few tips.

Many smaller companies have a tendency to ignore the organization of files on their shared drives until those drives become huge, unruly, and often an annoying burden. At that point, they attempt to organize it all, get frustrated at the scale, tediousness, and time required to do so, and often just give up. Maybe they archive everything and start fresh, or just continue working with what they have as best they can. Sometimes they try to impose an organizational strategy later on but learn that changing a company's working dynamic is always harder than imposing the right dynamic from the first day.

Managing & maintaining a shared drive:

The best way to keep a shared drive organized is to start right. We've put together a few tips and strategies to help you do just that.

  1. Before sharing the drive with co-workers, decide which policies to implement to avoid headaches.
  2. The administrator of a shared drive is in charge of controlling who has access to view, edit, alter or delete files on your company's shared drive.
  3. Do not share cloud storage accounts among multiple people in a team. Everyone should have their own account.  This will provide the needed accountability when files go missing or file storage goes awry.
  4. Always try to save files directly to the shared drive instead of your computer, so the most-up-to-date versions can be accessed at any time by whoever needs them. If someone is out sick, for example, all of their work should still be readily accessible by whoever is filling in.
  5. Work on a file directly from within the drive whenever possible, instead of saving a copy to your device, necessitating an extra step of reuploading the altered file to the drive, or even worst, lead to missing files.
  6. Implement and maintain a folder hierarchy and naming convention for files and folders on your drive.  Don't overly complicate your file system by making a hierarchy or structure more complicated than necessary. It should be organized, but as simple and clear as possible.
  7. Name files in a consistent, detailed, and descriptive fashion. Instead of naming a file 'client presentation,' name it 'new client presentation version 1.' That way you can readily identify the correct file you need, and searching for a file is more likely to bring deliver the right one.
  8. When working on Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Sketch or other layered projects, create a uniform folder structure for its assets, export files, etc.  Every project should use the same folder structure to ensure anyone can make sense of the project.
  9. Whenever there are files like company logos which need to be used by many people and in many projects, put them in a root folder and have all the related files link to them. This means that if ever you need to change your brand, tagline, or fix a mistake in the logo it can be easily updated in the project files without having to physically open every file and replace the artwork.

Following these tips, whether you're using Google Drive, One Drive, Amazon Cloud Storage, or your own office server, will keep your shared drive organized and efficient while preventing big headaches later on.

Photo by Sanwal Deen on Unsplash

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