5 characteristics of a good filing system

A good filing system is a thing of beauty. It works, smoothly and efficiently, allowing you to access the data you need, whenever you need it. A bad filing system, however, is likely to end up with you running around like a headless chicken because your line manager wants to see that sales report you wrote six months ago and you can’t remember whether you filed it under Sales, Reports, or some other heading that seemed sensible at the time.

But what exactly marks out a good filing system from a bad one? These characteristics are a useful starting point…

1) It should be so simple a well trained monkey can use it

Which, ironically, isn’t simple to achieve. And yet this should be your ultimate goal. Because complicated filing systems end up with people stuffing files in bottom drawers and eventually losing them. Even the most complex collection of data can be streamlined into a slick system if you put enough thinking and planning time in at the beginning. Don’t skip this stage!

2) It should be as flexible as a double-jointed yoga teacher

There’s only one constant, they say, and that’s change. Rigid things struggle with change. Flexible things find it easier. That goes for everything from people to filing systems. But as this blog post is about filing systems, just focus on that and make sure that your system will be able to adapt to whatever the future brings. This probably means you’ll need to monitor, review and possibly tweak your filing system as you go along.

3) It should be accessible to everyone who needs it, when they need it

This doesn’t just mean not leaning a flipchart board against the filing cabinet. Think about who is going to use this system. Are they all based in the same office? If not, how are you going to get files to them? And it’s not just a case of physical access. People need to understand the filing system so they can get hold of what they need quickly and easily – and, just as important, put it back in the right place – and not have to wait for Sandra the admin girl to get back off her holidays.

4) It should be as physically compact as possible

Unless you’ve got access to endless amounts of free storage space, a large physical filing system is going to end up costing you an awful lot in rent. Minimising the amount of printed paper data you need to store by aiming for a paperless office system is by far the best option. Then get clever with how your files are stored and stacked, remembering the accessibility issue we talked about a minute ago.

5) It should be safe from every imaginable threat, including alien invasion

So your documents are perfectly organised, indexed and stored – but what happens if there’s a fire? Or a flood? Or, indeed, an alien invasion? Paper files are particularly vulnerable to being destroyed because they’re pretty flimsy, when you think about it. Also the very fact that they exist in the physical world means they can get lost or put in the wrong place and then it becomes a major mission to find them.

One solution to all of the issues above is to go digital. Digital filing systems still need planning and thought at the set-up stage, and you do have to think about security issues, but you could save yourself a heck of a lot of space, share files quickly and create back ups in case things go wrong.

If you genuinely need your paper records though, professional off-site storage offers a climate controlled, alarmed and monitored space that will vastly improve the safety of your documents. At Scan Film or Store we can also get copies of documents to you on a same day basis, thanks to our  really-rather-clever barcoding system, and we’ll always put them back in the right place. Or you can use our scan-on-demand service and potential have your file within two hours. Impressive, right?

So if your filing system is less than efficient and you’d like some help getting on top it, give us a ring and we’ll be happy to talk you through the solutions that will work best for you within your budget.

Preserving history, one scan at a time

Document scanning is an interesting old business. No, we know, it doesn’t look like it from the outside. And we’re happy to admit that the majority of what we do isn’t exactly the stuff movies are made of.

But there are moments when we get to be involved in a little slice of something a bit special. We recently got our hands on a particularly interesting folder of documents – letters written in the late 1930s by an Austrian Jew called Karl.

With war looming, Karl had sent his only daughter Eva to England on the Kindertransport. She was just 13 years old. He didn’t know, as he wrote faithfully to her of life in Vienna, that they would never see each other again. One day Karl’s letters simply stopped, and Eva would later confirm that he had died in a concentration camp.

Binding and Roman numerals

The letters were in pretty good condition when they were brought to us by Karl’s great-granddaughter. But the sad truth is that paper doesn’t last forever, and she wanted to be sure that neither time nor something more dramatic like fire, flood or rampaging toddlers would destroy these precious family documents.

Scanning them was a slightly more complex procedure than you might imagine. First they had to be taken out of the folder they’d been bound in, then we had to straighten out any bent pages. We used our swanky Book Eye Pro 4 because of the delicate nature of the documents, and had to play around with the contrast and brightness to optimise the images and get the best results. Oh, and indexing them wasn’t helped by the language barrier and the use of Roman numerals in the dates!

But we do love a challenge, and we were as pleased with the results as the client was. “My grandmother would be so thrilled if she knew that we’d managed to preserve her father’s letters so that they will never be forgotten,” she said.

Home videos, retro style

While we’re sharing ‘interesting jobs we’ve done recently’ stories, you might also be interested in another client who brought us an old cinereel film. She had no idea what condition it was in and only a rough idea of what the footage was of – the label simply bore the nickname she’d had as a child

It turned out to be home videos of her from newborn to 18 months – the same age as her own twin daughters are now. Watching the digital version that we created for her was, she said, an emotional journey down memory lane.

“I never really thought the twins looked like me, but some of the expressions on my face in that film are the spitting image of them!” She said. “I can’t put a price on being able to step back into the past and relive a time I have only the vaguest memories of.”

These days we have hundreds if not thousands of emails stored on our computers and filming our kids is as easy as whipping out our mobile phones. So perhaps the adults of the future won’t appreciate the nostalgic joy of rediscovering the past in the same way as we do now.

But for a lot of our clients, history could well be lost without people like us to restore and preserve it for them and for their children and grandchildren to come. Which is really pretty amazing, when you think about it.

Do you have old slides, photographs or documents you’d like to preserve, or analogue media you want to transfer to more accessible digital formats? Get in touch today and find out how we can help.

Need some help? Try our scanning calculator!