Order is Everything: 7 File Management Tips for Small Businesses


Promoted Post

50% of the waste businesses toss out is made from paper. And while we thought that electronics would lessen our dependence on paper, it’s predicted that by 2030, demand will double. 

In a white paper published in 2012, information workers and IT professionals confessed they spend around 4.5 hours every week searching for documents. There has to be a better way to save paper and time. 

One solution is creating a file management system in your office. The good news is that file management systems work for both paper and electronic documents. 

We want to help you save our planet and boost workplace productivity. Keep reading to learn our seven best small business document management tips. 

1. Clear Out the Clutter Before Implementing Your File Management System

Your first step in file management is to go through all of your paper and electronic files. You can’t create a system unless you know what files you have. 

Next, you need to identify which files you:

  • Need to keep for legal reasons
  • Are still in use
  • Are no longer needed

Then it’s time to shred any paper files you no longer need to keep anymore. You can simply delete any e-files you no longer need to keep. 

Archive Old Documents You Need to Keep for Legal Reasons

Any paper files which you don’t use but need to keep for legal reasons should be archived.

You can box up the archived paper files and send them to a paper management company to store safely. 

2. Put All Documents in the Same Place

It’s impossible to find files if there are several places where they might be stored. Instead, create one place where all documents are stored. 

For any paper files, you must keep, have one space where everyone can conveniently access them. For electronic files, choose one shared drive where all files are stored. 

You should also develop the habit of naming your files as soon as you create them. This will help you easily find them in the future. 

3. Standardize Naming and Formatting Files

Choose a standard naming convention for all your files so that all team members can find them once they’re created. Make sure to use plain English rather than acronyms so it’s easy for everyone to find.

Create a system so easy a new person could easily walk in and find a document. Also, since you’ve already identified all your files, you should be able to create categories for them.

Here are a few suggestions for organizing files and folders:


Create a separate folder for each client. Use their whole name so there is no confusion or assign them a client number.

You can then create a subfolder for any details related to that client. 


For each department such as Finance, Marketing, IT, etc, there should be one main folder for which all other documents are held. 

Create subfolders for specific projects that more than one team member is working on. 


If your business focuses on selling products rather than servicing individual clients, create a separate folder for each product. 


Most employees also have their own set of documents they need to perform the functions of their job.

Those files may not necessarily need to be seen or shared by others. 

A Standard System for Creating Folder Structures

You should also select a standardized system for how to create folder structures. 

There should only be one preferred format for your documents such as PDF or a Word document. Click here to learn how you can easily convert information from JSON to PDF.

4. Communicate Your Document System to All Employees

No system will ever work efficiently if all employees are not notified and trained on how to use it. One way to ensure you create a system everyone understands how to use is to hold a company-wide meeting to discuss creating such a system. 

Ask for input on how to best create a system. Find out what categories you’ll need and how large it should be. 

Get Input from Employees

It’s hard to create a plan when you have no idea what you have. And it’s hard to create a plan that works for everyone unless you get input. 

Once the system is set in place, hold another company-wide meeting to share how the file management system works. When a new hire comes aboard, train them on how to use it. 

It won’t work unless everyone contributes to its success. 

5. Keep the System Simple

The more files you need to organize, the harder it may feel to keep the system simple.  

A complicated system makes it harder to keep up with. People can easily get lazy and stop using the system. 

Create a Shortcut

Especially if you’re in a situation where one file may be useful for more than one category. But rather than duplicating the file which creates more disorganization, create a shortcut. 

You can then easily move that shortcut to another location when you need to while keeping the original file in the same place. You’ll also avoid ending up with different versions of the same file that way. 

6. Make Sure Your Files are Secure

While not all of your documents are sensitive, some are. You need to protect your business. 

That’s because 43% of cyber attacks are targeted at small businesses. And 60% of those companies go out of business within six months of becoming a victim of a cyber attack. 

Find the Right Software Program to Protect Your Company

Also, not all of your employees need to be privy to all company information. You’ll need to invest in a software program that comes with the following to help keep you safe:

  • Configurable firewalls
  • Active Directory Authentication
  • SSL technology
  • User access permissions

You want to find a system that provides you with an un-editable record every time a document is accessed and by which employee. 

7. Cull Out Your Files Regularly

While purging old files at the start of your document organizing process is a good idea, you’ll need to develop a system to cull old files on a regular basis. This will help ensure the system keeps working for years. 

Try to aim to have old files purged or sent into an archive system at least once every six months to one year. 

And while you’re at it, review your current file organizational system. Look for ways you can improve upon it. 

Keep Up to Date

There are always new systems and technologies coming out that can help small businesses with their file management.

We love reporting on what they are. Keep coming back to our site to check out the latest news.