File Naming Conventions to Help Businesses Tame Data Chaos
Tired of wasting time looking for lost files? You’re not the only one. Every day employees face masses of documents and time spent wading through files to find the right information – a process that is made significantly harder when file names aren’t standardised. So why isn’t your business following file naming conventions?
Whether you don’t have a set process or policy in place, or there’s no consideration for the basic infrastructure of your filing system, our file naming tips will have you set up in no time. All it takes is a little bit of effort and an eye for organisation.
Why Use Document Naming Conventions?
Picture this: you’re looking for a file and you know exactly where to look and what to look out for. The folders are organised and you’re confident that you know you can find a file without any extra hassle. That’s the dream of every employee…
However, if you’re inconsistent in the way that you name files and documents or someone else in the company is inconsistent, it will make it much harder to store and retrieve items from a large system – and suddenly that dream seems unachievable. If you’re predictable and consistent in naming files, then it will be easier for you to distinguish one file from another at a quick glance, speeding up the content searching process. Being able to browse file names more efficiently and effectively will allow for more productivity and improved collaboration between colleagues.
At Virtual Cabinet, we are firm believers in the digitisation of businesses, meaning storing documents and relevant information in a central location that is accessible to all. But digitising your documents is only beneficial if you have the right system in place. So where do you start? Before we get into the electronic file naming conventions, it’s important to start from the top – your folder structure. Here are a few top tips:
- Use access controls to manage who can edit and access certain folders and files – this way any sensitive information that isn't for everyone's eyes will be neatly tucked away to avoid confusion
- Determine how many documents will be created within a certain timeframe – this will help to determine what your folder structure should look like. Are we talking dozens of documents per month or thousands? The greater the volume of data you handle, the more strict and organised your digital filing system will need to be for clarity of visibility.
- If your business deals with multiple clients, you may want to use separate folders for each one (likewise for different services etc.)
- Sort files into categorised folders and follow a hierarchical structure; e.g., Client > Year > Project
- Segment final or current versions of documents from draft copies. Version control helps to manage documents and ensure that you’re always looking at the right file
File Naming Best Practices
Every business is different, so you may need to go through a few rounds of trial and error to find the right file naming conventions for your organisation. From industry to industry, the purposes and types of files differ – and therefore, so do the document naming conventions. However, there are a few tips that work for any business.
Here are some file naming best practices you should follow to help you organise your system:
- File names should be consistent across a business or organisation
- They should be short, but descriptive and meaningful
- Avoid using special characters that may cause confusion
- Instead of breaking words apart with spaces, use capital letters, underscores, dashes or no separation – some files and software don’t recognise spaces
- Write down your file naming conventions in a data management plan
- When using a sequential numbering format, use leading 00s. For example, 01, 02, 03, etc., in place of 1, 2, 3, as this will ensure that all files remain and sort into the correct order
File Naming Tips
- Avoid unnecessary repetition and redundancy in file names and paths
- Discover the most important factors/primary purpose of a document to determine the best file naming conventions for your business – e.g., client name, topic, date or file type
- Don’t overcomplicate it. If it takes too much effort or time, employees are less likely to follow the structure
- Likewise, make sure your file naming format is simple and can easily be scanned while employees are looking for files
- Keep an eye on your file structure and make regular checks to ensure that employees are sticking to the document naming conventions – particularly in the first phase.
- If you're using Virtual Cabinet DMS then make sure you are using the client or case codes correctly. This will ensure that content relevant to each case, project, or client will be automatically stored in the correct place.
Follow our top tips on how to name files to ensure that your business processes run smoothly. For more advice on file naming conventions and digitising your documents, book a free Virtual Cabinet demo today. Our document management experts are here to answer your questions and provide a bespoke, solution for your business needs.