Managing University Records

Managing e-Files on Shared Drives

Most users are familiar with organizing file folders and filing cabinets in the paper world. Managing electronic records presents some different challenges. Shared drives mean that there are multiple users. As a group of users, you need to work together to organize materials in a way that makes sense to all.

Folder systems

  • Agree on work areas: the shared drives are shared. As a team of users, identify areas of work, major functions, activities or tasks. Decide on a name or keyword for each area, and use the names consistently. Avoid using personal names since responsibilities and staff members change.
  • Bring together: use folders to collect task- or work-area-related documents.
  • But keep separate: Within each area, create subfolders to sort content: by school year, by term, by quarter, by month, by project, by phase, by type, etc.
  • Be consistent: follow the agreed terms and agreed folder structure.
  • Be aware of existing folders before creating new ones.
  • Write it down: make a file map or outline of what the agreed names and folders are. Think of this as a cheat sheet for anyone new joining the team: the filing system at a glance.

File Names

  • Be descriptive: files names should let the user know enough about the content before opening the file. Use common or agreed terms to describe the contents.
  • Think unique: many files may be related to the same work area, so make sure to include enough detail to identify each file as unique or different from others.
  • Go from general to specific: start with the general area then add specific details. This also allows related files to be sorted together.
  • Be clear: be careful with abbreviations or acronyms that may not be clear to others. Use terms that are shared with and agreed to by all team members.
  • Dates: for file names with dates to sort correctly, use year-month-date (YYYY-MM-DD or YYYYMMDD).
  • Numbers: for file names with numbers to sort correctly, use preceding 0s (01, 02, 10 will sort in order; 1, 2, 10 will sort as 1, 10, 2).
  • Special characters: good for strong passwords, but not for file names. Avoid > < ” / \ | ? * : ^ $.
  • Avoid spaces: use underscores (file_name), hyphens or dashes (file-names), or camel case (FileName).
  • Write it down: make a list of agreed names, abbreviations, acronyms and your office’s agreed practices. What is your shared drive vocabulary? Think of this as a cheat sheet for anyone new joining the team: the office shorthand at a glance.

In progress vs. final

  • Number drafts and revisions: use version control numbering as part of the filename (v01, v02, v02_01).
  • Folder earlier drafts; only keep the current working version (and eventually the final version) at the higher level. (Also, for file clean-ups, the draft folder is the first to go!)
  • “Publish” the final version: Once you have the final version of a document, print the final as a PDF (preferably a PDF/A). The PDF is easy to identify visually in a folder, allows for easy sharing and since it "locks" the document, you can easily avoid any inadvertent changes when someone forgets to “Save As…”


Need help?

If you need help working on a file structure or would like some ideas on how to clean up a shared drive, please contact