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Data Strategy for Shared Files

Data Strategy for Shared Files

Protocol for creating, saving, and storing shared files

Skip straight to the checklist

Think about the documents you and your team use every day. You may have spreadsheets with data, policies and contracts you send to customers and vendors, or documents that you use to help make your teams more effective.  Organizations of small sizes can get away with loose rules about where company files are stored especially if they have responsible employees.  But here’s why you should create some structure to lead them in the right direction:

  • Wasting time searching for files because they are always in a different location. Having to think like that co-worker who created the file.  Where would she put it?
  • Missing data and duplicating work by having files emailed back and forth to each other. Which one is the most recent version?  Who made the most changes and who gets to merge them?
  • Fear of losing data with hard drive crashes. If it is all in one location your backups and crisis management tactics must only deal with one drive.

As a company, your data is the lifeblood of how you operate.  It is the value if you were to sell the business, value in efficiently being able to make a sale because you collected the right customer data, value to hire, train, and replace yourself in day to day activities.

How you store your data, creates the value and allows you to more effectively utilize it.

Here’s a couple of scenarios I see a lot…

Say, the organization started, and no real “rules” were set around creating and storing files.  Twenty employees and hundreds of folders later you realize order must be brought to the chaos.  Time is wasted searching for things you use every day.  PDF’s must be redesigned and typed because the original file cannot be located.

Or, you don’t think your team is big enough to necessitate a networked shared drive but you realize that files are often lost.  Or that they must be merged because you are emailing your client list back and forth sometimes making edits to different file versions.  You manage pretty well but are never quite sure if updates make it to every version.

Sometimes, the files are organized by role and sometimes by department.  People have saved files to their desktop for ease of use and those desktops aren’t being backed up.  People can’t intuitively tell where to put things because there is no order.  So, they create their own folders and files.

If any of these sound familiar, your teams would likely welcome direction with open arms.


There are multiple options and because different owners and teams have different strengths and weaknesses, what works for someone else may not work for you.  There are a few basic ideas to keep in mind.

Be consistent.  Make a decision and stick to it.  Once you have a new plan, abandon the old one 100% and make sure everyone knows it.

As the leader, adopt it happily and find others to champion the reasons this will be good for everyone.  You can’t expect your team to do it a certain way if their leader refuses to adopt it.

Think about the future of the organization.  Do you want to take a month off next year?  Sell the biz?  Retire?  What needs to happen now so that you can meet that deadline?

Think about your users.  What are their abilities?  Will you need more training or a firm and clear directive?


The solutions that work for most:

Google Drive:  affordable alternative to a networked drive and alternative to Microsoft Office and Apple office products.  Files can be accessed from anywhere.  Multiple people can edit the document simultaneously.  Ability to roll back changes or see when things happened and who made them happen.  Ownership and sharing should be top priorities within training.

Networked Drives:  internal drives set up on a network.  Fairly simple to navigate but generally best managed with IT support for disconnecting drives, etc.  Read-only versions when someone else is editing and options exist for storing backups and ghost versions.  Drive can be backed up and taken off-site for crisis management.

Get the checklist

I feel so strongly about data management I created a huge checklist of all the questions and solutions I have come across.  You can download it for free and use it to craft your plan.

*I like making money. (Who doesn’t?) You can view this whole checklist for free.  If you love ProcessStreet as much as I do and sign up for a paid account, I make a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Tips and tricks for file naming conventions:

Use 1.) 2.) to organize many folders within a folder

Use capital letters to delimit words do not underscore – too hard to search

Short but meaningful

No extra characters – just numbers and letters


Search generally starts with the beginning file name so use the most important words first

Be consistent!!

Include versions numbers – avoid FINAL – you may get FINAL FINAL, REALLY FINAL, etc

With numbers include two digits – 01, 02, 25, etc

If abbreviating use caps – make sure abbreviation is easy to figure out

Organize and index your file hierarchy for quick reference especially when implementing a big change 

Keep privacy and access in mind when creating folders like HR 

Organize by division, internal vs external, or role.  Examples:



              Team Meeting Agendas

Sales and Marketing





              Event checklists



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