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How to Successfully Set Up an Electronic Filing System

How to Successfully Set Up an Electronic Filing System

Take your company’s storage to the next level by setting up an electronic filing system the right way.

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Updated June 15, 2020

It’s time for your business to go paperless and join the electronic world of file management to get your documents into the cloud. Make it happen by making sure you’ve got the best digital filing system for your company’s needs and a clear idea of your priorities.

Here are our five steps to creating and organizing an electronic filing system in your small business:

  • Create a document retention plan
  • Choose the right file management software
  • Figure out an implementation plan
  • Set up storage
  • Schedule ongoing maintenance

Information for file names

File names should allow you to identify a precise experiment from the name. Choose a format for naming your files and use it consistently.

You might consider including some of the following information in your file names, but you can include any information that will allow you to distinguish your files from one another.

  • Project or experiment name or acronym
  • Location/spatial coordinates
  • Researcher name/initials
  • Date or date range of experiment
  • Type of data
  • Conditions
  • Version number of file
  • Three-letter file extension for application-specific files

Another good idea is to include in the directory a readme.txt file that explains your naming format along with any abbreviations or codes you have used.

On-premise vs. Cloud

Why buy a standalone solution like SharePoint when you could get all the same features with Office 365? The answer really has to do with the preferences of your IT department. Some developers prefer the security and control that comes with locally installed software. When you deploy SharePoint on your company’s servers, the company owns the look and feel of the software and controls when updates roll out. On the other hand, the company maintains responsibility for any security breaches and purchasing version updates.

Businesses who purchase SharePoint as a stand-alone, on-premise option can also purchase OneDrive for document storage and sharing, although all of those features are available in SharePoint.

Channel Files tab

This feature hasn’t yet been released. It’s been announced, and is coming soon.В If you’re an admin, you can find out when this feature will be released in the Message CenterВ (in the Microsoft 365 admin center).

The Files tab in Teams closely resembles the SharePoint documents view. On the Files tab, users can:

  • See additional options in the New file menu.
  • Sync files to their local drive.
  • On the All Documents menu, switch from List view to Compact list to Tiles view.
  • Identify files that need attention or have malware.
  • Immediately see whether a file is read-only or checked out.
  • Check out and check in files.
  • Pin, unpin, and change the sort order of files.
  • Identify which files need metadata
  • Choose from many more filter options.
  • Group files based on column headings.
  • Modify column settings (move left or right, hide) and column width.
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The top 5 best process documentation software

When we say top, what do we mean? We mean the most widely used tools. Which one is the best is a different question. The answer depends on you, your business, people and processes. We hope that by looking at the options you get closer to the answer.

The offline process documentation tools

Remember those crazy days of installing software and sending around files by email? Or placing them in SharePoint (where they’re never seen again). Welcome to the offline world.

Good old, trusty Microsoft Word. Quite a tool. Excellent for writing your thesis or a six-book fantasy series. But for documenting your business processes? Here are the pros and cons.

Pros: Everyone has it and knows it. The end.

Cons: You work in files that are a hassle to save, share, collaborate on and find. To view Word documents in mobile devices, the right apps and plugins are required. Upshot: It’s clunky.

No image is needed here! We all know it.

Visio

Microsoft’s Office suite might have moved online, but Visio hasn’t. It’s a heavy programme that appears to have reached a dead end in terms of development.

Pros: If you’re Elon Musk and want to design a process for sending people to Mars, then the advanced diagram features and options in Visio could come in handy. But we doubt Mr Musk would find it user-friendly enough.

    • Because of its very expensive license, only a few privileged souls will be editing. Everyone else will be out of the loop.
    • It’s so feature-rich that it’s difficult to keep it simple.
    • Every time you want to use it, you have to find, open and close a file.
    • It’s difficult to share and discourages collaboration.
  • It has no automatic change control.

The online documentation tools

The following three online business process documentation tools are similar, with some minor differences. The benefit of all is that they are operated from a web browser.

Lucid Chart

This is basically an online version of Visio.

Pros: It’s easy to collaborate on editing.

Cons: It offers no connection to work instructions or people.

Gliffy

Slick, user-friendly interface. Team pricing starts at $4.99 per user.

    • Slick, user-friendly interface.
  • Has limited collaboration options.

Cons: No real-time collaboration options.

Smart Draw

Similar to Lucid Chart, with a few key differences. Pricing starts at $5 per month per user.

    • Works well on mobile devices.
    • Online, not offline file.
  • Integrates with online tools such as Gsuite and Confluence.

Cons: It offers no connection to work instructions and people (except if integrated with other tools) – this is a real shortcoming as work instructions are essential in business process documentation tools.

Featured cloud document storage providers

(Image credit: OneDrive)

1. Microsoft OneDrive

The best cloud document storage platform

Microsoft OneDrive, previously known as SkyDrive, was rolled out in 2007 as Microsoft’s own cloud storage platform. It works as part of the Microsoft Office Suite and gives users 5GB of free storage space. Registered students and those working in academia are given 1TB of free storage.

OneDrive is available for all platforms. You need to have a Hotmail or Microsoft account but this is very easy to set up. Users can collaborate on, share and store documents.

OneDrive also gives you offline access to documents so you can always have your most important documents at your fingertips. It comes pre-installed on all Windows 10 machines and can be easily accessed or downloaded onto other platforms.

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Paid subscriptions offer very generous cloud storage space with Microsoft OneDrive, with both Microsoft 365 Personal and Microsoft 365 Family both offering 1TB of storage per person.

(Image credit: Google)

2. Google One

The best affordable cloud document storage

Google has recently been busy rebranding parts of itself, and its famous Google Drive is no different. While the name has been retained for the free version, with a 15GB storage limit, the paid-for Google Drive plans have now been rebranded to Google One, and Google Drive is now headed with «Google Cloud».

Google Drive by itself offers 15GB of cloud storage, though this includes not just the documents in your Google Drive account but also everything else saved to your Google account, not least GMail and any high-resolution images you might have uploaded to Google Photos.

Google One, on the other hand, offers not just additional storage space but also additional features. For storage capacity there are different plans for individuals, with the main three being 100GB, 200GB, or 2TB of storage. Additional plans with more storage are available as required.

On these individual plans are additional options, such as setting up a shared family account to use your storage, plus promotions for other Google services.

However, for business purposes with multiple staff you would almost certainly need to use Google Drive/Google One as part of the G Suite. The basic plan there offers up to 30GB of storage on top of G Suite apps, for $6 per user per month. The Business plan offers unlimited storage for $12 per user per month (though for teams of less than 5 it’s 1TB of storage).

Google’s prices for Google Drive/Google One/Google Cloud are among the cheapest in the industry.

(Image credit: Dropbox)

3. Dropbox

Simplified cloud document storage

Dropbox is one of the oldest cloud storage providers. It does offer a rather miniscule 2GB of storage space for free users but this can be increased by up to 16GB through referrals as well as by linking your Dropbox account to social media accounts.

To date it is one of the simplest storage providers to use. Dropbox can be installed on most computers or devices and syncs easily between apps. The app can store almost any kind of file with no compatibility issues. You can drag and drop files into the desktop app with ease.

You can also share files with other users easily through links, even if they don’t have a Dropbox account. As Dropbox has been around for a long time it integrates with most other apps such as MS Office and Slack.

The downside to Dropbox is that it can be expensive if you need more than 2GB of space and you have run out of friends to refer.

Pricing varies according as to whether you need an individual or business plan. Individual plans start from $11.99 (£7.99) per month for 2TB of storage. Dropbox Business offers features for teams with a generous 5TB of storage, with pricing starts from $12.50 (£10) per user per month, and an annual payment discount.

(Image credit: Egnyte)

4. Egnyte

The flexible cloud document storage platform

Egnyte was founded in 2007. The company provides software for enterprise file synchronization and sharing.

Egnyte allows businesses to store their data locally and in the cloud. All types of data can be stored in the cloud, whilst data of a more sensitive nature can be stored on servers on-premise. This provides better security.

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Business teams can work how and where they want with an easy to use collaboration system through their content services platform. Egnyte integrates with the more popular industry applications such as Office 365. This allows remote and internal employees to access all the files they need.

The ‘Team’ plan starts at $10 per employee per month. This covers 1-10 employees, and offers 1TB of storage. The ‘Business’ packages starts at $20 per employee per month. This covers 10-100 employees, and provides 1TB online storage plus 10GB per employee.

Egnyte offer a 15-day free trial for their packages.

Now we live in a technological age, it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually move all your documents to an online filing system. You can still keep hard copies, but moving to a digital filing system saves a lot of time and money. Documents are all in one place and can be accessed on nearly any computer or mobile device.

Be prepared for the scanning process of all your existing documents to take time. However, once it’s functioning, you will be able to share copies with whoever requires them. The filing process then becomes similar to paper – scanning the document, then sorting to the correct category.

If you need a physical space to store all your documents, there are local spaces you can use for your documents. Choose from thousands of spaces to find one that suits your needs and requirements for safe storing.

And if you’re running out of room for your paperwork? Get in contact for organised and convenient document storage.

7. Box

Box provides file-sharing and other tools to help businesses collaborate. Sound familiar? What helps set them apart from other options, however, are their automated workflows and machine learning integrations to connect and simplify your business processes. Multiple departments can benefit from its advanced features which include digital asset management, contract management, HR onboarding, sales enablement and even custom app development. The platform also boasts advanced security controls, encryption and other measures to keep your data secure and comply with GDPR, HIPAA, PCI and other regulations. Box offers four pricing levels: Starter, Business, Business Plus, and Enterprise.

Proper External Sharing is Vital for Security

It should go without saying that keeping a close watch on the aforementioned settings is an absolute necessity, and can have major ramifications within your organization, especially with regards to content safety and overall compliance. Understanding how different content is being shared by different users can make a major difference when it comes to protecting sensitive information; and the more vigilant and attuned admins are to their options, the more likely they are to notice suspicious sharing behaviors that could potentially jeopardize their organization.

OneDrive and SharePoint Online make it easier than ever for users to share, and for admins to control how sharing is conducted. With the myriad choices at their disposal, all members of a business are empowered to work with important external users without unnecessary or damaging missteps.

Collaboration and sharing are a major facet of cloud storage solutions, and Microsoft understands how these needs go hand in hand with security and compliance. This relationship is clearly and comprehensively reflected in the external sharing options in both the OneDrive and SharePoint Online platforms. The end result? Users and admins can work together to make certain that what needs to be shared is shared properly, and what shouldn’t be shared remains secure.

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