Guide to Online Document & File Management As a Business Owner

Guide to Online Document & File Management

What file management system are you using, or considering using? Is it online cloud storage, on your PC’s hard drive, or physical filing systems in your office?

Safe and reliable storage of your documents is vital in today’s business environment. Yet file management isn’t something business owners usually consider. Be it a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude, lack of knowledge about file management options or inexperience in using storage systems, you could be taking a huge security risk.

Online document and file management is a highly effective (but not fool proof) way of keeping data safe. What is important though, is that you do your research first to find the right cloud storage options for your business, along with clear guidelines of how you use your chosen systems.

As virtual assistants, we work with client documents every day. As we are not physically on-site, it is vital we have in place a secure and reliable way to store and share documents and files with our clients. Today we’re going to share with you guidance on how to choose the right online file management system for your business, along with the organisation of documents within it.

What is an Online File Management System?

Often referred to as the cloud, online file storage systems use physical servers located off your premises to store computer data. Needing the use of the internet, you create documents on your device and then save them in your chosen online filing software. These can be shared with others whom you’ve given permission to access and/or edit, and you can access them yourself from any device or location where you have internet access.

The benefits of using cloud-based storage software include:

  • Ability to access data wherever there is an internet connection
  • Paperless
  • File sharing with people in other locations
  • Ongoing investment in physical storage devices is not needed
  • Increased productivity between others using the same files
  • Very secure data storage and regular backups of data

Like everything though, there are downsides, including:

  • Internet connection required to access files
  • Careful use of password protection systems is required
  • Possible corruption if poor cloud storage option is chosen
  • Costs of storage systems
  • Vulnerability to cyber attacks
  • Industry compliance requirements
  • The organisation of the chosen file management system may not suit your business

Many of the disadvantages can be reduced through careful choosing of cloud storage.  A quick Google search will bring up plenty of online file storage options, both paid and free. In choosing the right one for your business, it’s important to identify what it is that you need first. This could be a free or low-cost option, a specific number of users, the amount of storage available or even the interactions with websites and other online software.

You’ll also need to identify how you want to store your data in the cloud. This requires the use of a document management system. The two main steps involved in doing this are:

  • Creating a plan for creating and managing documents – this includes following the already decided rules to follow when creating different documents, where they will be stored, how they are retrieved and how they are kept secure.
  • Implementing your plan – this is all about following the procedures in regard to your documents. To ensure this occurs, make sure you have added these details to your office procedure manual – and if you haven’t yet got one, take a read of our article You Need an Office Procedure Manual: Here’s Why.

Once you know what you require from your cloud storage, it’s time to start looking at your options.

Choosing Your Online File Management Storage System

You’ve already identified the features your file management system needs. It’s now time to pick which one you’re going to use. We’ve made a list of a range of both free and paid options, along with some of their key features:

  • SharePoint – Microsoft SharePoint lets you save and then share files with others to increase collaboration. It also is fully integrated with Microsoft Office.
  • OneDrive – another Microsoft product, OneDrive syncs with Office and allows file sharing. There is a free option, as well as paid versions for additional storage capacity.
  • Dropbox – offering free individual and paid business plans, Dropbox is commonly used, and consequently well known by many. Dropbox will sync documents and files within your team, ensuring updated access is available. It can also let you use its storage capabilities on a local level for speed, and update to the cloud at a later time. You can also set permissions for different people and different documents.
  • Google Drive – a free cloud storage system, Google Drive requires you to first have a Google account. You can share permission to view and/or edit documents to others, and had a free limit of up to 15 GB.
  • Xero – as bookkeeping software, Xero is useful for storing files such as stock lists, product sales details, receipts and contracts. Xero integrates with many websites and other software, and permission can be given to others to access and/or edit your files. There is a monthly cost to use Xero.
  • Zoho Docs – as well as being able to store and organise your files, you can also send documents via email and in bulk uploads to Zoho Docs. The Zoho brand also offers other software for different uses and does cost to use.

Once you’ve chosen which one to use, and upskilled yourself in the using of it, next comes the organising of your files within it.

5 Online File Management Tips

Cutting to the chase: keeping old fashioned filing systems neat, tidy and organised has always been a challenge. The same goes for online file management, where documents are often saved in the wrong place or with the wrong permissions. To help ensure you and your team can access your files when you need them, organisation is key. Here are five file management tips to help you achieve this:

  1. Name individual files clearly – short and sweet file names are best, but they should still reflect what the content inside the file contains.
  2. Use a folder structure – set up and use a system of folders to store your files within. For example, a Services folder for our team could include other folders such as Social Media, VA and Bookkeeping.
  3. Enable auto-sync – the auto-sync function ensures that the work you create will be automatically synced to the master files stored in the cloud without you needing to do anything. Let’s hear it for automation!
  4. Keep business and personal separate – it’s fine to use the same file system or software but use different login accounts for your personal and business files.
  5. Compress files rather than delete – some cloud storage will offer you the option to compress your files smaller, so they take up less space. This is ideal for when you have files that you haven’t used for a while but may in the future and don’t feel comfortable deleting.

Document and file management is one of the services we can provide you with. If your files are in a muddle, or you would like assistance in setting up a system which works for you, get in touch; we’d love to help.

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