• Caroline Donough

Filing: Traditional vs Digital

Files in a filing cabinet

Filing... ah, the F-word in office administration. And I mean that in a good way! Throughout my career as an Executive Assistant, I've dealt with more files than I can remember. I created them, used them and managed them, and I did it not just for myself but for my bosses as well. So while I may be clueless about a lot of things in life, thankfully I do know a thing or two about filing. 😄

Some people joke that filing is boring. That may be true to some extent but don't underestimate its importance. Without proper filing, documents can get misplaced or go missing. At best, that'll cause a bit of a headache. At worst, it could lead to more serious problems.

I'm writing this from the standpoint that anyone who reads this already knows how to file alphabetically and numerically, how to colour-code their files and so on. So rather than delve into the intricacies of filing, let's look at traditional files versus digital files.

We all know that traditional files had been the norm for a very long time. But with technology came the Digital Age, ergo the birth of digital files. Although it may not be possible to do away with paper documents altogether (at least not yet), technology is making it increasingly easier to go digital as much as possible.

Speaking of digital, thank goodness for cloud computing. I'm so glad it's become mainstream. So glad. In case you're not familiar with it, which is highly unlikely given the time that we live in, but just in case (and not judging, I promise)... in a nutshell, it means to store, access and manage your files over the internet (i.e. the cloud) instead of your computer's hard drive or local server. It's the same concept as streaming music and films online (think Spotify and Netflix). One of the main benefits of cloud computing is that you can access your files from virtually anywhere with an internet connection via your mobile devices. This gives you and anyone who's granted access to the files flexibility and mobility to work. It's a revolution in filing. The other obvious benefit is, of course, reduced costs in relation to physical storage space. Here's what I mean:

Traditional files take up actual physical space. As a business grows, so will its documents and files increase in numbers. A filing cabinet or small cupboard may be sufficient at first, but you could potentially end up needing a really large space (think an entire room or bigger) to adequately store and archive all your files one day. I've been there and have a few "funny" stories to share, for example a former workplace from years ago where some of the files were stored so high I needed a stepladder to reach them. That's why the cloud is my hallelujah.

If traditional happens to be your employer's preferred way of filing (which, again, is unlikely in this day and age, but you never know), maybe it's time to have a chat with them about the impact it'll have on space, efficiency and, ultimately, cost in the long run. Be sure to do your homework and gather some stats and figures, though, to support the discussion. But be gentle and patient because if your boss is old-school, they may need your help guiding them into the 21st century, maybe slowly.

Having said that... technology, while amazing, has its hiccups, too, and systems do crash sometimes. So it's really, really important to always backup your digital babies just in case of lost or damaged data. Remember Google and Facebook's global outage last week? Yep. It happens.

Anyway, whether you choose to file digitally or the old-fashioned way, or more likely some combination of the two, remember that a filing job well done will make a whole lot of difference. And with some creativity, you might just take it to a whole new level.

Now who says filing is boring?


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