Security training for employees should include advice on how to structure OneDrive, including the infrastructure, naming conventions best practices, how to optimize for sharing and much more. Getting a OneDrive in order is a valuable step in increasing Microsoft productivity.
We have tips for you, but first, let’s take a step back for a wide view of OneDrive.
Whether your company has been using Office 365 for years, or if just completed a migration to 365, you may have noticed an app called OneDrive. If you are not familiar with it, it’s an incredibly useful tool for backing up crucial content, as well as sharing and automating version control.
While OneDrive may not be as well-known as some of the other apps in the Microsoft 365 family, it is of the utmost importance, especially for personal storage and collaboration.
Unless you have had the experience of a laptop abruptly dying, you may not initially appreciate the convenience of OneDrive. When you save all your content to OneDrive, you not only make your work more secure, but it also makes collaboration with your colleagues seamless.
Amp Up the OneDrive Power
Sorting through unorganized work folders, files and documents to find exactly what you need, when you need it, can be challenging and frustrating. In fact, 57 percent of U.S. office workers say one of their top three problems is quickly finding files and documents, according to a survey on issues in the workplace.
The good news is you can save time and learn how to organize digital folders and files with a few best practices. The key is to decide on a system, communicate it clearly to everyone in your organization, and be consistent.
Set the Goals
As part of your plan to increase Microsoft productivity, set goals for digital file organization. Organizing file folders can take over your life if you let it, so start by getting specific about what you want to accomplish. That way, you’ll prevent the project from consuming more time and resources than you have available.
Start by answering a few preliminary questions:
- Who needs to understand your digital file organization system? The obvious answer is “everyone,” but consider the needs of people who aren’t very tech-savvy and those who will only be accessing your files occasionally.
- When will you begin the project, and how much time can you spend?
- How will you know you’ve succeeded?
Here’s an example answer: “While all 22 employees need to understand our new digital file organization system, we will prioritize the writers and graphic designers, since they create the files. The office manager will allocate one hour per week to the project. We’ll know it worked if it’s faster and easier for project managers to find the latest files for client projects.”
Get Input on the Current Method
Together with work productivity tools, revamping your digital folder and file organization gives your team access to the resources they need to do their best work.
Talk to the leadership team at your organization so you understand their priorities and pain points. If you have time, get input from all your team members. Here are a few questions to start with:
- What do you like and dislike about the current computer file organization system?
- What’s confusing or difficult to find?
- How would you improve how files are organized?
- What’s worked well for you in the past?
Along with their input, you’ll need the following resources:
- Business tools like your computer and online file-sharing software. Make accessing files easy for everyone by keeping content on a cloud-based server, rather than on-premises.
- Calendar reminders and visual collaboration tools or digital notebooks to get organized.
- Some time to tackle this reorganization. Break the task into manageable chunks and work on it in multiple sessions to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Delete and Archive the Old
If you have duplicate files or documents you’ll never reference again, delete them. Remove files before you begin so you don’t waste time organizing them, only to scrap them later. If you’re not sure whether to keep them, put them in a folder titled Archive. Consider using Storage Sense, an assistant that works with OneDrive to automatically free up space while still allowing you access to your files.
Create a Folder Structure
Now you’re ready to start organizing folders, but where do you start? The ideal folder organization strategy will vary based on your organization and its needs. For organizations with remote or hybrid workforces, well-organized files are crucial for communication, collaboration and productivity. Remember that your colleagues are likely accessing files from a range of devices, including tablets and smartphones, so consider how your organizational structure will appear across these endpoints.
Decide whether it makes sense to organize files by name, date, project or department. Start on your shared drive with your broadest categories for your main folders, and then get more specific with subfolders. Here’s what that might look like.
File folders organized by name.
This approach is best for organizations that mainly identify projects by the client’s or organization’s name, such as a marketing or advertising agency.
Pros for this approach: Names are less ambiguous than other categories, such as industry or product type. It’s easy to find the right folder when the client contacts you.
Cons for this approach: It can be confusing if the client or company changes their name. It’s also difficult to remember when a certain project took place or was completed.
File folders organized by date
This is best for organizations with large numbers of files tied to time periods, like a financial services business.
Pros for this approach: It’s easy to focus on a specific time period, such as the quarter or fiscal year.
Cons for this approach: It’s harder to find projects based on other categories, such as the type of project.
File folders organized by project.
This is best for organizations with lots of cross-departmental collaboration. For example, projects that require a project manager, writer and graphic designer to work together.
Pros for this approach: It’s easy to find everything related to a project, including a variety of file types, because it’s all in one place.
Cons for this approach: It can be hard to find related projects unless you include that information in the file naming structure. An organization like an ad agency could mitigate this by including the client’s industry in file names, along with the project name, so searching is easier.
File folders organized by department.
This approach is best for organizations where departments are siloed. For example, a company where there’s little interaction across finance, sales and customer service.
Pros for this approach: Each team knows where to find their files, so searching is faster.
Cons for this approach: When departments do collaborate, it can be confusing to decide where to save files and can reduce Microsoft productivity.
File folders organized in a hybrid approach.
A hybrid approach to folder organization strategies is also possible and might make the most sense for your team. Combining several of these approaches could offer the most flexibility, depending on your needs.
Choose a Logical File Naming Convention
After selecting an organizational strategy for your digital files, decide how to name them. Avoid vague file names like “draft1.doc.” The more specific you are, the easier searching will be. Ideally, your file names should be detailed enough that you know exactly what they are immediately. Start with the broadest category at the beginning of the file name, like the year or department, and then get more specific.
If you’re organizing by date, your file name structure might be YYYY-MM-DD (year-month-day), followed by any other details you might search for, such as client, topic or purpose.
If you’re organizing by name, project or department, start with that, again followed by other relevant search terms. For example, client, social-media-ads, date.
These file name examples use underscores and hyphens, but you don’t have to follow the same strategy. While you can use spaces in file names, remember that URLs don’t allow them—if you’re planning to upload files to your organization’s website, it’s worth keeping this in mind.
Modern filing and document management systems allow you to add metadata, which can make searching and organizing more efficient. Create naming protocols for metadata and tags as well. The most important principle for all naming conventions is consistency but take note that cloud storage and document management systems increasingly offer AI-powered search features to help find files even when you can’t remember the exact name.
Establish a System for Version Control
We’ve all been there, trying to decipher the difference between “Final doc” and “New Final doc.”
The easiest way is to only use one file, saved on a shared server (instead of someone’s local computer), so everyone can collaborate in real time and there’s no confusion about which file is the latest one. Use word processing software with tracked changes so you have a record of everyone’s edits.
Another option is to establish a clear order of file name endings and ask the whole organization to stick to it. This is useful if you want a separate file to mark each stage of a process, but it does lead to more files. Here’s an example:
- First draft: client_project_draft.doc
- Revisions from client: client_project_clientedits.doc
- After incorporating revisions: client_project_revision1.doc, revision2, revision3
- After client signs off on edits: client_project_final.doc.
The trick is to not label a file “final” until it actually is. Give the client a time limit on revisions, if possible, to avoid a never-ending revision cycle, which can kill Microsoft productivity.
Organize Image Files Effectively
There are several ways to organize images, such as by year, event, project or department. It might help to use the same digital file organization system for your photos that you use for other files and documents, but you don’t have to.
If your staff members attend a lot of events, consider creating folders for each event type, such as individual conferences or trade shows. That way, if an event is annual, it’s easy to see what images you used in previous years all in one place.
Manage Leadership-Only or Confidential Files
Build data protection into your digital file organization strategy. Set sharing settings on files and folders so that people outside your organization, such as clients and contractors, can only access what they need.
Make use of cloud storage services that offer the most robust data security and compliance. The following features offer granular control and can help you better manage confidential or sensitive files:
- Set passwords for files and folders.
- Give read-only access.
- Prevent people from downloading files.
- Set permissions on a per-user, per-file or per-group basis.
- Encrypt sensitive files.
- Take advantage of compliance features.
Establish a system to determine which sharing settings to use on which files. Share those guidelines with your team and post them somewhere convenient for future reference. For folders with employee-only access, remember to revoke access as soon as an employee departs or is terminated.
Organize Large Numbers of Files for Microsoft Productivity
Organize thousands of files efficiently with the right tools. To sort files, open the folder containing all the files you’d like to organize, right-click within the folder, select “Sort by” and then select how you want to sort the files: by name, date, type, size or tags.
From there, easily organize computer files from a certain time range. Move all of them from one year into their own folder. If you like, create subfolders for each month or quarter.
If you need to rename a lot of files, there are apps for bulk file renaming, some of which are free, that allow you to add details to file names, such as the year.
If you have too many year folders, you can always create a folder titled Archive for folders from more than a few years ago.
Spread the Word
Make it easy for your coworkers to name files correctly and save them in the right place. Communicate the new file and folder organization guidelines in a meeting, with time for questions at the end, or send an email with instructions. Post the guidelines to your organization’s group chat app.
Create a template folder and subfolders that people can refer to as an example.
Make sure everyone knows to back up their files regularly. Save files to cloud services so they’re accessible anywhere. If people must save files on their computers, make sure they save a backup copy.
Maintain Your OneDrive Organization System
Save time by taking advantage of automated tasks within your folder organization system. Modern file management systems often allow you to automate file sorting and archiving and can even trigger actions based on specific events.
You might excel at organizing digital files, but others might not. Schedule recurring file maintenance time to move misplaced files — and gently explain to people what the correct location is. Or designate someone on your team as the go-to person for all file-organizing questions. Encourage people to ask first, rather than save something in the wrong place.
Check in with your team to see whether your OneDrive system is working and adjust as necessary. Finally, congratulate yourself on finishing a daunting project that will save your organization a lot of time and boost Microsoft productivity.
Next Steps for Computer File Organization
Communicate and collaborate on files with a chat app and file sharing for teams, or get started right away with a comprehensive suite of business apps to help you stay organized.
The team here at BrightFlow Technologies highly recommends changing the “Download” settings to allow you to always choose the destination of the download. This way, when you need to save files from anywhere, you can decide exactly where it goes.
Optimize for Search and Sharing
Once you’ve optimized your OneDrive for file organization and begin storing all of your files there, you also get the benefit of sharing and collaborating from the cloud. It’s as simple as pressing the “Share” button in the upper right corner of Word, PowerPoint, etc.
Unlike when you save files on your device, saving your files in OneDrive makes it seamless to collaborate with others on a document. Instead of having to constantly go back and forth in emails, all you have to do is “Share” the document, allow editing permissions and now you and your coworker can do live edits together. Versioning control with documents will become a thing of the past. Once you start organizing and collaborating from your OneDrive, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
Need Help With Microsoft Productivity Tools?
Reorganizing all your files can be a daunting task, but you don’t have to go it alone. You can reach out to BrightFlow Technologies to start a dialogue today.